KOYA Innovations Profile

KOYA logo.

KOYA Innovations is a family-run startup that operates as a B2B gifting service on a mission to make the tech industry a better, happier place. 

Founders Icon Founder(s): Cherie, Jon, Caryn, and Courtney Werner
Founded in Icon Founded In: 2018
Industry Icon Industry: Ecommerce
Location Icon Location: Austin, Texas

Interview With Courtney Werner

Describe your product or service:

“By combining media, event triggers, and customizable gifts, KOYA delivers a unique experience for employees and customers to feel valued.”

Describe your company values and mission:

“We created KOYA to bridge the distance. Our mission is to make it easier for people to "show up" in a meaningful way.”

How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.

“We raised a ‘friends and family’ round”

How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)

“We are a team of four, and we are all related. I’ll be honest, I had a lot of concerns about working with my family. We have always been close, but I was away for nearly seven years and wasn’t sure how we would jive. I have been pleasantly surprised by our dynamics and feel thankful for this experience. It’s rare. I’m 100% biased, but this is the dream team!”

How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!

“At a family birthday dinner, we started brainstorming ways we could use tech to make the world a better place. This is where we dreamed up KOYA. While the inception of KOYA was easy, validating our idea has taken time. We recently made the switch from B2C to B2B, and last month we started making revenue!”

How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?

“The first name that we came up with was ‘serendipster.’ Some of the team liked this name because it referenced serendipity. Thankfully, that name didn't last long, but it still makes me chuckle when I think about it. We came up with ‘KOYA’ a few weeks later, which stands for ‘Kindness On YA.’”

Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

“I grew up in an innovative household. My dad has several patents to his name and started his first company at our kitchen table. This impacted my older sister and me so much that we both started small companies at a young age. Our parents also instilled in us an understanding that problems are opportunities in disguise, so we tackled our early twenties with this outlook and weren't afraid to try new things.”

Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?

“We are a team of dreamers. As such, we created something grandiose when really, we should have started more simply. This is a common entrepreneur’s challenge. When we first introduced KOYA as an app, we had trouble finding market fit. We did things backward. By the time we found market fit, we realized that our business model was flawed and have spent the past year refining it. Last month, we made revenue for the first time!”

Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?

“As previously mentioned, we recently switched from B2C to B2B. As such, our target market on the B2B side is still being refined. Our current target market is managers of remote teams and real estate agents. I am happy to share that our initial customer discovery interviews and current beta testers are all responding favorably to our new B2B offering.”

What's your marketing strategy?

“We are still [in the] early days with our new product, but I favor quality campaigns and steady growth over a big splash. I believe in selling a solution instead of a product and plan to structure our strategy around this.”

How did you acquire your first 100 customers?

“At the time of this interview, we have a waitlist and currently have some people beta testing our new product, but we haven't made our SaSS offerings available to the public. For our initial B2C product, however, we acquired our early 100 customers through networking. We were active on social media before we launched our app, and as soon as we launched, it wasn't very hard to acquire our first 100 customers.”

What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?

“At the moment, we are focused on customer feedback to help us refine the product. Once it is available to the public and people are able to pay for our product, rather than simply test it, Revenue and retention will become our primary focus.”

What's your favorite startup book and podcast?

“I highly recommend reading ‘Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets’ by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney. You won't regret giving this book your time. 

I loved ‘How I Built This’ by Guy Raz. This podcast inspires me and gives me hope.”

Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?

“I highly recommend reading ‘The Mom Test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick. This would have saved us time and money. It teaches people how to conduct user interviews, throw up a landing page, and scope out potential demand before building a product. This has been a game-changer for our team.”

What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?

“I am fortunate to have grown up around an entrepreneur. I think this has been a tremendous advantage in my life and prepared me for the current journey that I am on.”

How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?

“Integrating a morning routine has helped me stay grounded and thrive amidst my long hours. I spend time painting each morning in my studio after a cup of Matcha or decaf coffee. From there, I either read or write before jumping into work emails. My morning routine has become a sacred place, and prioritizing this time first thing has actually helped me come up with innovative ideas.”

What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?

“I use the Pomodoro Technique to help me stay focused. I also try to start with my hardest tasks first.”

Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?

“I think this depends on how people define success. For me, the privilege of pursuing KOYA is a success. It's been a long journey, but the fact that we are still here and just made revenue is a huge success. I attribute this to our team's collective resilience and belief in the mission and vision behind KOYA.”

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

“Strapped for cash, I took on many jobs after college. I was a ghost-writer for an interior designer, search engine optimization specialist for an orthodontist, social media manager for various clients, website designer for several fledgling businesses, and eventually created and ran ads for a parade. Copywriting, campaigns, and content marketing introduced me to a new world. It taught me how to learn new things and iterate quickly, it helped grow my resilience, and it made me ready for the challenges of running a startup.”


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