Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
WITH AN incredible heart of compassion, coupled with an extraordinarily curious mind to discover how things work and how to make them even better, Joe Kiani's life was predestined.
The fact that today he is one of the world's foremost inventors of ground-breaking non-invasive patient monitoring devices, revolutionising healthcare in the area of medical technology and impacting the lives of millions around the world is no surprise.
In fact, having a mother who was a nurse and a father who was an engineer, some would even say the traits were inbred in the Iranian-American. As a child, his mother would marvel at his empathy for others, while his father would swear never to buy him any more toys.
"I would break all my toys just to see how they worked," he declared with laughter. "Eventually, my parents said they weren't going to buy me any more.
"I really just always wanted to know how things worked and how I could build them, and I especially always wanted to make things that could help save people's lives."
He continued: "I had this passionate love for people and always wanted to help in any way I could to make their lives better."
Sitting in the lecture hall of the University of the West Indies' regional headquarters in St Andrew during his one-day visit to Jamaica on Saturday, there was no doubt that humility, compassion, simplicity and an overwhelming desire to invent ground-breaking medical devices still beat passionately in the heart of the 47-year-old multimillionaire.
Solving the unsolvable
Founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Masimo Corporation, which is listed as one of the United States' top-20 small companies on Forbes, Kiani is an inventor of more than 50 patents related to signal processing, sensors and patient monitoring, including patents for the invention of measure-through motion and low-perfusion pulse oximetry.
He has helped to solve the 'unsolvable' problems plaguing patient monitoring, building a substantial intellectual property portfolio with more than 575 issued and pending patents worldwide in the process.
Born in Iran to a middle-class family, they moved to the USA when he was nine years old, where things became really difficult, plunging them into poverty as they struggled with life in the projects of Alabama, and later California.
"I used to sell newspapers door to door, work at the dining commons at college, mopping floors and washing dishes," he said.
"I learnt from then to have respect for everyone, to be humble, and never look down on anyone. I also realised there were so many wonderful persons in the world and what they become was really mostly because of the opportunities that were given to them, not because of their capabilities."
As a teen, Kiani made a decision that he wanted to do something that would leave an indelible mark. The child prodigy graduated from high school at the age of 15 and by age 22, had earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from San Diego State University.
In 1989, at age 24, he founded Masimo and began his dream of revolutionising healthcare.
"I wanted to make things that weren't just cheap. Some people make cheap things for poor people. I wanted to make things that were the best, better than the best, solve big problems yet the very poor could afford to have it used on them. They deserved to have access to the same healthcare with dignity just as the rich," the global medical technology innovator shared with The Gleaner.
Today, travelling the globe, Kiani has witnessed first-hand the incredible impact his devices have been making on healthcare and the ordinary man and it brings tears to his soul.
"I get letters and emails almost every day from nurses and doctors on how one of our products saved someone's life. For instance, a woman who was pregnant and anaemic, but she didn't know. It could have killed her, but they were able to use a device that quickly detected her low haemoglobin and give her the appropriate treatment. Those emails and letters I get are the most satisfying part of my day," he stated.
"Once in a while, I look back and say 'wow', I came from a little garage to now employing 2,500 people, having over a million of our devices all around the world probably helping over 100 million people every year. When I look at that, it puts a smile on my face. It is humbling. I didn't see myself becoming this, if not for those who believed in me and gave me the opportunity.
"And I really get humbled when I spend time with people that have done more amazing things and I say I haven't done anything yet, I hope I can do more."
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
In his first visit to the island, the successful entrepreneur delivered a lecture to university students on 'What it takes to be an entrepreneur'.
"I came because I felt if I could inspire even one person to do something that they wouldn't otherwise do, that could help themselves and their family and others, it would be worth the trip," stated Kiani.
Adamant that if persons start thinking about entrepreneurship from a young age it would force them to realise their role in the world, the businessman noted that it doesn't necessarily mean owning your own company.
"Not everyone will own their own company, but all can be a part of something that makes a difference. Whatever you're doing, always remember you have a limited time in this world, so use it effectively," he stated.
Acknowledging the current global economic challenges, Kiani noted that when he was starting his company, several persons noted how much easier it was to start a company decades before.
"In the rearview mirror, it always looks like it was an easier time. There is some truth to that, because as the world becomes more global and more competitive, you're competing with people from different parts of the world, so things become more challenging, plus we are in a deep recession and the worldwide economy is very weak," he shared.
"But what young people need to understand is that the good or the bad times never last. Things will get better and this is the time for them to do what they want to do, so that when the good times return they are prepared to take advantage of it."
Critical Checklist for Youth
For Kiani, the items on a critical checklist he would implore all youth to have are:
- Whatever you’re doing, give it your ultimate best. You will get the most out of it and be inspired to do your own thing.
- Whatever field you decide to go in, determine to leave this place a little better than before you came. Do it not just to make money or to be financially independent, but to make your mark.
- If you want people to believe in you, you have to be great. Something about you must inspire someone to believe in you and want to invest. They need to see you as a hard worker, outstanding, honest, with integrity.
- Have good business ethics and do things based on sound principles, something that you will be proud of.
- A good time to start a business is when you don’t have a job. And that business can be something simple but is fulfilling a need at the time. Whatever it is, just get out there and work and work hard. Get up early and start doing something with your time. People will notice and respond to someone who is industrious, focused, determined and want to be a part of this world. They will be inspired to invest in you.
- We all have it in us to achieve extraordinary things. For me, what I did wasn’t so incredible. What was incredible is the people who believed in me, invested in my ideas to start my company. They helped me when I couldn’t even pay them back at that time.
- Realise that everyone you meet today, in 100 years they are not going to be around. So do your best to do good for people, because in the end that’s all that really counts.
- Live your life by a set of ethical principles that should guide everything you do
At age 22, Kiani developed the following set of principles that he later applied to his company:
Stay true and faithful to your promises and responsibilities.
Thrive on fascination, how things work and how to make it better; not on greed and power.
Make every day as fun as possible. Don't let a day go by without making the most of it. Do something that makes you happy; enjoy your passions.
Never stop improving and making your life better.
Do what is best for patient care.