How Technology is Enabling Customized Work Experiences | Kiite’s Joseph Fung | AQ’s Blog & Grill

How Technology is Enabling Customized Work Experiences | Kiite’s Joseph Fung | AQ’s Blog & Grill


hey everybody welcome to AQ’s blog and
grill I’m Alan Quarry and I’m here today with
Joseph Fung. Joseph welcome thank you thanks for joining us today Joseph is a
entrepreneur extraordinaire coming out of Waterloo Region 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 that. 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 happened to be looking for HR technology
just came across our profile at the right time
now we worked hard to seize that opportunity right but we were fortunate
to have it yeah so this was tribeHR that you started when did you start that
organization? 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 Communitech 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

One thought on “How Technology is Enabling Customized Work Experiences | Kiite’s Joseph Fung | AQ’s Blog & Grill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *