Tell us about your business/company or hustle. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?
Kiipo is an AI-analytics company in the health space. Our most well-known product is called LabFront (distributed by PhysioQ in US and Canada). Think “CRM for researchers” (to manage participants) that also makes it super simple to use wearable devices (ie: Garmin wristband) to remotely collect data. By doing this, we vastly increase the efficiency of the individual researcher and the efficacy of the study (better data).
There is a big problem with grant-funding in the academic world where it’s so difficult to get your first grant to do your research. LabFront is designed to be super cheap (basic plan is cheaper than Netflix!) to make research affordable and accessible to anyone. I’m most proud of the work our team does to help researchers to make their work better, but also to open ‘research’ door to millions of people that normally wouldn’t be able to enter. We are a bit different in terms of our vision. From our experiences in Ethiopia and Thailand, we think of ourselves as very fortunate to be born into our circumstances. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to make an impact and spread the ‘good fortune’ around. That’s why we started Kiipo and that’s what we will continue to be doing.
Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you got started and how you got to where you are today.
At the end of 2012, I dropped out of college and in 2013 moved to Thailand to volunteer. Quickly figuring out that even with this expensive ‘education’, real, tangible skills were very limited. So in 2014 I joined HTC for a year to learn how to build products. Later on in 2014 Jordan, my college classmate and eventually co-founder, reached out to me from Ethiopia. They had started a hospital and had an issue— specifically that there was no 911-type system in the hospital. We started working on that and in 2015 we launched Ethiopia’s first 911-EMS system (see documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9LWtorXwWw). After that, in 2016, we moved to Taipei to start Kiipo. Our first two years, 2016-2018 we hustled to make money and built team to 20+ as a full-service design consultancy. But we weren’t able to work on what we really wanted to do. So at the end of 2018 we closed the design agency and started working on what would become LabFront. At the end of 2019, we were ready to launch… then came COVID-19. 2020 sucked for everyone, but eventually we launched and closed a few key customers, raised some money, and now are moving full-steam ahead to serving the researchers across the US and Canada.
What specific obstacles or challenges have you faced while on your journey? What were they and how have you overcome them?
Where to begin? Everything that one faces when starting a company in a foreign country with no experience, no money, and no network (In Taiwan so there is basically 0 seed-stage funding). And transitioning from a software engineer to a product/team leader to a CEO. And all of these challenges over the years were faced with a growth mindset, confidence in myself and my ability to overcome any challenge, and motivated by the fact that my “job” was my mission in life, nothing else I would rather be doing. If I’m going to spend my time doing it, I’m not messing around, I should be the best at it. Oh, and obviously the people around me that helped me become the person I am today. A few key friends, family, and mentors, you know who you are.
What quality or characteristic of yours do you feel is most important to you as an entrepreneur? Why?
A relentless ‘always be improving’ mindset mixed with an understanding of myself, my strengths as well as my weaknesses. Also understanding my own purpose in life, in that way, everything done to get there is just part of the journey. When you understand yourself, your purpose and the fact that it is a journey, then there’s no way to ‘fail’ because you are already on the path to fulfilling your goals.
What advice would you give to someone who is just entering into your field?
Make sure it’s 100% what you want to be doing or else choose a different path. There are much easier ways to make money. If it’s about money, you won’t be able to grind it out.