Calcium’s President, Sid Bala, was recently interviewed for Authority Magazine, as a part of their series, “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”.
Sid Bala is President of Calcium and serves on the Board of Directors. Calcium believes a healthier world starts with healthier decisions. Their digital health analytics platform provides individuals with access to meaningful health data right at their fingertips, by employing easy, fun-to-use tools and personalized guidance that make healthier decisions easier. As a seasoned leader with more than 30 years of technology experience, Sid previously served as the Founder and CEO of alligatortek. Under Sid’s leadership, the company was recognized as a best-in-class partner, employer and innovator.
He also serves as Board Chair for Bookwallah, on the Quality and Cost Effectiveness Committee of the Board of Silver Cross Hospital and on the Membership Commission at The Chicago Club. He previously served on the Business Community & Culture Committee for P33 Chicago and as a Board Member of the Chicago Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO).
A Chicago native, Sid attended the University of Chicago for his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and went on to the State University of New York, Stony Brook for a graduate degree in computer science. He holds a master’s degree from MIT’s Entrepreneurial Masters Program.
He has been an ECC member since 2005 and has served as Chair of the Reception Committee and as Chair of the Membership Committee. He is past Secretary to the Board of Directors.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I’m a first-generation immigrant. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but grew up in Illinois. I was top of my class and did really well in academics. Then, I went off to the University of Chicago in Hyde Park where I quickly became a small fish in a very big pond. Through that journey, I had a great liberal arts education and pursued a degree in pure and applied mathematics. Then, I went to New York for my graduate degree in computer science.
As a first-generation immigrant, I was the only person of any color outside of those in the small middle-class community I grew up in. I very much grew up feeling different. I really found the need to try and set myself apart in one way or another. Some people gravitate to sports or particular hobbies. For me, it was academics. It was the one place where I could stand apart from the rest of the pack. That brought with it accolades and appreciation from my parents and my teachers and so forth, but I think it brought about a lot of animosity from people my age. My classmates would look at that as even more different. Not only is he the only brown kid, but he’s also the only brown kid being the smartest kid in the room, so I really struggled with trying to find how I fit in. Some parts of my early childhood were rough for me.
I remember still, the first night we moved into an apartment, we sat and had dinner on the dining room carpet because there was no table! It’s like literally we showed up, and we’re in this apartment, and there’s no furniture. It was very much a ground-up existence. Not suggesting we were without — my parents made sure I always had everything that I needed, but it was just very much an experience of today’s day 1, tomorrow’s day 2, and slowly building from there.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
After graduating college, I was ready to go work in a large corporation, like Microsoft, and my dad thought that I ought to start a company, and that I would be an entrepreneur. I was like, “okay, well what would I do?” He’s said, “well, you could consult on technology.” I said, “oh, okay.” And there I was, a little confused about why I would do that when I could go work in a large corporate, but my dad’s perspective was twofold:
One, that he had always hit a glass ceiling in his career because he didn’t play golf, he was an outsider. He hit a glass ceiling, and he didn’t want that for me. Secondly, he knew that, whereas he had acclimated or appreciated the fact that he had a good life, raised two kids, bought a house, and done all that, and for me, he wanted more. Or said differently, he knew that I would settle for less, and that I’d be frustrated if I went to work for a big corporation and couldn’t get the outcomes I wanted. He knew my ambition was too strong. He wanted something for me, which he saw as uncapped potential. That’s where the potential of working for myself started.
I knew nothing about not only consulting, but I didn’t know anything about growing a company, let alone growing talent. I grew everything organically. I didn’t break any barriers in that journey, but the one thing I’d learned along the way was to really invest and have a lot of capital, not financial capital, but human capital. I learned you could never hire “too good.” You never regret hiring a really strong candidate, and that the better the talent you hire, the better the outcome. I learned that the hard way because I started out very much looking at the economics of whether you could get cheap labor, and quickly recognized the best way is to get amazing labor and not worry about the cost. Know that the cost is part of the ROI.
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?
As I think about somebody who believed in me before I believed in myself, it would be my father. In terms of my professional career, I would say it was my father. As far as the story I would tell, it would be that story around coming out of grad school and trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, that early set up. Sometimes people start out of their garage. I literally moved back home, and I worked out of my bedroom, not a spare bedroom, but my bedroom. Literally, I’d make my bed every day and set up my desk and then put it all away and go to bed that night. My dad afforded me the confidence, the trajectory, but even the financial means to do that.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One that has always stuck with me is “to whom much is given, much is required.” I find that that has been one of my beacons or my mission statements around which I rallied. I think it is one that I encourage others to think about. It’s about having gratitude around what you have and where you are today, and appreciation for that. And with that, leveraging or using that as a launch point to say, “How can I help others? By helping others get what they want, I can get what I want.”
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I think one would be around perseverance, the ability to stay the course and not quit, not give up. My journey in the 26 years that I ran alligatortek, and now my journey over the last couple years here at Calcium, is all about perseverance and striving.
Secondly would be about striving for excellence — not settling for second best. Challenging myself and others around me to reach higher, and to reach for what is possible. Again, it’s asking, “are you living your life to your fullest potential?”
And the third, for me personally, it’s been about connecting with people, understanding what their motivations are, and helping connect those motivations with who they want to be and what they want to achieve. And then connecting those people with other people. I’d say one of my “superpowers” is the ability to help people connect with one another.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the technology or medical devices that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?
Encouraging patients to be engaged with their health is a key component of our work. Leveraging health information technology in new ways — especially by ensuring it’s simple, effective, and even fun — goes a long way to improving health outcomes. There are also some important benefits for practices that improve their use of technology to help control costs through strategic resource allocation, improving information sharing. They help to reduce costly cancellations and demonstrate to their patients that they have their best interests in mind through using the latest tools available to ensure their experience is the best possible.
Additionally, patient collaboration and the requisite patient adherence to treatment plans are important for the success of any healthcare treatment plan — and we work to support that success. By understanding the factors that can impact adherence and collaborating with patients to develop strategies for improving it, practitioners and providers can help ensure the best possible outcomes for their patients.
The importance of patient collaboration and adherence to treatment plans for the success of their care cannot be overstated. But they are not without their challenges. Strategies to overcome these barriers are required to ensure success.
Providers can use technology to help improve adherence. For example, the use of electronic medication reminders or apps that track medication adherence can be effective in helping patients remember to take their medications as prescribed.
How do you think your technology can address this?
We have developed a platform to help patients and providers manage health information in a way that helps them make better health decisions. Practices benefit from the administrative and patient relations functionality of the app and accompanying dashboard to improve their operations as well as patient care.
Calcium’s integrated solution for providers is intentionally designed with features and functionalities to improve adherence, such as:
- Education and information — Depending on the condition and treatment, Calcium’s integrated patient app provides bite-sized articles and videos to educate and prepare functional medicine patients.
- Medication reminders — Programmable pathways can schedule reminders for prescribed medication and supplements.
- Motivation — Calcium’s gamification and behavioral change features encourage patients to stay on track.
- Patient feedback — The pathways can periodically ask for patient feedback, with an eye to pain levels and side effects that may need to be addressed.
- Monitoring — Providers can keep track of patient progress and can get alerts when a patient has fallen off the program or may need extra outreach.
- Resources — The app can also provide links to additional resources to help guide functional medicine patients.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
The reason I joined and am so passionate about Calcium is because we sit at a time in our civilization where there’s as much focus on improving health and health outcomes as in any time in our history. It was already underway prior to the pandemic, but it’s only been accelerated as a result of the pandemic. And as we think about how we can help individuals better care for their health and their health outcomes, it’s tied to having a full view, or as we like to say, a “360-degree view” of your health and health data.
Once you have that, you can then share that data with others, loved ones, your employer, providers, others in your health ecosystem. This was not possible several years ago or up until very recently, but today, we are at the intersection of where technology, legislation and a groundswell movement is there to drive better functionality and get individuals who are engaged in their health and health outcomes. And I see that as a point in time where I want to be a part of that journey. There’s so much potential in this space right now and I want to tap now.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I actually have two that jump to mind: Elon Musk and, though she’s passed away, I would have liked to spend time with Mother Theresa.
With respect to why Elon, if you look back to what he’s done, he’s an engineer, he’s an entrepreneur, he is an inventor and he’s a corporate leader. And I think that those qualities are few and far between. There are those people who can ideate. There are those people who can run a business. There are those people who can scale it, but very few can reach the success that he did when he was at PayPal. If he wanted to, he could have been like a Mark Cuban. He could have just decided he was going to check out. And I don’t mean to disparage Mark, but Elon put it all on the line to build Tesla. He put it all on the line to build SpaceX. And that takes a degree of fortitude and courage that I find quite admirable. So, I think that’s somebody I think would be interesting.
For Mother Teresa, it was her ability to have such a huge heart and be able to invest her life in others.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers are welcome to keep in touch with me a number of ways. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sidbala/, and check out the below resources:
- The Calcium blog at https://calciumhealth.com/resources/
- Our LinkedIn Newsletter, ‘Think Healthier’ https://www.linkedin.com/build-relation/newsletter-follow?entityUrn=7026279212609077248
- Our website at www.calciumhealth.com