Innovative, focused, determined, analytical, and hardworking are just a few words that describe Robert Kaul. He possesses rich experience of three decades in sales, marketing, and operations.
He has a proven track record leading early-stage technology companies, including Luna Technologies International, Inc. and ARA Safety Inc., where he served as Director of Operations and Chief Operating Officer. In addition, Robert was the founder & CEO of Cloud Diagnostics LLC, a digital health distribution company launched in 2009. Nine months in, Robert exited with an asset sale to Biosign Technologies Inc., proceeding to serve as Executive Vice President of Biosign Technologies Inc. from 2010-2011 and consequently as CEO from 2012-2014. Under Robert’s leadership, Biosign witnessed a significant turnaround – raising nearly $9 million in fresh capital and generating over $6 million in sales – while acquiring four separate software companies along the way.
That’s not all. Robert’s next summit was founding Cloud DX, which offers state-of-the-art digital healthcare solutions to clinics, hospitals, and health insurance companies in Canada and the USA. Team Cloud DX is the winner of the prestigious Bold Epic Innovator Award from the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Competition.
Robert is an alumna of the University of Alberta with a BSc in Biology, Chemistry, and History. In addition, Robert possesses eclectic skillset and holds certificates in Film & Television Production, Entertainment Law, and Operations Strategy.
Robert Kaul is your go-to person for launching start-up companies and raising money using equity and debt financing. Moreover, if your business needs expertise in recruiting, leading, and motivating high-performing teams while developing the first $50 million in sales alongside creating shareholder value, having Robert by your side can bring extraordinary results.
Where did the idea for Cloud DX come from?
The idea for Cloud DX has been gestating for quite some time. I have been working on Cloud DX’s core technology – digital signal processing of raw human bio-signals – since 2009. We have done a lot of work on the science behind it. We have conducted academic research and published peer-reviewed papers to showcase the accuracy and efficacy of how we gather and process data.
In 2015 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed billing codes that pay clinicians to collect and review data from patients in their homes in the United States. Before this, clinicians didn’t receive payment for this “medicine.” This marked the beginning remote-patient monitoring industry and the conception of Cloud DX.
Of course, it was very experimental at the time. However, since 2015, every year, more and more remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and virtual care billing codes have been proposed. As a result, more patients are enrolling in programs that have a virtual care component. Moreover, outcomes for these patients continue to get better.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
That’s a great question! As the founder and CEO of Cloud DX, a regular day includes everything from speaking to investors to working with my senior executive team – including our CEO, CFO, heads of sales, marketing, and human resources. I work a lot on communications. I spend time communicating with journalists, such as in this interview. I also devote time to creating and managing the various messages Cloud DX puts out to the world about how our technology works. In addition, I spend a fair amount of time working with investors who support Cloud DX. So I additionally work on investors’ communications.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life is a multi-stage process. When we think about bringing ideas to life, the average person tends to have an imaginary process where you think about an idea, make a prototype, and then it takes off and changes the world – that it is just magical. But of course, that isn’t reality at all.
Bringing ideas to life is a tiny part of the idea itself. The challenge lies in the execution. The challenge is understanding what problem your idea will solve and how much people care about solving that problem. There are many good ideas out there, but only a tiny percentage of such ideas reach the market. An even smaller portion of the “successful” ideas gain traction and become ubiquitous. However, there are always a million hidden details.
There are many reasons – such as cost, usability, scale, and desire – why challenging problems haven’t been solved yet with innovative technology. You can never be too sure when you’re setting out to launch an idea and whether you will find success and traction. All you can do is be stubborn and stay consistent that there is a better way to do something.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Well, I think anyone paying attention to the news realizes that many exciting things are happening. The world is becoming more connected daily, and new tools are being designed and created every day to improve communication and connections, sometimes for better or worse. We’re all very excited and interested in the news coming out about Artificial Intelligence. Some of the things these networks offer – AI creating art, penning articles – all of it lead to a theory that it will make work easier for everyone and make everyone more productive in a benign scenario. Of course, in Elon Musk’s nightmare scenario, AI will take over the world and become our robot masters. All of this is moving ahead rapidly and has tremendous potential applications in healthcare.
Additionally, I think the other rising technology on the cusp of changing everyone’s lives is the metaverse. Many want to collaborate and connect beyond a two-way flat panel video conference on Zoom. To the extent that hardware companies can give us hardware that allows a 360-degree experience, the minute that becomes acceptable to people, we’re going to see a massive increase in the amount of connectivity in the metaverse.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One of the things I do as an entrepreneur every day is to write down in a granular fashion – to remind myself – where we were, where we are, and where we’re going. I try to make a note of every progress with myself. Sometimes progress can be negative. This negative aspect is an important point. So many people fear rejection and don’t want to hear no.
But if you play the game long enough as I have, you will realize that this is the best possible answer. If someone says no, get that out of your head early. After that, don’t think about it. Move on! Find someone who is going to say yes.
I learned this advice some time ago, which has been beneficial because once someone says no, I do not have to be emotionally involved with their decision-making process.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Buy Bitcoin! But in all seriousness, this is a challenging question. We’re all on a journey, and our current success builds upon “mistakes” made in the past. But if you go back and change those things, you may very well find that you’ve eliminated your success. Honestly, I don’t think about giving my younger self advice. However, if I’m talking to younger people – students and family members – my usual advice is to make as many mistakes early because they tend to be less expensive when you’re getting started.
Another piece of advice is to read anything you can get your hands on and be greedy for knowledge. So many people out there have tried things before you. So they have something to tell you about what you’re trying to do.
The third piece of advice is to have as much fun as possible! Getting caught up in work, struggling, and finding your way to success is easy. However, if you let it slide, your relationships tend to suffer. When you approach my age and become “older,” you realize you missed out on the fun because you were more focused on your career.
It’s about finding the balance. The sooner you embrace the concept of work-life balance, the happier you will be in the end.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I don’t think anything pops into my mind when I think about this! However, I’ll give you an example.
As harsh, complicated, and frightening as the world seems, with all the things happening – climate change, wars, politics, and the pandemic – I focus on another idea. Things have been much worse in the past – in the recent past – it’s easy to forget that. But, in reality, many people are now enjoying a higher standard of living than they were, say, two decades ago, let alone a century ago! So, in general, things are better. But one of the reasons things appear so terrifying right now is that today we have the luxury of focusing on problems that seemed impossible to focus on about twenty-five years ago because nobody even spoke about or thought about them.
Hotly debated issues of identity, social inclusion, and diversity were taboo topics a couple of decades ago. We might seem to be living in a world where everyone is up in arms. Still, in reality, it symbolizes our success as a society in addressing the seemingly addressable questions that have been around for generations.
The human condition is a struggle. The Star Trek reality of “endless utopia” is impossible for humans. There won’t be a time when everyone gets along and agrees upon everything. Nor should it! That’s a terrible thing to happen if you think about it.
I think we should be grateful that these divisive subjects are now debatable. People care about these issues in a way they never did before, and people can do something about them. Another point is that while people may be uncomfortable with specific topics, making them feel so is how we can bring about change. I understand that I have a nuanced take on this, but I am willing to take a stand.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I believe that as an entrepreneur, you have a responsibility to never give up on your mission. One of the core values of Cloud DX is persistence. It’s one of the hardest things to embrace as a person – being persistent in the face of rejections, setbacks, and all the headwinds you face as an entrepreneur. The only way to maintain persistence is to continually remind yourself and everyone around you of the smallest things – successes, milestones, and breakthroughs.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The most important growth strategy you can possess is finding your champion customer. Find that one customer – company, person – for whom you have solved a problem. This customer is someone who has fully embraced what you do and made it work. This aspect should be your number one priority.
The key to a minimum viable product is making a difference for someone! Once you have found your ideal customer, make them your best friend and lavish them with care. Next, get them to talk about how well your product works. Quote them, and showcase them on video or social media. Because once the word gets out there, people will be more likely to believe somebody else and not you! Because if you’re trying to convince someone that your product or service is terrific, they want to hear it from someone else who is using it. If you can provide that information, you are 99% of the way there to landing your second customer.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As an entrepreneur, you fail so often and comprehensively all the time! So it’s challenging to pick out one specific failure. But there is a fascinating story of Cloud DX that we like to share because it combines several of our core values into one.
At the beginning of our journey at Cloud DX, we were fortunate enough to be the finalists in a competition called The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. Cloud DX is one of the winners of the prize, and we have embraced that technology, and we’re bringing that technology to market. What isn’t commonly known is that we were originally disqualified from the XPRIZE. As part of the competition, you need to reach several milestones, and teams that do not reach certain milestones for whatever reason are essentially disqualified. That is how Qualcomm narrows the pool of competition down to the winners.
In 2016, Cloud DX was disqualified on a technicality – for missing out on testing technology on human patients. We simply couldn’t convince the regulators in Canada to approve human testing fast enough. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t deliver on time. However, we had worked extremely hard to create a compelling Tricorder – it was by far the most innovative Tricorder in the competition. It had every component made for it from scratch. Stanford University’s nanotechnology lab worked with us on this aspect. We had something extraordinary on our hands. So, the XPRIZE foundation created an entirely new award, the XPRIZE Bold Epic Innovator Award. This award honored us and allowed us to come back into the competition and be a part of the XPRIZE. This step happened because it was outlined that our technology, no matter what technical deadline we missed, was, in fact, incredible.
Out of the blue, we received a call to inform us about our entry into a new award, which we went on to win. I find this truly extraordinary. We had accepted that we had been disqualified, accepted our loss, and moved on to commercialize our technology. But to be invited back into the competition because of our compelling technology and go on to win the competition and become a part of the XPRIZE family – along with winning millions of dollars in grants – was one of the most exciting failures and recoveries that I have ever experienced. It showcased the incredible values of Cloud DX – persistence and daring – that motivates us daily.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I mentioned this earlier! Invent a platform that connects Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Slack into one interface that allows all the inputs from all such connectivity apps to work in one place. I promise you that you will be the friend of every person in the world who has to use all these tools! We all struggle to gather information from too many places! I think some smart kids out there can create an AI layer that triages all the feeds – social media, email, asynchronous tools – and help you plan your day better. I’m telling you, they’ll have every person in the world using it! You heard it here first!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Well, that’s an interesting question! I think there’s never an end to such avenues. However, I think the best $100 you can spend is something outside your business, especially when you’re an entrepreneur focusing on life and business.
Do something that takes you entirely out of your business – don’t think or talk about it. Instead, take your spouse out for dinner, and connect with your family and friends. Invest your $100 in connecting with other human beings. If you make this an intentional action, something you need to do a couple of times a month, you will find yourself in a position where you possess a much better work-life balance.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We’re a software company ourselves, you know! Of course, we embrace productivity software in many ways. We use software that includes Microsoft Teams and Zoom, amongst many other tools we use daily! We use Confluence and a lot of different tools from Atlassian. We also utilize tools that improve record keeping through Microsoft SharePoint. Like any modern distributed software company with employees across North America, we constantly communicate using multiple platforms.
I think my next entrepreneurial gig needs to be creating a unified platform that includes Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, and Google Meet – just one portal that links everything together – that would be amazing!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Interestingly, several books out there possess kernels and nuggets of wisdom. One skill set that is often underutilized in the technology space is sales. It’s very challenging for technology entrepreneurs to get their heads around how sales work. Simply hiring a salesperson does not magically fix the problem. I would recommend the classic book of the genre: “Good to Great.”
As an entrepreneur, you must realize that you are always selling something. In fact, in many cases, it’s not even your product. Instead, you’re selling your vision, ideas, investment opportunities, team, ability to execute, and the way you want the world to be. These are all things an entrepreneur has to learn to sell. The fastest way to make that happen without making many stupid mistakes is to make this a subject of study. Like how you learned your skillset, you must add a bachelor’s degree in sales!
By reading such books on sales, you’ll become a much better salesperson, even with the slightest bit of information on how to be a better salesperson. Success will become 1000x easier if you end up becoming an expert salesperson.
What is your favorite quote?
I have a few favorite quotes I like to bring out occasionally. They come from a famous figure in history – Sir Winston Churchill. I like his quotes because, throughout his entire career, Sir Winston Churchill faced tremendous obstacles. People famously remember him as the former Prime Minister of Great Britain. However, most people do not know that he was the First Sea Lord (in charge of the Royal Navy) in World War 1.
He had a tremendous impact on the world in the first part of the 20th century, long before becoming the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
I always reflect upon two of his quotes.
“We’re all doing our best, and we can all do our best. Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”
If you simply say, “I did my best,” that can be a way of accepting failure. You have to rise above what your “best” is. No matter what. This framing refocuses your determination to succeed.
A related quote by Churchill came during World War 2: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never -in nothing, great or small, large of petty- never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
- Take advantage of your youth – make as many mistakes early as they tend to be less expensive when you’re getting started. Moreover, fast-track your learning by being a voracious reader and learner of other people’s experiences.
- Bringing ideas to life involves multiple steps. The heart of the challenge lies in executing the idea. At the outset, one can never be too sure whether the idea will find success and traction. All you can do is be stubborn and stay consistent.
- Practice marking your progress daily in a granular fashion to remind yourself – where you were, where you are right now, and where you’re going. Sometimes progress can be negative. This negative aspect is an important point. Don’t fear rejection or listening to a “no.” With this mindset, you don’t need to be emotionally involved with the other person’s decision-making process.
- Sales is a required skill set for an entrepreneur. But, in many cases, an entrepreneur is not selling their product but their vision, ideas, investment opportunities, team, ability to execute, and the way they want the world to be.
- Imbibe the qualities of persistence and daring. With these two qualities, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.