Kal K. Sahota
With a passion for open innovation informed by 25 years in corporate finance, Kal K. Sahota is working with stakeholders and organizations to identify the opportunity for open innovation within their strategic plans. As the CEO of HeroX, she is building and driving an overall growth strategy that has the company poised to be the #1 crowdsourcing platform partner in the industry. Her team is 100% global and virtual, and Kal is located in Vancouver, BC Canada.
Kal started her career in finance with HSBC Bank Canada. By the age of 26, she was heading up the HSBC mutual fund valuation team. In 2003, Kal joined the Standard Life mutual fund wholesaling team. After almost eight years, she left her position as sales manager for Western Canada and the corporate world to join Westward Advisors, a small boutique tax and estate planning firm. She worked closely with the co-founder to drive growth in the business, and after a few record years, found herself at a crossroads. Her accomplishments to date were all very rewarding, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.
Intrigue and curiosity led Kal to HeroX, a tech startup in the crowdsourcing space. In just one meeting, she knew that the organization was perfectly suited to where she wanted to be—making an impact at the intersection of business, technology, and the future of work. Kal joined HeroX in June 2015 with a focus on driving revenue growth. Inevitably heading up operations, she pioneered the adoption of open innovation as a strategy across multiple industries and received the Intercon Top 50 Tech Visionary Award in 2019. In July 2021, the board appointed Kal president and CEO of HeroX.
How does HeroX work?
HeroX is a crowdsourcing platform that supports organizations in hosting prize competitions (check out HeroX’s Metaverse and the Future of Flight Challenge with Airbus, for example). The concept of crowdsourcing is very simple but extremely powerful. It’s been around for decades, but its use in everyday business is still gaining momentum. If organizations are blocked with solving a business issue, or are quite simply looking for new ideas, they come onto the platform and host a challenge. They clearly articulate what they are looking for and invite anyone to submit an idea or solution in exchange for a prize, which is typically monetary, but not always. The platform is turnkey, giving organizations everything they need to run a successful challenge. The overarching logic being, instead of limiting yourself to your in-house team or direct contacts, you take it to the global crowd; over 3 billion people connected online, oftentimes referred to as innovators.
Can you share one particularly memorable story of a client who was helped by HeroX?
NASA was able to obtain the design for a rover that would withstand the hellish temperatures of Venus through a $30,000 prize challenge on HeroX. It was equivalent to the work of three senior project teams, one that would have cost millions, and the winning teams provided them with five designs that met 100% of the requirements. This is what's possible when you take your challenges and cast them out to the global crowd. NASA has literal rocket scientists on staff, and even they crowdsource.
What compelled you to leave a career as a financial services leader to take the helm of HeroX?
Making an impact in real time is both rewarding and intoxicating. Crowdsourced solutions happen fast, allowing organizations to keep up with the pace of business and market change while also fueling and supporting the future of work for innovators. And I get the pleasure of working side by side with an extraordinary team to build, develop and drive the growth of the organization. It’s the culture that compels me. Our team shows up every day in service of one another. Cultivating a strong, collaborative, and supportive company culture is one of the pillars of HeroX.
Tell us some of the guiding philosophies that have helped you along the way.
Show up authentically, every day. And be the best version of myself—a constant evolution! I anchor my foundational thinking in humility. If you are always open to learning and growing, then humility must be within the fabric of your being. Looking to and leaning on family, especially my husband, whose love and support has helped to shape who I am today.
What drives you, Kal?
Crowdsourcing removes all barriers to participation and purely focuses on the best idea, regardless of the credentials; by design it creates a level of fairness. That is where my passion lies, democratizing opportunities for all citizens of this world.
Kal K. Sahota
President & CEO — HeroX PBC