Leaders’ Insights: Caelen King, Whatclinic.com

21 Aug 2015

Pictured: Caelen King, CEO and founder of WhatClinic.com

This week’s Leaders’ Insights come from Caelen King, who founded his company Whatclinic.com in his Dublin home in 2006, turning it into the go-to search site globally for elective treatments. He employs 60 people and this week announced 26 new jobs.

Before creating Whatclinic.com, Caelen King, who gives his leadership advice below, was vice president of product at NewBay Software and a key member of the executive management team that revolutionised the mobile operator market with social mobile web applications. Previous to NewBay Software, King led the marketing of Baltimore Technologies’ flagship product, UniCERT.

Whatclinic.com has more than 1,800 customer clinics in 64 different countries, and 95pc of its revenue is export-based, with the UK its biggest market.

‘I have always gravitated to tech people — far more than I gravitated to the technology itself’

More than 60m visitors have used Whatclinic.com’s expert technology to find, compare and book a variety of procedures across a wide range of elective, self-pay medical treatments.

Describe your role and what you do

The traditional CEO is dead. At our core, we’re a tech company, and my role is to give the team the guidance and the support they need to innovate, to fail, to learn and to grow in line with our vision and values. We celebrate failure as much as success, which is part of our culture.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

In the office, we expect everyone to show up on time, work hard but then get the hell out of here. Most of the management team have young families. That means being productive and effective during the day and getting home to the people that really matter. I try keep meetings short — and we keep tough meeting rules.

We hold each other accountable. We don’t leave without actions, task owners and deadlines. Hard habits to learn, but effective.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business and how are you tackling them?

We have the usual problems of growth, finding more space and keeping our culture intact as we expand quickly. Staying lean and innovative even as the numbers creep up. Trying not to break the coffee machine.

What are the key industry opportunities you’re capitalising on?

There is a tipping point in private healthcare for consumers. The power of search has disrupted so many industries, but healthcare has been the slowest to respond. We’re on the forefront of a profound shift in consumer behaviour. Patients are smart enough to realise that they can shop around, and we believe they shouldn’t have to compromise on choice, quality or safety, even when travelling abroad. People are using the web to do their research. They’re reading our verified reviews and making better decisions about the treatments that will improve their quality of life.

What set you on the road to where you are in the technology industry?

Difficult to say, I’d guess it was a combination of luck and people. I have always gravitated to tech people — far more than I gravitated to the technology itself. I enjoy being around those who are passionate about ideas and solutions. That’s greatly influenced the decisions I’ve made.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is how to hire the right people. Skill and experience count to get the job done, but there also has to be a fit for the team and for the company culture.

My mom is incredible. In 1978, when my family lived in Dubai, she established The English Medium School to help Pakastani children, mostly the children of labourers, to gain an education through English

As a start-up, we were often too busy growing to recognise just how important that is. Having managed to scale the business somewhat we need good people more than ever before, but hopefully I’m getting better at considering the big picture. We have a great HR manager who has helped provide a reliable framework for hiring.

How do you get the best out of your team?

By letting them get on with the things they’re good at. By encouraging an environment where failure is just as valuable a learning experience as success is, and by creating a culture of honesty and transparency. That may sound like waffle, but we live these values every day.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to effect change?

Our people reflect our business. We have over a dozen nationalities represented in the office. Cultural and social divides can be overcome when our engineers and our sales people really connect with and understand our customers. We have family-friendly work policies for parents, which can mean flexible parental leave and remote working. Basically, we do what we can to get the best people for our business by being as inclusive as possible. This means we haven’t had a problem attracting women in tech roles. At least 50pc of our recent tech hires are women.

Who is your business hero and why?

My mom is incredible. In 1978, when my family lived in Dubai, she established The English Medium School to help Pakastani children, mostly the children of labourers, to gain an education through English. Today, it teaches children from all nationalities and has 1,500 pupils and 100 staff. My mom doesn’t think it was that big a deal.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, gives an incredible insightful view of the economics of lives of people who live with an income of less than US$1 a day. It is fascinating as it completely contradicts many common opinions and comprehensively examines policies that have been applied to poor regions and the unintended consequences that result.

Other books I recommend:

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Everyone should read this, if just for the section about estimating project timelines.

The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely.

The latest book from the author of Predictably Irrational is an easy read. It looks at why people lie and how we justify it to ourselves. I really enjoyed it.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Gmail and Google Hangouts — the business lives on Gmail.

Xero — cloud computing meets business accounting.

Hailo — an app that has changed daily life. I’m observing the Uber vs Hailo evolution with great interest.

Kayak (although I’m increasingly using Google Flights) — I have to fly all over the world.

The EconomistThe Traveller Briefings App.