Five Questions For … Seremedi CEO, Ex-Microsoft Executive Kim Bond Evans
Houston—When Kim Bond Evans was 15, her father was dying. One particular piece of advice that he gave her stood out: Focus on what can be done, he advised, not on the naysayers, who may stand in the way.
“When the front door closes, go through the back door,” Evans says he told her. “If that’s closed, climb through the window. If they closed the window, cut a hole in the roof. Just keep going.”
That advice became a lodestar for her career. “I’m a problem solver,” she says.
Evans, who was previously an executive at Microsoft and BMC Software, is the founder and CEO of health IT startup Seremedi. The company makes software that can be downloaded to tablets or smartphones that patients take home with them after surgery so that caregivers can stay connected with clinical staff in between standard follow-up appointments.
Evans believes those sorts of gaps contributed to her mother’s death following what should have been routine back surgery. Seremedi’s software could help other families avoid this pain, she says. “There are a lot of gaps in the process,” Evans told me about a patient’s post-discharge experience. “And we now have technologies to close that gap.”
This week’s “Five Questions For …” is with Evans, who speaks about women who persist, boxing over your weight, and why a future as a professional opera singer wasn’t meant to be. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Xconomy: What’s your most impressive or most quirky skill that has nothing to do with your day job?
Kim Bond Evans: I don’t know how skilled I am, but I’m a sculptor. I am an artist as a God-given gift. I have an innate ability to visualize something abstractly and make it concrete. I don’t do it often—I haven’t gotten the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours. I don’t have a high competency like that, but I do have creative pieces that I enjoy and give to family members.
I have done two-dimensional charcoal drawings, acrylic paintings. But I really enjoy the 3D aspect. I like working with materials to form a creation that I think is the most satisfying to me, working with plastics, metals, et cetera. I really like the experience of creating a 3D piece of work. I enjoy the process of making it and interacting with it.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been doing art. Probably my earliest memories are in grade school where I would just start drawing things that I saw, mostly physical bodies, human figures. I left that behind and really moved to sculptures that are more abstract: colorful, bold, almost yard-art kind of things.
And, I’m a prolific opera star in my shower. That drives people who live with me crazy. It’s like, “Oh my God, you’re awful.” But it’s therapeutic to me.
X: If you could go back in time and get five minutes with any major historical figure, who would it be, and what would you want to say to them?
KBE: I’m mostly impressed with women who do take these extraordinary positions. Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman. That’s just incredible courage. [Tubman] escaped, and she could’ve kept going, but she felt a draw and something inside her. She was called to really go back and bring others out of slavery. That’s such a courageous and generous act. She didn’t have to do it but she was driven to. When I think about Rosa Parks, again, saying, “I’m done; enough. I’m not going to move to the back. I pay my taxes like everyone else. Why should I?” This was an intelligent woman. She was not ignorant to the backlash and the consequences of this. Yet, she pressed forward. [Evans chuckles softly.] She was warned and she persisted. … I would say Harriet Tubman was in that category. Golda Meir, I have tremendous respect for. She was a housewife, a mother. She believed in establishing the state of Israel. She was so committed to that idea she sacrificed everything. She made the pilgrimage to the US to do fundraising with very little but her chutzpah and her courage.
I would want to ask them, how did you move beyond your fear because all three were extremely aware of the consequences of their actions. Yet, they persisted. How did they overcome? How did they replace fear with courage?
X: Tell me about your early influences.
KBE: My parents were boxing way over their weight. They were both not college-educated but they had a vision and a dream, and they lived big. They didn’t allow their circumstances to box them in. They looked out at what was possible. They really taught me to think that way. I grew up thinking there were absolutely no limitations on my life. That is a blessing and also a curse.
My dad died when I was 15. Once he knew he was dying, and he knew I knew he was dying, he spoke very candidly, “You know, you’re a mixed race female.” It was time for him to prepare me for a time when he wasn’t going to be there as my advocate. He shared with me that “you are going to face barriers, people who think differently than your mom and I do about your limitations. Ignore them. Who cares what they think? Don’t let their thinking become your thinking.”
It is a guiding factor so I don’t even think about limitations. I think about how I can do things—even when I’m talking to people that I manage. Often people will settle into a place where they think, if I only had that, I could do this. My question is, well tell me what you can do. Let’s focus on that.
X: Where do you think your drive comes from?
KBE: I believe this really is a driver of my entrepreneurial pursuits as well. I believe at the root of an entrepreneur is service. I grew up in a family that was about service to the community. Everyone I knew in my ecosystem was doing things for others, making the lives of others better. [People] think I’m innovating for innovation’s sake. I’m not. I’m a problem solver. I deliver and create companies to improve a situation, to resolve a problem. At the root of that is a deep sense of service.
Entrepreneurs have various drivers, but I think the ones that really deliver something profound and impact us most have a deep sense of service.
X: What did you want to be when you were a kid?
KBE: Three things that I remember that kind of stuck and were with me for a few years: I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a vocalist—that helps the profile of a shower opera singer. And I just didn’t have the skill set for any of those choices. I cannot sing though I love live music. Lawyer, that comes from the sense of service. As a lawyer I wanted to work for legal aid, and help people out of jams and make sure that the everyday man and woman could get quality legal representation. On the medical side, … a good life is a healthy life. So what could I do to contribute to that? I guess I’m most aligned with the medical profession at the end of the day, at least ancillary to being a doctor. I work with doctors.