From the minute you wake up, to the time you go to bed, you get to choose how you spend your every minute. From what you eat, to what you do, each decision shapes your life. Many of these decisions revolve around questions. What value will this bring to my life? What should I be focusing on? Am I happy?
Finding the right questions for you, at the right time in your life and in a way that is easy, is KYŌ’s goal. Because the individual who is grounded, clear and focused is the individual who can perform at the highest levels and can make an incredible difference in the world. By helping one, they help many.
Ultimately, KYŌ wants to make sure you one day look back feeling proud of how you’ve lived. Believing if they can play a small part in helping you reflect and grow each day, well that’s good enough for them of course. Because by being a better you, you make the rest of the world a better place. And ultimately we all win. Agreed?
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
As we speak, KYŌ has been in the app store for the last 12 months and we’ve now reached over 78 million minds around the world. It’s surreal to think that just 2 years ago KYŌ was a high-level concept or one paragraph in an email to my brother-in-law (now co-founder) Sunay Shah. It’s been a beautiful experience seeing the Mental Fitness world expand and evolve over the last 2 years.
Can you talk us through the set process of your tech start-up and how you got started?
We started mind mapping the idea as a side project. At the time, I was still working full time in the healthcare industry as a brand manager, my wife was pregnant and exhausted by 8pm each night so I went to work on KYŌ!
With the help of Sunay and one of his designers (Ken) who was involved in a completely different business, we started building out mockups. This was a big step in allowing us to pitch the concept to people outside our immediate circle which ultimately led to me leaving my full-time job and pursue KYŌ full time.
How much research did you do on the market prior, and what were your findings?
Not that much at all. I should preface this comment with the fact that I had reflective writing or mental fitness practices for 10 years prior. So I knew the landscape or tools available in the space and at that time, meditation apps like Calm (now valued at $1B) and Headspace were really starting to take off. We could intuitively feel that the market was about to open up to digitally guided practices for our minds.
How is your business funded, is it bootstrapped, self-funded ect?
The company has been self-funded for the last 2 years but we are about to close our first round of funding through private investors.
Can you tell us more about the brand DNA and ethos of your business?
KYŌ is the Japanese word for “today” and everything we stand for revolves around helping people slow down, reflect and prioritise their mind.
The Japanese essence runs strong throughout everything we set up. For anyone who has been to Tokyo, you know it’s crazy business, many moving parts, people everywhere – much like the feeling of our busy everyday lives. But in the middle of Tokyo, you can walk through a temple, where all the noise, all the busy completely slows down and silences.
That silence is what we’re bringing to people living in the modern world through KYŌ. You don’t have to travel to a majestic mountain top (although nice) to find a calm or mindful moment, they are all around us, wherever you live if you have the proper tools to help unlock these moments.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
I see myself living in a world where mental fitness is the norm, just like physical fitness is now. And I love the fact that we are helping carve this path. I also believe we’ll see a lot of collaborative work in the Mindtech space over the next 3-5 years.
By working together we can solve many of the mental health issues we’re facing globally and we can do this much faster together.
Can you give us highlight 3 common misconceptions about tech start-ups and how are you using your platform to educate us?
- Starts-ups or entrepreneurship, in general, are dangerously glorified right now. Starting a business is incredibly hard. It’s tasking in all areas of your life but we don’t see this in the media. We see acquisitions, big fundraising rounds and the results of years worth of work summarised as if it happened overnight.
- Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn says it best “running a start-up is like assembling a plane as it’s crashing to the ground”. And I would add, once assembled you lose an engine and have to adjust immediately.
- I don’t want to sound grim, I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it in for anything else but it’s very hard and you need to be in it for the right reasons. It’s the only way to push through the daily highs and lows.
Who does the team involve behind you?
The team is everything! It takes special people to work at this stage in a company. We are small and super passionate about what we are building. Right now our core team consists of 6 people focusing on business development, content, operations, design, and development.
What are the key tools that you use for your trade?
Our entire team is remote, spreading across Canada, US and Dubai and our tools make this possible. Above all, Basecamp keeps us sane from project management and communication standpoint. So much so, we got rid of Slack for daily messaging (gasp now!). We also heavily use JIRA and InVision during app/product sprints.
Lastly, ZOOM is our go-to for weekly team meetings. With all that being said, we’re always experimenting with new tools and have no issues swapping something out if the team is game.
What outlets do use to market Kyō?
All of the numbers mentioned above have been achieved without any paid advertising. We rely on collaborations with awesome people who share the same vision of unlocking minds around the world.
What or who inspires and motives you?
I have the great honour to interview exceptional people on a weekly basis for KYŌ. They constantly inspire me with their mindsets, practices, and desires to make the world a better place. The ability or the opportunity to learn each day also inspires me. It may sound cliche but my mind is stretched to think differently on a daily basis and this truly light me up.
What is the number 1 critical business lesson you have learned so far?
If you believe in what you are doing with every fibre of your being (really) then never give up. It’s why 90% of businesses fail, people give up. There is always another path or solution, you just need to survive long enough to be able to see it.
A seminal point in your career so far?
It has to be the decision to pursue KYŌ full time. I was actually really happy with my past career. The people were amazing the work was fulfilling but what we are doing with KYŌ is at a whole other level. I truly feel like I’m doing my life’s work and it’s hard to put words to how great this feels.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Seeing the opportunity to help shape a whole new industry where the main purpose is to help improve and save lives. The people behind the movement are incredibly inspiring and it’s an honour to be a part of it.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of your business?
There have been challenges and opportunities on a daily basis since starting KYŌ and I suspect this will never change. What has changed is our ability to process and work through the challenges. You start to become resilient to the emotions behind the challenges and move into solution mode very quickly.
Some of our biggest hurdles have been running a tech company without a tech co-founder! But I also believe this has been a huge benefit as we’ve been forced to think very differently and we also bring a completely different perspective to the table.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
I draw a lot of inspiring from the Podcast scene and the hosts/guests leading these shows. We are so fortunate to have expert level conversations available to us at any moments time. Some of the people I admire most are Jason Fried and the team at Basecamp as they’ve completely changed the language and mindset around working remotely.
Tim Ferriss has and continues to be a huge inspiration to me. The realisation that every single guest was asking powerful reflective questions to help share their journey was made listening to Tim’s show.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Ray Dalio’s ‘Book Principle’ is a go-to. It doesn’t matter what page you open the book at, you’re guaranteed awesome.
Top 3 go-to Podcast channels?
- ‘The Tim Ferris Show.’
- ‘The Chase Jarvis Live Show.’
- ‘The Rich Roll Podcast.’
How do you define your own success?
With one question, “am I happy?” If the answer is no, something has to change and fast.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
I really like this. For me, it’s to be your own motivator, coach and biggest fan. You decide if you get out of bed today, go to the gym, take the first step in ‘X.’ It’s you, so treat yourself with the respect you deserve.
Finally, what are you working on throughout 2019?
2019 is about connecting and learning from our users/community. KYŌ started as a scratch your own itch type of project but we’ve moved well past this stage and want to ensure we’re delivering the best value for our community. You can expect more personalised experiences, expansion to more platforms and a few large LIVE events in 2019! We’re pumped and very grateful for each person who’s on this journey with us.