How Technology is Enabling Customized Work Experiences | Kiite's Joseph Fung | AQ's Blog & Grill
Hey. Everybody welcome to AQS blog and grill I'm Alan Cory and I'm here today with Joseph um Joseph, welcome, thank you thanks for joining us today Joseph. Is a entrepreneur. Extraordinaire. Coming. Out of Waterloo. Legion but, it's not a Waterloo, Region play, this, is he's. A global thing he's. A he's got an idea, that. Isn't so much an idea it's a dream which. Then becomes the idea and then Joseph makes it all come true. If. We're lucky enough and. Everything, works out is gonna go exactly, like the Ireland, how much does luck really play in, in starting, a business and keeping a business going oh it's a it's a fun, mix everybody always talks about all the hard work and all the sweat tears and it's so true you need to be ready to seize those opportunities but. So often being. At the right place at the right time opens. Up huge opportunities a, good example with, my last company, when we were out raising money we. Chatted to a ton of angel investors San. Francisco, Boston here, what. Ended up happening was. That one, partner at one VC firm was happened, to be looking for HR technology just, came across our profile at the right time, now we worked hard to see that opportunity right but. We were fortunate to have it yeah so, this was tribe yes, HR that. You started what did you start that organization, uh so we founded, the company in 2010, we. Didn't really jump into it full-time till about 2011 though okay yeah what, was in the in the space in between what, was in the transition period well you know some people get together with their friends on the weekend to maybe watch the game because pizza I get, together with my friends awesome, pizza and write some code and, so that's what we're doing is a bit of a hobby on the side no, until we had an advisor, associate. With commuter tech yeah we said that we have something really exciting here and if we actually want to make it happen we need to take it more seriously, it was a fantastic in the past action to do that so your graduate at the University of Waterloo home, computer engineering, Computer. Engineering oh goodness. That, seems to be a common thread here in the Waterloo Region for some reason, there's a lot of engineering grads. Mech. Or computer. Or what. I don't think is too surprising, the engineering program trains, the. The, appetite, and the aptitude to build things create. And I think there's a strong correlation between that vinod ethos and entrepreneurship, I think, you're right absolutely, our, mutual. Friends Steven Lake is, a lego. Fanatic. He, loves to build stuff and he started that when he was a kid of course and he doesn't stop yeah, and I think that's your, passion for. Creating something and then seeing it work is. Probably. A common element I'd. Be, surprised, if Steven and I were the only ones who had vast Lego collections, locally oh. That's. Great so. You. Move from tribe HR which. Was acquired. By, NetSuite. Yes okay. And you, did your work out through. That period, and. Then along, comes this new and exciting firm, and I'm really excited about this for you and everybody is kike okay ìit, yes. So, tell us a little bit about what kind is what does it do so. Those. Questions. Are. Definitely a little different so what. Kite is, is an intelligent, sales assistant, so if you think about what your team members go through every day as they're working with clients customers. Even out in the community there. Is a wealth, of information they, need to have at their fingertips right, reference customers product, specs policy. What, blockchain is yeah and, normally. The best practice, is you've, sift through a lot of documents to learn or, you tap your colleague on the shoulder to ask a question right we, built intelligent, sales this isn't that you could just chat with and. So it's like having that product and company expert they are in your back pocket all the time how we got here though was, a little different okay my last company tribe, was. Really based around the idea of how do you make work better for, employees we. Had fantastic success with that we grew the company we sold it we continued, on but. With. NetSuite, while, we built fantastic, software we were really helping the HR, and admin, operations. And lost, touch with the frontline employees a little o kite.
Was Really about coming back to that yeah how do we make work better and when, we spend time with managers, with employees, that we realize just how many. People are just drowning in a sea of information, and they don't feel productive right we wanted to tackle that heads on and so that's how we got to cut interests. If you think about making people productive, the. First step of that is really hearing them and that's, what kite means in Japanese it means to listen. Fabulous. Thank you I was going to ask that good. Because I believe. Joseph and I think you're a proponent of this too is, listening. Is the most important, verb in. Business. In. Life, it's. Just not a bit you. Know I can't. Want to do better and sell more product listening. Is this sign of respect that. Is a learning. Experience and, from, that learning you, get knowledge and. That. Is I think what this economy, is going towards, it's. Been called the knowledge economy for a long time including back to Peter Drucker I, think. Now though that, knowledge being established we're, now going to the. Creative, age of. Business. And social. Entrepreneurship, anything, if you will that we can take that knowledge that, we've learned then earned you, know yeah if we use it this way it, could make things better, meat, so, through that feeling of productivity. Employees. Teammates, are going, well. It's exactly it not, just around getting. Access to the information but. Getting it on their, terms you, know the reality is if if you're a new employee at an organization. And you're excited and you're driven and you're putting in extra time and you're there at seven o'clock because you care and you, get blocked because, maybe your manager, went home or, the, product. Manager, or the designer that you need to ask a question of is in a different time zone. Just. Imagine, how do you motivate me that can be when you're putting that extra time and energy you want to move for but now you're blocked and so I think where, we're sitting right now is that with the increased prevalence of distributed, workforces. Contingent. Workers, distributed. Teams we. Need to be able to have tools. That let knowledge move around and give people more agency. Yeah. What. Are your feelings on the on the the catchphrase the gig economy. It's. An it's an interesting one I think, a lot of people use. It to convey, negative. Connotations, you know they talk about, you. Know less or, I able relationships, with employers I may use it to talk about lower wages, the. Reality, though is it's, a very glib term for a larger macro trend there you go okay the reality, is, whether. You buy into Millennials.
Or Ijen or whatever the phrases right people. Want a more tailored work. Experience, you know much like people want a more tailored coffee. Experience you. Know people don't just get a cup of coffee to get an extra tall latte two-pump, something. Yes people, want that level of tailoring, and customization, for their work experience yeah so for some people that means part-time. Work for some people that means every alternating, day sometimes, it's remote and so I think the real message behind a gig economy is, that, employers, need, to find a way to reliably, scale, their companies while. Offering mass customization in, the employment, experience. There's ago so. The. Way corporations, were, built. You. Know in the last century, let's say from 1960. On where. You. Know it was post-war, the economies, were going that. You had companies that were just you. Know becoming, conglomerates. As, opposed to just companies. And, it's. Funny though isn't it that that some of that business. Model. Radiation. Is still prevalent. So people. Are still kind of modeling, new, firms on these old models. And, yet with, Kyte you're. Helping enable you're, enhancing if you will new. Modeling, of. Organizations. That can be successful. In a new, completely. Yes and if you if you take an extreme example right. I'm gonna use uber here and I don't mean to say we're all gonna be over drivers. But. Time and time again I'll bump into people we're, driving, for. Uber and I asked them you know what do you think about driving for uber they, get very excited maybe there are newcomers to the country or they just went through a change, in their career or they want to work part-time to take care of a family member right and uber. Has enabled them to take control of their employment they, get paid more reliably, more efficiently they feel safer they have control and what's fascinating is, they, have thousands, and thousands, and thousands of drivers worldwide, who. Don't have managers they. Rely on the application, to, give them opportunities, right to optimize. Their own work and to give them control, and, so they have this massive work force without. The overhead of traditional, management hierarchies. And, and onboarding, that is truly remarkable and, like. I said just not that we're all going to become looper drivers but, we all need to think about our companies with, the same level of efficiency, and scale because if we aren't our competitors, are right and so there will be massive. Differences between those who win and those who lose in this new mode of employment, right, so. Joseph. What. What is next for kite I mean you you've, gone through the the startup period. You've got the funding that you're. Going to need of. Course and and. So where do you see, the. Next five years for 4k.
Banzai, To go it's a fantastic time I mean we're we're based here in Waterloo Region we, have team members in California and, in the Philippines, and. We're gonna continue to grow in all of those locations. The. Really big focus right now and if you you see our website or you see us speaking you know hear us talking a lot about sales. And service productivity, the. Vast majority of our customers are in that space when, I think about the longer. Term potential. Involved which are growth with kite it, extends much more beyond that right you know and we see that already with our customers, where you know sales reps are using kite support, reps are using kite but, already, kite is learning more about the rest of the organization. Yeah and really, realizing that vision of helping every employee yeah have more autonomy and success right will continue pushing the envelope on that. Because. Of the benefits of kite you. Could be viral in. Organizations. It's. It's gonna go from one team to the next because. They're. Benefiting at it benefiting, and that, will become obvious and people will say what, are you guys doing when. We're using kite. Very. Very much so there you go yeah well that's interesting how do I invest. Watching. Out for the next round absolutely, absolutely. I will be, so. Joseph. You're also known as as a guy, that has a heightened. Sense of social. Equality. Social, justice, social. Activity. And that's. A really wonderful thing now. You've set up a fund. And I need to know more but our viewers need to know more about this, fund that you've set up and tell us a little bit more about that sure. I've. Been very fortunate in that I've always had the chance to work with teams who care deeply about giving back we've, often had volunteer. Time off programs, Follette. Every programs donation, matching. However. One of the things that we realized, was that across Canada, that make up the donors is changing. Fewer. People are giving we're. Increasingly, reliant, on a more mature donor base charities. All across Canada, are facing that exactly and when, you talk to technology. Companies, what's. Really interesting is you have the dynamic where, technology, companies they're.
Not Really investing their money they're investing investors. Money are you and so it's very hard to take money from an investor for. The purpose of growing your business and then donate a chunk of it right and so a lot of technology companies are focusing, their philanthropic activities. On, volunteering. And on, their products, and that's great there's, a very, important, place for all of that but, what it means is as technologies, grow and become ascendant, they're. Not, backfilling. That, traditional, base of regular donors, so. When we said we wanted to build a strong sense, of giving back in kite we said let's tackle that donor problem, head-on hmm, and, so what we did was we created a fund in partnership with a kW Community Foundation, yes we, invited all of our employees to participate it's. Completely, optional but the vast majority of our employees are donating, every, month as part of their payroll it is going into an endowment fund that. The community foundation is managing, right and those disbursements, out of the fund will be advised by, an employee committee on our side so, they'll be actively involved they'll be able to find volunteer, opportunities yeah but even in in, maybe in teen years we'll, still be able to give back right and that's fantastic yeah, and and, what is the benefit then what is the return on investment, as. Stake holders would ask on being. That involved with the community well. There's a couple of things I mean first off within. The community, there's a massive long-term benefit, the. The Community, Foundation's, not just in kitchener-waterloo but across Canada, preserve. Capital so, that it's giving in perpetuity there's. Not a lot of things you could do that you could say you could do good. Ever wherever, this is one of the few ones yeah they preserve capital let it grow and. So they do do get to benefit, organizations, and we see organizations like the working center yes the, kW Symphony, even small neighborhood projects benefiting, from, the help of the Community Foundation so that's huge the social ROI is very, clear yeah for, the company, ROI though this is where it gets really exciting. There, are a ton of stats that demonstrate. Without having, your employees give back retains. Them longer yeah the. Key combination, is both of time and money so when you engage your employees in both donating financially. Also donating in their time they're more engaged and they stick around longer right you. Also pull, in a more diverse workplace yeah and this is one that's I think overlooked. When. You're hiring, for. People if, you keep doing the same things, you go for beers after work you work on code you hire people who go for beers after work and work on code yeah but, if you're also giving back to maybe. A local no, children skating program or, to, an, agency that helps disabled, veterans right, you're now appealing, to a very different audience and, especially right now building a software company when. You're hiring world-class, researchers. And and World Castle employees they, care deeply about, how, you're engaged right so it also helps fuel our, diversity, practices, and our, engagement yeah, wonderful. You. Know I was asked many many years ago, okay. Cory so what's, in it for you for doing all this charity work said. The ROI is return, on involvement, that. Our people feel we, live in this community we're, part of it but now we're.
Enriching. It through. Volunteerism. And, then other. Things and people. Check that out we know that, people check us out and, you know as well like what are they doing besides making software no they doing besides making money, well. There. We are so that, consciousness, becomes, a very. Important. Asset, always. Unwritten, but, felt so. Good, on you it's also an imperative for for high tech companies more than others if, you think about an, individual, as they, advance in their career, as they, establish, a strong financial things as they. Build a family as they. Feel safe in their home and health they start to care more deeply. About, more. Abstract, concepts, they, start to think about national security they start to think about, community. Justice they start to think about things that maybe. They didn't have the Liberty to do so earlier on right and if you think about technology companies focusing, in on. High-performing. Talent that's often more, expensive more established, they're. Going to have more, employees, and team members who care about those things yeah, and so I think it makes a lot of sense and I'm surprised more companies don't spend the energy I hope. That they will and, and, maybe you, know we can help in terms of being evangelists. Or showing. What's in it for you for, helping every. One you can and part, of it is opportunities, like this to share the story because there are a lot of companies doing great work here in town that, people aren't aware of and they aren't aware the work they're doing so that's it's, it's fantastic you give these opportunities as well well excellent. Thank you now. Joseph. What kind of advice would you give to. You. Know third year. Computer. Engineer, person, at. University. Of Waterloo for example just, pick one that happens to be a kilometer, away. If. They want to be a an, entrepreneur. That, is contributing. And, building. What. Are the lessons that you've learned as, an entrepreneur, that might be helpful you have two or three things that, you've learned in your first couple of years I mean. The. Obvious ones, have been said by so, many people so much better than I so I'm I'm. You, know perhaps, rephrasing. What a lot of people have said the first one of course is just spend time with the customers right the, reality is so many people so many students, so many entrepreneurs, come. Up with a brilliant idea and, believe. They need to build it first I'm, going to build it and then show it to you and you will buy or, give me feedback, or, anything, the. Reality, though is that, the earlier you are the, more there is that you don't know and so. The sooner you can validate ideas, directly with customers the more engage they'll be you know fewer mistakes you'll make too so, I think that's profound, okay. Think the second, one that's also, really. Obvious. In hindsight is, that you can't do it on your own and that's, just being open, and honest, and vulnerable yeah with your clients, with your partners, with the community, mm-hmm, when you can make a genuine, ask for help that's. A massive, massive. Difference yeah, and people. Want to help especially, here they really do yeah, so being honest with the stage you're at and where you need help is a huge opportunity that people overlook yeah who, what's. The most gratifying thing, for you so far as a as. An entrepreneur. And as a. Business. Person I think. You have kind of a holistic approach to business so I'm interested in what, makes you happy when you close your eyes on, a Friday night and the week is over it's. The impact that we have on the employees, that our team members good especially, the early ones because you could see that impact most extremely, I mean I started, my first company because. I wanted to build a better workplace. On. Coop terms you work in a number of places sometimes, they go well, sometimes. They have bumps right but coming out of that experience I, firmly believe that I can build an exceptional, workplace, and so getting, a chance to see that come to life is amazing I've, had team members who joined us as a sole, contributor and grew, up to being a director in the matter of a couple of years I've, early-stage employees, who joined us when we could only pay them a shoestring, we. Have a co-op student who, we. Couldn't afford to pay a salary he, got paid with a computer, who. Was. With us during the exit, it, had an exceptional, outcome yeah and seeing the impact that has on individuals not.
Just The founding team but, everybody. That's on that journey is. Amazing. Yeah and that's fantastic because it reminds you you're, having impact and remind you why you're doing yeah it's been a great plane it's, my pleasure all right thank you and our, viewers are going to learn so much because they've been listening, there's. Been some wisdom exchange today, and. That's a good thing so thank you - thank you so much yeah we'll follow up with Joseph again cuz this guy's not finished, this, guy's a dreamer, yeah. Talk. To you later bye. AQS. Blog and grill.