Raj Singh’s “why” guides his every move in the tech industry.
Singh is the CEO of Accolade, a healthcare tech company that ranks No. 6 on the GeekWire 200 list of top Pacific Northwest startups. Before that, he was co-founder and president of expense management powerhouse Concur.
A desire to change the world helps Singh make big decisions. But it took time for Singh to find his why.
Singh grew up in Boston, raised by two immigrants from India. He became an engineer and worked at Ford — mainly to please his mother, who really wanted him to be a doctor.
Singh called himself a mediocre engineer, who dreamed of the weekend by Wednesday. He reluctantly agreed to help his brother Steve, who was just getting Concur off the ground, with no idea it would become the force that was acquired by SAP for more than $8 billion in 2014.
As part of that work, Singh took a trip to San Francisco. He met a bunch of people building apps and services that on the outside didn’t seem life changing. But they felt a sense of purpose that Singh yearned for.
“I took a bite of this apple that changed my life,” Singh said, “and the idea was these people thought they could change the world, and I looked at them and I thought ‘well, I want to change the world; I can do, that can’t I? What’s different about them than me?’ And my ‘why’ became I want to change the world.”
“Speaking to the students, budding entrepreneurs and future leaders at Seattle U was a great experience and honor,” Singh told GeekWire in a statement. “I am energized by the passions, grit, ideas and energy of today’s graduates and connecting with them fuels all of us.
“There is so much talent in our region — both in our students and those guiding them. I have no doubt that these graduates have the power to make positive and lasting change on our region, our country and the world.”
Read on to learn about other principles Singh imparted to students; you can watch the full talk below.
Don’t accept things just because that’s how they’ve always been done: The healthcare system is broken, Singh said. Accolade is trying to fix that, but it is taking a different approach.
The entire industry today is focused too much on controlling costs and treating diseases not people, Singh said. Accolade wants to be that contrarian in the industry that doesn’t look at a person as dollars and cents or diseases and conditions.
“We have to think about people as people,” he said, “and understand all of their context, as opposed to thinking about people as conditions and attempting to wrestle them to the next step in their condition.”
Seek businesses built on principal: We hear a lot about core values in business these days, and there’s a reason, Singh said. They make major decisions a lot easier, and give companies a North Star to look to when adversity arises.
Singh implored the students to figure out their principles and let them guide their futures.
“Whatever your principles are, you’ve got to link yourself to those principles,” he said. “You’ve got to link yourself to that why, and if you get too far away from it, if you let money and prestige opportunities take you too far away from that principle, you risk your own unhappiness.”
Those principles can help leaders build companies “that do good for the world while doing well for shareholders.” He’s counting on future generations of business leaders at a time when concerns about income inequality are high and people are becoming more suspicious about capitalism.
“If the next generation of capitalists don’t change their behavior, maybe there won’t be as much capitalism anymore,” Singh said.