Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®
CEO, Chairman of the Board
Like his father, Joe Kiani went into engineering. Like his mother, he went into medicine. The founder and CEO of Masimo Corporation has merged the two paths blazed by his parents to create a company that is doing well — and doing good.
Today, Masimo is among the leading manufacturers of noninvasive medical devices, and Kiani got his company there not with a relentless focus on the bottom line, but with an engineer’s concentration on problem solving.
On the heels of earning his master’s degree in electrical engineering from San Diego State University, Kiani was hired to build a low-cost pulse oximeter, a device to measure the concentration of oxygen in the blood. The existing machines were unreliable, showing wild swings indicating dangerous conditions when patients moved, and therefore had limited practical use.
Not long into the project, Kiani realized there was significant opportunity in creating a more accurate and reliable machine, rather than just a lower-cost one. When the company that hired him was targeted for acquisition by a larger player, Kiani — despite being offered the CEO position — opted to make a clean break and pursue the better option over the cheaper one favored by his employer.
“I was surprised they didn’t want to go to the superior option,” Kiani says. “I never really liked the low-price business model because there’s always a way for someone to come along and beat you on cost.”
With a $40,000 outside investment and a second mortgage on his condo, Kiani founded Masimo and set to work building his device.
It would be six long years before he was able to bring his device to market. “It was nothing like a finished product,” Kiani says, “but once I demonstrated what it could do, the one doctor called in the other doctors and nurses on the floor to see it and begged me to leave the unit there. He called me, maybe two weeks later, and told me that they were able to save the life of a baby that had been brought into the emergency room by using the technology.”