Dr. Tieren Zhou of Kloud: “I believe we are achieving it quite well”

I always believed that the future of communication is to be able to visualize your thoughts, to visualize all facets of communication, virtually. Communication can happen by phone or by talking, but people cannot always be together. Only when we are together, we see people’s full gestures, so when we are not together, visualization is […]

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I always believed that the future of communication is to be able to visualize your thoughts, to visualize all facets of communication, virtually. Communication can happen by phone or by talking, but people cannot always be together. Only when we are together, we see people’s full gestures, so when we are not together, visualization is most important. Visualizing what you want to say, visualize your body language, your inner thoughts and visualize your writing. Easy to say, but not as easy to generate this result. That was my main mission when building Kloud and I believe we are achieving it quite well.

The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tieren Zhou.

Dr. Tieren Zhou is CEO and Chief Architect of Kloud and ProjectOne, the next evolution in the enterprise experience. For over 25 years, Dr. Zhou has consistently led in DevOp’s solutions as the CEO of TechExcel. Dr. Zhou holds a PhD. in Artificial Intelligence from Kansas State University, and is the creator of SpecDD agile methodology and keynote speaker for the Software Society of China.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I have always been passionate about technology, innovation and constant improvement.Over the years, I have developed myself and my companies to become leaders in the field of ALM, project management, IT service software and artificial intelligence. My largest company is TechExcel, where over 30 years, I led multinational teams to design and deliver software based on my patented technology and new methodologies like SpecDD, a Hybrid Agile development methodology. My doctoral work focused on laboratory automation, conceptual modeling, robotics, and artificial intelligence. In the last five years, I have been working on Kloud and ProjectOne, an integrated communication and collaboration platform with a performant project management solution, which I believe will become the next evolution in enterprise large- scale project deployment and team management.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

TechExcel’s product DevTrack was recognized as a leading product in the industry by top tier magazine Dr. Dobbs who at that time, ranked DevTrack to be a best tracking and project management tool then IBM’s ClearQuest. This led to one of the largest gaming companies purchasing DevTrack for 1.1 million dollars. They liked our product so much that they pre-paid an additional 1.5 million dollars for developing a custom test management tool for them. We therefore developed DevTest, which went to become one of the best test management tools on the market, because it was answering so many companies testing needs. We quickly learned that building good products and working with our clients as partners can open so many opportunities.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is a common Chinese saying 活到老学到老 which literally translates to “live until old, study until old”. Its meaning is important to me because I believe that you will be deepening your knowledge as you advance in age, but only if you have a humble heart and a determination to become wiser.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

If I am going to name such people, my top selection would be Dr. Jack Russo and my second selection, my college professor.

Let’s talk about Jack Russo first, Jack Russo is a very famous patent and patent disputes attorney and owner of Russo and Hale law firm in Palo Alto. He is the owner of the domain site, computerlaw.com and unlike many law attorneys, he is very technology savvy. Jack Russo is a true example in staying at the forefront of technology, giving weekly webinars on tech innovation.

He has invited me to give speeches on patent and production innovation. He has inspired me by his love for technology and his attention to new advances and innovation in computer products like Skype, Twilio, Techexcel, ProjectOne, Devsuite. For me, he set the example of how interdisciplinary knowledge helps you to become a better innovator. He sat down with me spending entire afternoons understanding my ideas and suggesting to me at no cost and what I should be paying attention to competitor products, to the market, how to achieve more success market-wise, this kind of help is based on the passion of seeing great technology and better contribution to the world. I truly appreciate and reflect on the mutual respect from me to Jack and Jack’s appreciation of my talent

I wish every entrepreneur has this kind of luck with top-tier people who are investing in their vision. Because he has pushed me to always be willing to go an extra step as a business owner and to become successful with products like Kloud.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I aim to bring goodness on multiple levels. I often talk about technology innovations, share my knowledge with peer entrepreneurs. I write patents and develop new methodologies such as SpecDD and then I try to spread the knowledge and innovation to many more people by publishing papers, doing webinars, writing, training and helping my customers to be successful.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

I always believed that the future of communication is to be able to visualize your thoughts, to visualize all facets of communication, virtually. Communication can happen by phone or by talking, but people cannot always be together. Only when we are together, we see people’s full gestures, so when we are not together, visualization is most important. Visualizing what you want to say, visualize your body language, your inner thoughts and visualize your writing. Easy to say, but not as easy to generate this result. That was my main mission when building Kloud and I believe we are achieving it quite well.

How do you think this might change the world?

I ask myself: where are we heading in terms of the revolution of communication technology? This is why I created Kloud and invented the Kloud Livedoc technology. My belief is that achieving a clear visualization of our communication, virtually. Going from telephones to Skype and Zoom, we realized that visualization of communication makes people more capable of understanding each other. What Kloud brings to the table is that this technology was invented with the belief that in order for a team to work really well together we need to enable people to brainstorm and to understand each other’s views almost at a brain level, compounding everyone’s intelligence and syncing minds of people, teams and customers. That is the ambitious vision that Kloud wants to achieve.

Today’s video meetings allow for communications to happen remotely and for sharing what you are seeing so that attendees can see the same thing. Document sharing, along with voice and webcam videos makes communications much more effective. But there are a few major drawbacks: document sharing is not interactive, online meetings require huge bandwidth for video streaming, and wisdom shared during meetings is not compounded.

What Kloud achieves is helping creators to visualize the thought process behind that document and idea, it improves collaboration in meetings and it collects all wisdom in a linear living document called LiveDoc where all recordings, notes and meeting minutes are saved. All Kloud meetings are document-centric, meaning the common object of conversations is a living document that anyone can annotate, similar to whiteboarding. By uploading and discussing the LiveDoc at hand, there is no use of video streaming and risky screen sharing, meaning all meetings can be delivered in 1080k without choppy audio or dropouts. But the most unique aspect of Kloud is all communications are compounded, meaning a conversation can be picked up where it was left, and all previous recordings, annotations and chats are saved in a continuous manner.

I believe this new generation of meetings and knowledge sharing will change the world, in many areas. Documents become interactive movies that can be played back to reach the highest level of communication efficiency and making intelligence collision a possibility. It will also innovate the way online education is delivered and understood. Making the entire learning process a continuous one, instead of disparate video meetings. Kloud Livedocs extend the knowledge of teachers and students with inserted video links, voice syncs and annotations. Reading behavior and efficient understanding of the course at hand will influence the success of every student.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

If there is any drawback I have to say, such technology shall change the foundation of online meetings. With meetings moving online, there are new challenges of security. Version control and content security controls will be required and companies will need to invest resources to enable the highest level of security in documents and meetings in order to protect their companies’ digital IP. Our company hired over 50 developers to work on this technology for the past 10 years. And there is still a long way to go to improve today’s online communications, but we see so many more beautiful opportunities.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes, the tipping point was amazing. I have two companies; Kloud technology is a new company and TechExcel, a project management and DevOps company which I have led for over 30 years now. Our product DevTrack was recognized as the best product in its category, at the same level as IBM’s Clearquest.

While DevTrack was getting better for product management, one night I realized that no matter how great DevTrack could become, fundamentally there were limitations to it for being a great tool. Why? Because it was lacking the ability to connect business people and project engineering people. These two groups of people who are designing a project historically, can not really communicate well. One person thinks in business logic, while the other thinks in technology logic. Even if they write a document, the understanding of it often leads to misunderstanding. That is the tipping point of my ambition to make a doc to be live and played back as an interactive movie. This became an idea that later led to the creation of the patent.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Finding the focus point where it can be used by this industry to generate explosive growth and adoption. Making online education to be driven by LiveDoc and MEDIAM technology making everybody document an interactive movie forever. Enabling Kloud to have widespread adoption and focus on the most important audience that can make the biggest difference and have the most impact. We identified online Education as being an industry that could benefit the most from this breakthrough and we would love to work with more institutions to enable them to try it.

Having our platform to be built as an open API base is important for us. We want to enable developers, partners and customers to integrate Kloud’s unique way of content sharing into their business processes and current software, be it for PM, HR, Sales systems, customer support management or knowledge management.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

I believe that more students and teachers need to feel the difference of delivering knowledge via LiveDoc meetings, as this completely changes the experience from the traditional video streaming online meetings. Kloud can enable schools and companies to deliver really high-quality virtual events, user conferences, school graduations and job fairs. We wish to humanize the way we connect online and make virtual events to feel as close to real-life experiences as possible. I also see a near future where we will need to drive hybrid meetings with both online and offline audiences, for businesses and schools alike.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Entrepreneurship is fun but full of challenges. You can easily make many mistakes. Learn from them, and grow.

  • I wish I was told how to assemble your core team to be more balanced. With a PHD and AI master’s in computer science, I was starting my company. At the beginning I hired mostly technical people. But what I realized through the years is that technology is not the only thing to make a company successful. We are very lucky that by creating a very outstanding product, we were able to grow the company. And while we are not ready to go public yet, I believe the expertise of TecheExcel, along with Kloud’s advanced tech innovations will help us to achieve that. But had I assembled a more balanced team, things could have moved much more smoother and faster. What I mean by that, is you need to consider product selling via marketing budgets and development budget combined. I have been developing my company, almost putting all the resource money into tech innovations. Not only wish I was told this earlier, but I wished I had practiced it, too.
  • How do you make product development to be with less functions not more functions? As an entrepreneur I want our product to be the best in the market. We do our best to compete with the competitors of similar size companies, but we aim big and we want to compete at the level of the best tools out there. Finally in 2005 after 8 years of building, we were recognized amongst the likes of IBM and HP ALM and PM tools and multiple magazines rated us equally as good as them. Naturally, I committed my teams to doing more functions. In reality, I wish I would have been smarter balancing the spending of resources on less functions, but the ones that truly move the needle, when it comes to competing with the big players.
  • Growing a company to be big requires fundraising experience or core team members that can help with fundraising. Hiring a seasoned or experienced CFO, I believe can help companies to grow faster by raising investment funds. I never did that, so as a result, we are profitable but we could have grown much faster. I wish I had somebody that could have guided me on balancing the company’s growth marketing, sales revenue, reseller partnerships and fundraising. It’s challenging, but it is a lesson that every engineer who wants to become an entrepreneur should pay attention to: to grow your company, assemble a balanced team and use outside financial resources available for you to grow quicker.
  • When your product is doing well and your sales are increasing, plan your exit. Not necessarily that you will need to execute on at early stages, but plan the exit and don’t be overly optimistic about your tools. I’ve been lucky and my company has been lucky. We were almost profitable every year except for three or four years in 30 years of company history. When sales are going well, do your best to save your money for future events. Perhaps the most important thing is to manage your cash flow and engage in fundraising while you’re growing. Plan for both technical advancements as well as fundraising and have cash flow readiness so that you will have a much easier time as an entrepreneur and tech engineer.
  • It really requires mentally tough and physically tough people to overcome difficult times. Don’t forget as an entrepreneur and as an owner of the company, you might have mental toughness and physical toughness but not necessarily all your top managers or every employee has the same. Be careful and manage your risk. Be aware of the downfall of your business.

In other words, if I am overly optimistic now especially most recently. Over the last ten years reinvesting the revenue the company enabled us to develop innovative technology and new products. But success doesn’t always come easy. Basically, my company could have been bankrupted. In my case, it was not that bad but we were enduring the hardship that almost most owners would have easily given up. No matter how talented you are as an engineer, in the process of growing the company, you will be met with challenges and you will need to survive the challenges, otherwise your company will be closed. My hope is that one day I’ll be writing a book about my company going public. It’s a beautiful story… As a Chinese saying goes: “you experience 9 deaths and finally you survive then you have a glorious time.” I wish this is what I was told by somebody before I started.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wish there was a road map of things to help very talented and committed engineers to become successful entrepreneurs. Unlike most outstanding engineers I took a different path, I took a path of creating perfect products and then looked for outside funding. I always wanted to compete with the best product on the market no matter how expensive and how hard that was. I wish I could one day write a book or publish a series of blogs to help other engineers like me achieve business success. I want to help engineers who are looking to build their own companies by telling them about the difficult times, about the spirit of adventure, about pursuing product perfection and about the great need of balancing growth forces. Growth forces include marketing force, sales force, financial force. This world needs scientists and engineers to become entrepreneurs but this world needs also real stories and not just the writing of the rosy parts once your company is successful, when you go public or when you get recognition from the market. Instead, write also about the hard times that an engineer becoming an entrepreneur will naturally be experiencing.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Through my websites Kloud.com and TechExcel.com as well as on my Linkedin account: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-tieren-zhou-71aa33

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

Thank you for this amazing and insightful interview! I really enjoyed your thought-provoking questions.

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