Kane Sajdak is a three time award winner of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Technology) and two time winner of the Australian Top 100 Entrepreneurs.
With a bunch of accolades under his belt and a background in corporate IT and technical infrastructure, Kane is also the Director of startup BITS Technology Group alongside long-time friend, Bernard Mangelsdorf.
Launched in 2009, BITS Technology Group provides IT services to SMEs and ASX-listed giants and has grown to operate internationally with 100% year-on-year growth.
Kane is also the founder of recent startup, HomeGuardian.ai, a world first AI technology that can detect a fall of an elderly person in their home, alerting their loved ones in under two seconds.
We spoke to Kane about his interest in IT and making startups out of it.
Can you share more about the story of how you fell in love with IT in the first place?
I guess in many ways, the fact I’ve had a career dedicated to technology is pretty ironic. I’m a child of two hippies, so for me growing up, technology was usually wood or gas powered and smelled like incense. We had a tiny TV in our caravan and that was about it. We travelled around Australia as a family and stopped in places we liked here and there. It wasn’t until I was getting closer to high school that we settled in Kingscliff, just over the NSW/QLD Border. My dad was a musician and my mum decided to go to TAFE to study social work, and at TAFE they said it would be easier for her to complete her course if we had a computer. It was a big deal for us and was the first time I really had a chance to play with anything techy – other kids had Nintendo or Sega – so for me it was incredible. The second night we had it, I broke it. I remember how devastated I felt and how my parents didn’t know what to do. I remember vividly my dad telling me that we couldn’t afford another one, so I had to figure out how to fix it.
The next day I went to school and asked the “computer man” at school about what happened, he gave me some insight, and I went home and tried again. After a few days of trial and error, and lots of playing around, I fixed it. I was so proud when I went to school to tell the computer teacher what I did to fix it – and he just stared at me blankly. It was at that point it occurred to me that not many people knew how to do this, and maybe if I kept learning about it – I could make a job out of it.
That was how my love for technology was born – and in high school I threw myself at every IT subject I could to try to further that education.
You mentioned that your family travelled a lot when you were growing up, have you experienced any difficulty pursuing your interest during this time?
When we lived in the caravan, technology wasn’t an option. We had a tiny TV and that was it – the rest of the time I’d be playing outside, making friends with whatever other kids were nearby where we were staying – friends were hard to come by and mostly only lasted a day or so until we were on the road again.
When did you realise that you wanted to establish your own business?
I resigned from a national head of IT role for a large franchise business based on the Gold Coast and the very next day I had a call from my long-time friend and now business partner, Bernard Mangelsdorf. Bernard had a consulting business that he had been growing for 5 years and had reached a point where he was doing 16-hour days every day and was starting to burn out. He looked at my career and we knew each other personally. He said he’d like to work with the types of companies I had been employed by (large, multi-site enterprises). We were both career IT guys and had two completely different angles on approaching technology for business. That combination proved a powerful thing and BITS Technology Group was born. BITS Technology Group is a Managed IT Services and Digital Transformation firm, and we now have offices nationally and internationally.
I just knew we could do it better than everyone else. Having been on the internal IT side for most of my career, I had external technology companies pitching to me all the time – and they all fundamentally missed the mark. Businesses use technology to make them better at whatever it is they do – be that a doctor, dentist, construction company, you name it – tech is a tool to be more efficient at that. Most IT companies miss that simple fact and try to sell flavour of the month hardware or solutions, rather than aligning technology with business direction.
Is owning and running a business what you have envisioned?
Oh man, not even close. When Bernard and I first started out, we had different sets of knowledge in different areas – but neither of us were astute businessmen. It’s been a lot of mistakes and trial and error – and lots of learning from other people’s mistakes.
I thought it would be all sports cars and super yachts six months in. Ha!
What I will say though, is that owning and running your own business gives you an opportunity to treat your employees how you would want to be treated. A company is all about its culture and its people, so make it a place people want to come to work.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who are looking to turn their interests into a career?
I think following your passions and your dreams and doing something you’re interested in is a great way to really enjoy what you do every day. I’d suggest that if you want to turn what you do for a hobby, or that you are peripherally interested in, into a career – look at why people would pay you to do that thing. Ultimately, business is about money in some way shape or form, so you need to view your career from a commercial viewpoint. So, think about why someone would pay you to do what you love. If you can figure that out, you’ve won most of the battle already.
Can you tell us more about your new project, HomeGuardian?
I’d love to! HomeGuardian is a patented, world first, artificial intelligence driven fall detection device – made for people in aged care or those who are elderly and live alone. Through our cutting edge AI we are able to look at a room and determine if the people in that room are acting abnormal or not. Our AI knows what normal interaction is between the objects in that room – including between people and people, people and objects and people and their surroundings – so it knows its normal for you as a person to be laying in bed, or sitting in a chair – but it’s not normal for you to be laying on the bathroom tiles. We can alert a loved one or a nurse in a residential aged care facility when something of concern has occurred and that way, we can respond faster than ever before. Our device requires no connectivity, and simply plugs into power. It also processes all of the analysis of the surroundings on the device itself – which means that it is 100% private and secure, so we don’t compromise people’s privacy or dignity, and the device can be used in bedrooms, bathrooms and private residence. It allows people to live independently for longer and allows them residential aged care providers to provide a higher level of care than they ever could before.
We have the ability to respond faster than has ever been possible to what we deem to be something our AI sees as abnormal, and with HomeGuardian.ai we are able to take Australia from being the subject of a Royal Commission into aged care, to being a world leader in how we care for our elderly.