Age may be nothing but a number, but when you’re an ambitious entrepreneur in your mid-20s trying to get your fledgling business noticed in an established industry like medicine it can be your biggest asset and your greatest liability. Fortunately for Arjun Kumar, CEO of KAI Innovations, it’s been more of the former and less of the latter.
KAI Innovations is a rapidly growing healthcare information-technology firm that provides physicians with turnkey solutions for converting from paper to electronic charts for patients. A former cardiac-ultrasound technician, Kumar teamed with clinic colleague Sara Bond to remedy what they saw as antiquated record-keeping. “The most simple tasks in healthcare seemed to have the most outdated solutions,” he explains.
Initially, cracking the market proved challenging for the team, who’d landed a $50K grant but worried potential clients wouldn’t see past their comparative youth. “Most of our competitors have been in business since the 1970s,” says Kumar. “When I would go into meetings, I’d always try to age myself up. I’d put on a suit and tie, and I actually grew a beard. I did everything I possibly could to make myself seem older.”
His approach, along with the company’s staunch commitment to exceptional customer service, worked: after only a few months in operation, he’d landed nearly 40 clients; today, KAI has nearly 400 and annual revenues over $1 million. “People are now hearing about us through the grapevine,” says Kumar, “and they’re leaving their vendors to approach us.” He credits much of the company’s success to its staff, most of whom are under 30, and believes drive matters more than a lengthy rÃ©sumÃ© when it comes to hiring. “We try to find people right out school, who just need that opportunity to shine,” says Kumar.
The journey has been a bit of a whirlwind, but Kumar is relishing the trip. “I had no idea I wanted to get into business, or start my own business,” he says. “But I look back now and know it was the greatest thing I ever did.”