Making a Difference as a Chill Co-Founder: Toms’s Journey

Nov 6
Kilo Heroes

I wanted to use my skills and “power” for the greater good, and that’s where it all began. Marketing was my first love, but over time, I yearned for change.

I aspired to make a positive impact, to be part of something bigger. This is where Kilo Health entered the scene, and it was a win-win situation.

Oh, and I forgot to introduce myself. Hi, I’m Toms, the co-founder of Klinio, and the Latvian guy in a Lithuanian company.

It’s more than just going shirtless at the beach

I started off as the CMO of Klinio. It was a relatively new project, and we needed to make it more known and show the audience how the product works and can help people.

The driving force behind Kilo’s CEO, Tadas Burgaila, was personal — his relative has a chronic disease. Witnessing the impact on someone he cared about, he was motivated to create something that could assist people in managing their condition and improving their lives.

Honestly, the more I look at my whole situation, the more I am thankful. Klinio is really the product that’s solving real-life issues and helping people, which is what I wanted from the start. 

Many people with diabetes and other chronic conditions not only face physical challenges but also financial and psychological strains. It’s a multifaceted struggle, and having an app to provide step-by-step guidance is invaluable. I’m proud to be a part of this project, offering support to those who face daily challenges.

So, it’s not just some “eat right, shed pounds” fix — it’s a bigger solution, about more than just feeling confident shirtless at the beach.

CEO qualities

There is always this question of what qualities a really good CEO should have.

For me, the first thing that comes to mind is staying calm. I mean, it’s not just about co-founders or CEOs — it’s applicable to anyone in a management role. When you’re passionate about what you’re trying to achieve, you often want it all right now, if not yesterday. But the reality is, that a lot of development takes time, and doing it right involves discussions, prototyping, and more time than you initially think. So, having the ability to remain cool, zen, chill, and stress-resilient, taking it one step at a time, is vital.

At Kilo Health, being a positive and emotionally intelligent person is also crucial. After all, at the end of the day, a product is essentially just lines of code. To make it successful and take it to the next level, you need to work effectively with people, motivate them, explain your ideas clearly, and be a people person in general.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to lead every co-founded project yourself. You can always delegate leadership to someone else. But if you’re the one at the helm, you need to be closely connected with your team. You’re likely surrounded by talented, ambitious individuals who are eager to grow and execute quickly.

Strategic thinking is an important trait, too. I recall a conversation with a friend at a café, where he shared a health-related idea over a beer. I later mentioned that I was heading to Kilo Health, and he jokingly said, “Are you stealing my idea?” The point is that everyone has ideas, they’re a dime a dozen. An idea is merely a story until you put it into action.

The chill cop

Talking about my so-called “leading style,” I would say that I’m more like somewhere in between the “bad cop” and “good cop,” but I’m not sure if I’ve fully embraced that role yet. The key approach, in my opinion, is all about simple mutual respect.

I often think back to my school days and how different teachers could get students to behave differently. It wasn’t about being tough or bossy; it was something deeper, like respect. It’s not about having power over someone or talking down to them; it’s about having mutual respect. I don’t force my ideas on others; instead, we sit down, discuss, and justify our thoughts.

If I can’t explain and back up my point effectively, it’s a sign that my idea isn’t strong enough. This is how we do things at Klinio, too. I don’t make decisions on my own — the Head of Product, the Head of Development, and I sit together, discuss our plans, and only move forward when we all agree. Without that mutual agreement, we’d be all over the place.

Mutual respect is the foundation of our teamwork. We make sure everyone is on the same page and agrees with the direction before we proceed.

The secret of spicy chicken wings

Let me share a story about the time we decided to establish a clear strategic vision. We planned a meeting with our Head of Product and the Head of Development. This meeting began around 5 PM, but as we delved into the discussions, we realized it was going to take some time, and it had already been a long day. So we decided to take a break, heading down to the bar. We had a few beers, and then at around 7 PM, we returned to a meeting room – it happened to be the poker room in Aludariai office. We ordered some spicy chicken wings and continued our discussion until late into the night, maybe until 11 PM or even later.

There we were, munching on chicken wings, going through every page of our strategy, dissecting our vision, and examining our targets. It turned into a rather magical experience because, as we looked at our vision, we realized that certain words didn’t quite fit because we also wanted to do this and that. Through this animated conversation, we significantly improved and clarified our strategy, asking ourselves, “What do we really want to achieve?”

So, the takeaway from this story is that it wasn’t your typical corporate meeting with everyone in suits and presentations. It was us sitting in a poker room, gazing at a massive TV, devouring spicy chicken wings, and having a passionate discussion with beers in hand.

In the end, we all have the same 24 hours in a day – you, me, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs – it’s all the same. The difference lies in where you choose to focus your time. Perhaps you have a desire to lead a product, just as I do?

Check out our Co-found Program.

Toms Zalmanis
CEO of Category

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