Welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview with Krishna Kurapati, founder and CEO of QliqSOFT, an 11-year-old digital healthcare services company based in Dallas, Texas.
Krishna has more than two decades of technology entrepreneurship experience, having launched and sold two successful tech startups – IPCell Technologies, Inc., acquired by Cisco in 2001, and Sipera Systems, Inc., acquired by Avaya in 2008. He launched QliqSOFT in 2011 with a desire to solve clinical collaboration and workflow challenges using artificial intelligence (AI)-powered digital technologies across the U.S. healthcare system. He is also actively involved in early-stage financing of startups in the U.S. and India.
When asked about his motivation to start QliqSOFT, Krishna says, “I had an inkling of doing something in healthcare for a long time, having observed the limited use of technology from friends in medical professions. They were primarily using pagers and faxes.” As he started reading about the impact of the inefficiencies on patients, “I felt we should build a product to help physicians with bi-directional communications,” he explains.
Although Krishna had a strong background in communications and security from his earlier ventures, he faced three key challenges when launching QliqSOFT: First, he did not have a healthcare background; second, he was committed to building the company without raising venture capital; and third, he needed to find the right knowledge and talent specific to the healthcare sector.
A voracious reader, Krishna began immersing himself in healthcare communications issues and was initially influenced by studies in the late 1990s and beyond that found poor communications was responsible for causing between 44,000 and 98,000 patient deaths annually in American hospitals alone. To increase his knowledge on addressing this issue, he completed a master’s degree in healthcare information technology at Texas State University. By 2012-2013, he began hiring experts remotely. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, QliqSOFT’s employees had worked from home for over a decade.
Along with identifying a compelling need, Krishna says the timing to launch QliqSOFT was right in large part due to the acceleration of smartphone adoption. “iPhone adoption was going through the roof,” he explains, “and physicians and nurses were using both iPhone and Android devices. Krishna quickly recognized the need for a smartphone app to help healthcare professionals build a secure communication tool, noting, “This was the starting point for QliqSOFT. We did not raise much venture capital funding. Instead, we built the product organically with customer input, selling it to grow the company.”
Today, Krishna says QliqSOFT solutions are “more secure than anything else out there,” and the company continues to “innovate and add more capabilities as we see needs grow and change.” This and “making it easy to implement” are QliqSOFT’s key differentiators, which are now carried through in its Quincy solution for patient engagement, which utilizes conversational health chatbots, virtual visits, secure texting, and more. Krishna says enterprise services are the next level, leveraging a scalable architecture. “This is why we invest in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and cloud-native solutions.” From a services point-of-view, he explains, “We are using some of the best minds in the industry to provide implementation and pre-sale services.”
When asked about lessons learned to help other entrepreneurs, Krishna compares entrepreneurship to “a roller coaster with more down days than up.” He explains that entrepreneurs “have to have hope to overcome challenges,” processing every challenge as an opportunity. “Whether it is an integration or people challenge, you must think out-of-the-box and try something new if something doesn’t work,” he says.
Krishna emphasizes that allowing yourself to fail is fundamentally important because “when you fail, you learn.” However, he cautions not to take too long to course correct. “The entrepreneurial mindset is to figure things out on a dime. What’s important is to move fast rather than waiting too long.” He adds that being “cost-efficient in your digital start-up” is also critical. “Having hands-on expertise, whether marketing, service or product, is really important,” he adds, “with talent dictating how you make progress.”
Calling himself a “naturally inquisitive person,” Krishna says he always gets excited about new and better ways of doing things. “I don’t like stagnation,” he explains. “When something new comes along, like ChatGPT or Conversational AI, I am genuinely excited to learn about it and try it. I also like learning from people who are role models,” citing Alexander the Great and Elon Musk. Whether reading fiction, non-fiction, or watching Anime, he says he’s “always trying to get inside the author’s head and understand, adding, “I’m peeking in on the real intent, what’s the author, the artist or the role model trying to convey?”
In this spirit, Krishna recalls a trip to Turkey where he wanted to trace Alexander the Great’s path in 334 BC as he led his troops into India on his campaign of conquests. “I wanted to understand how he was able to do it,” he explains, noting that this and other creative endeavors can help entrepreneurs recharge their batteries. “On a down day, these experiences can help you get inspired. You regain your energy and vitality by looking at how someone else overcame their adversities. You can’t avoid adversity. You have to face it and persevere.”