This entrepreneur has a better way to win hearts
How will you Introduce Yourself to the world?
Courtney is one of KOYA Innovations’ co-founders. KOYA Innovations is a start-up company that creates intentional moments of communication. With a background in Psychology and Global Communications, she is also a samba admirer, publicity fanatic, and adventure enthusiast. Life is a blessing, Courtney believes, and she is determined to live it with zest.
Can you shortly tell us how “your business” was born?
KOYA, a family venture, was imagined during our dad’s birthday dinner. We asked him what his dream was for the coming year, and he shared that he wanted to start a family business. After brainstorming, we came up with the initial concept for KOYA, and the rest is history.
Tell readers about your achievements till today!
Pre-KOYA, I was working in global communications. Traveling opened my eyes to a wealth of relationships I missed when I returned home. The time I spent abroad created the resilience needed to embark on my most recent venture.
Do you have any daily routines or tactics to be more productive?
I have found solace in my morning routine. I wake up early to paint, write and enjoy a coffee-fueled walk before settling into work. This daily rhythm has been grounding and has even sparked several ideas that have helped me with KOYA. Overall, I think prioritizing self-care has enabled me to be more productive throughout the day.
What is your biggest motivation to be an entrepreneur?
There is nothing that is more inspirational than my father. At our kitchen table, he started his first company and has many patents to his credit. Growing up, even before he embarked on his first startup, I loved how he would share his ideas with us over dinner. Our evening chats impacted me so much that I started my own jewelry business before my 9th birthday. I guess you could say that I have always had the entrepreneurial itch.
Tell us about your company!
KOYA makes it easy to connect in meaningful ways. Our patent-pending technology bridges the distance making it possible for people to show up for their loved ones.
You can easily treat your coworker to a lesson at their favorite yoga studio in New York through our platform, or surprise your partner with a personal message at the park where you first met. It brings people together when initiating moments of happiness.
What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
While people love the KOYA app, they wanted a simplified experience. To address this, we recently created the KOYA web version. The idea is to make KOYA more accessible for loved ones, remote workers, businesses, and more.
What’s your take on your segmented/targeted Market?
We initially built KOYA as more of a Cadillac than a Toyota; our first mistake. Don’t get me wrong, Cadillacs are great, but they are harder to market than their more reliable and practical counterpart. As a result, it took us a long time to find our target market fit.
A breakthrough came for us in the summer of 2020, when we finally focused on long-distance relationships. This shift was a game-changer and has led to consistent week over week growth.
If you are reading this and wish to start a venture, I strongly recommend that you conduct user interviews before spending a dime and know your problem statement so intimately that it will fit on a small sticky note.
What are the challenges you have faced as an entrepreneur and what are the current challenges? Mention the top three challenges for both.
Challenges we have faced:
1. As I briefly mentioned, we struggled with our product-market fit for months. Considering that I am the Director of Marketing, I felt this struggle intimately. It was challenging to differentiate whether or not there was a problem with the product or solely a marketing issue.
2. Working amongst family has also been a challenge. In general, it can be tricky to navigate the early days of a startup. There is much pivoting, which requires flexibility as well as clear communication. The need for communication amongst blood relatives is amplified but also very rewarding. We are individually and collectively committed to growth, which is pretty rare. I am proud of us.
3. Considering that we first built a Cadillac that no one seemed interested in, we had to make the experience more user-friendly. Without a technical founder, these kinds of changes are costly. As a team, we had to figure out how to prioritize product changes.
Challenges we are currently facing:
1. It isn’t true that “if we build it, they will come.” Not only do you have to market your product, but if you are in a startup, you often have to do so without any marketing spending. It’s like trying to climb a ladder with your hands tied. Equal parts are exhilarating and precarious.
2. Investors want to invest in either pre-product and pre-revenue or post-product and post-revenue companies. KOYA is a mix of both. We are post-product, but also pre-revenue. As you can imagine, this makes raising our pre-seed round challenging.
3. Without funding, we cannot iterate as quickly as we would like. In some ways, this has been positive because it causes us to think outside the box. In other ways, however, it has been challenging to hear the same feedback without the means to execute it.
Why you have started up? Be specific with your reasons!
We started KOYA to make it easier for friends and family to connect from afar. Connection matters to us because we believe that meaningful connections have the power to end the loneliness epidemic. Amidst the pandemic, loneliness has increased. Personally, I lost a very close friend to suicide during the first lockdown. I have heard of many other stories just like this. We hope to raise awareness about the loneliness epidemic and create innovative solutions through the KOYA platform.
Where do you want to see yourself in the next 5 years?
Innovation is a big part of my life. In five years, I hope to have the means to invest in other people’s dreams. With my background in global communications, I have set my sights to invest globally. I also wouldn’t mind living overseas somewhere alongside a savvy life partner.
Please share your learning with fellow Entrepreneurs?
Before spending a dime, do some market research. You may have a great idea, but your product won’t have a fighting chance without a definite market. I wish we would have done more market research before building our product.
The entrepreneurial journey is uncertain. On most days, the unknowns are exciting. Some days, however, the unknowns feel like a weight. To remain present and focused, I highly suggest prioritizing self-care. This looks different for everyone, but it’s helpful to have a plan before things get rocky. The main thing is that the entrepreneur should not give up.
How can people find & follow you?
You can find me on Instagram at @hello.courtneyruth. You can learn more about KOYA over at www.getkoya.com, and if you have any questions about innovation or content marketing, you can reach out to me here.