Talking about Keas

December 22, 2007

I’ve started a new company, Keas Inc with a partner, George Kassabgi. Since a lot of people have asked about Keas and it is too early to be giving specifics, let me talk about the vision and the culture we’re dedicated to at Keas and the people we’re looking for.

What is the Keas vision? If you are one of the many at risk of losing your health, Keas will help you keep healthy. If you’re recovering from an illness Keas will help you to recover and stay well. If you suffer from a chronic disease Keas will help you be as well as you can be. Today no one helps you. You can’t assemble your health data to get the best care possible. Even if you can, your doctors rarely help because the system doesn’t pay them to keep you healthy. You don’t have tools that work online to help in these situations, partly because insurance doesn’t pay for them. Because of these problems people suffer both personal hardship and fear and economic deprivation, sometimes irreversibly. What is more we all pay enormous medical costs for this, and there are costs to society and to the competitiveness of our companies in lost productivity. It is our mission at Keas to fix this for you. Clearly it isn’t an easy mission or a short-term one. While we think we have some great ideas about how to make this possible, we have a lot to learn in the course of this adventure.

What is our culture? We are all focused on making a great service that the customers love and that truly helps them. We want to have fun and make a difference and get it right. We want to build the service with love and care. Every day, we want to make sure that our customer experience is as good as it can be. This doesn’t mean trying to get it perfect out of the gate. Heck you don’t know until people use it. See my talk on intelligent reaction. What this does mean is pouring resources into constant improvement once the service is out of the gate and steadily learning from the usage patterns to make sure that the service quickly and surely evolves in the right direction. This requires great listening skills and great empathy and great patience and data analysis skills and, oh yes, some creative design insight. It requires the humility to realize that it isn’t your vision for how the UI should look that matters, but what actually works for the customer.

What kind of people are we hiring? We are hiring people who are really good at what they do, relaxed, persistent, pragmatic and fearless. It is important that the people who come fit this profile because in a start up everything is uncertain. You have to roll with the punches. You have to expect that your plan will change as the data starts to come in. Success in most start-ups isn’t instant. If it were easy, it would already be done. You have to keep trying. Some ideas work. Some don’t. What we’re trying to do at Keas certainly is hard. We need great people who aren’t afraid to try hard things but are willing to also look at the facts, see when something isn’t working, chalk it up to experience, and try the next hard thing. If you want predictability go to a big company.

Who are we still looking for? Engineers. We intend to keep Keas small until the ideas are proven (we’re self-funded). There is room, however, for a few engineers and for a proven development lead. In general people need to be able to get to San Francisco (we’re by Mission street and 1st Street close to everything), but we could use an engineer or two in the east coast as well or one or two willing to be there for significant periods of time. What kind of an engineer do you need to be? Well, in a word, excellent. More generally, productive, fun to work with, willing to tackle any problem, willing to work in Java or PHP or RubyOnRails, use machine learning or whatever language makes sense for the job, careful to avoid Not-Invented-Here when possible, good-humored, and burning to do something that really matters. It will be a small elite engineering team and we need it to really rock.

Why would you join? If we get this right, literally 100’s of millions of people who currently are on track to get ill or have chronic diseases and are at risk of getting still sicker will live longer and better lives because of you. In addition the ideas are genuinely interesting, hard, require thought, insight, and creativity. There is almost nothing easy in what we need to do. That means almost all of it is challenging and fun. You get to come in at the beginning of this adventure and that is always a blast. You’re going to get to work with wonderful people who care and want to make a difference. Ever since I moved into helping out in the health arena, I’ve met people I’m in awe of, people who are brilliant, caring, somehow hold down 4 jobs at once each of which would be full time for many of us, and still have happy personal lives. These people are going to love you because if this works, you’re going to be letting them run like no one else has. All you’ll have to do is work with them, listen carefully to them, and then be brilliant and quick. What more could you ask?

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