On a chilly September night in 2014, I left boxing practice at State Gym, and made my way across the Iowa State campus to meet with a group of individuals for the first time.
Prior to that meeting, I had been asking around Ames for a few weeks, to see if anyone knew of any up-and-coming startups, or if anyone was working on new technologies and was looking for new team members. I had only been back in the states for 75 days, and I didn't know exactly what I could offer. But Corporate America, a poker career, boxing, and living abroad (among many other events) had helped me to become good at suffering. I was a stronger, and more willing-to-fail version of me.
I walked into the building on campus, covered in sweat, in search of a table of Global Resource Systems students. I met them, didn't know what they thought of me, but said I was committed to learning more about this Thought for Food Challenge. And if I were to commit to the competition, I knew the only way I'd quit or give up was if I were incapacitated or dead.
That group gave me a chance. We started the journey together, ended up making the finals of the Thought for Food Challenge, became closer as a team through our travels and building a company, and here we are, over 1,100 days later. When we moved forward on the idea of our solar-powered food dehydrator (it was 1 of 3 ideas we had), I had been reading Business Model Generation and the Lean Startup. I was following who's who in Silicon Valley on Twitter. And I had talked with a few angel investors. That was the extent of my startup knowledge at that time. Thankfully I've let startup and entrepreneurial knowledge consume me ever since.
While you can jump over to the KinoSol social media pages or our website (getkinosol.com), to read about failures and wins over the past 3 years, I'm jumping forward to January 2017. We officially launched sales of the KinoSol Orenda (our 8th prototype we took to production), with the target to sell 1,000 units on the year. The first 6 months were brutal. I can tell you we hadn't even hit 100 units. At moments of stress, and if I weren't at boxing practice to have it knocked out of me, I reiterated an old story to myself and team members of how Coca-Cola only sold 25 bottles its first year.
Summer rolled around, and we saw a small uptick in unit sales. Persistence, and entrepreneurial supporters believing in us began to pay off. We were now over 100 units out and into the world. 1 unit helps an average of 6 people.
At the beginning of quarter 4, we finally achieved the next step in sales. A triple-digit order. While we will fall short of our 1,000 unit target on the year, that's okay. We have learned A LOT. During this year, we even made the decision to change customer segments; to step away from churches, aid organizations, and NGOs, to work directly with distributors in the countries we need units in.
On December 12, Mikayla and I will leave and fly to Rwanda, and then travel to Uganda and Tanzania through the end of the year. We'll begin to implement units from the recent order, as well as meeting with distributors for larger scale opportunities. The feeling of 1,000+ days of grinding out is all starting to make sense. It became very real about an hour ago, when I suffered through a handful of shots in preparation for traveling. Business meetings throughout Africa? Right on!
It feels great to suffer for the right reasons. It's still very early in the KinoSol timeline, but these moments were worth reflecting on, and writing about.
To wrap up this post, I have heard some concern over the possibility of my building ventures from other locations; packing up shop for the coast, back to Ireland, etc. There is nothing to worry about. I'm proud to have co-founded ventures here. In Iowa, where I'm happy to live and help play my small part in building up entrepreneurship.
And if you have any worry about me having multiple ventures, I invite you to spend a week with me.
Teamwork makes the dreams work.
My bullet journal and Trello keep everything in order.
I'm willing to suffer for however long it takes.
Playing 40 tables of online poker at once forced me to embrace chaos.
Catch you on the flippity flip.
I was recently leaving a luncheon in Des Moines, when an individual approached me and started talking about business.
After only 2 minutes of conversing, and with multiple interruptions to my answering his questions, he declared, “What qualifies you to run a company?”
An emotional response to his aggressive questions would have warranted a defensive maneuver.
But, this was a moment for stoicism.
“I’m probably not qualified. But who really is at this stage?”
This was not the answer he wanted.
He immediately jumped into asking about my academic background, mentioning his PhD work before awaiting my response.
“English degree. 2-time college dropout. Poker player. I get beat up throughout each week, physically and mentally, inside and outside of a boxing ring.”
Again, not the answer he wanted.
He quickly jumped into giving me advice on how we need engineers who live and breathe the technologies. We need specialists to run the company.
“Everyone can write,” he stated.
At that moment, I decided he had taken enough of our time. I ended the conversation (even though he followed and tried to continue his questioning) with a simple belief.
“I’d rather be able to communicate on a broad list of topics, than to provide an expert opinion on a narrow list of topics.”
I’m fine being the dumbest person on any team. I’ll always be striving to learn more, do more, and be more.
A jack of all trades, master of none.
I was naive; didn’t even understand where shortstop was. But I walked onto the field. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand the basics to improv. But I improvised. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand brush techniques. But I painted. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand how to hold the drumsticks. But I drummed. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand the card types. But I entered FNM. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand NLHE. But I paid. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand how to write with structure. But I wrote. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand how depression and anxiety could cloud every judgment. But I held onto will. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand how the world could hold so many views. But I traveled. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand how to throw a proper punch. But I stepped into the ring. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand how Iowa had so much beauty. But I returned. And I learned.
I was naive; didn’t even understand the effort it took to launch a company. But I did. And I learned.
I’m naive; don’t even understand how to climb. But I’ll ascend. And I’ll learn.
I’m naive; don’t even understand where life is taking me. But I’m moving forward. And I’ll learn.
STARTUPS - TRAVEL - EXPERIENCES