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Q&A | A Conversation with Trey Gordner, CEO of Koios
Koios is a Columbia startup dedicated to saving users money on books by searching libraries for the availability of books a person has looked up online. Carolina Money talked with CEO Trey Gordner to find out more about the startup.
Q: Could you let us know a little bit about Koios and what it does?
A: Sure. At Koios, we’ve developed a browser extension that seamlessly connects you with your local library. Say you’re on Amazon looking at a book you want. Koios will check the library for it, let you know if it’s available, and allow you to reserve it in just one click.
Q: What made you want to create Koios? Where did the idea for the company come from?
A: Last year, I was part of a group advising Richland Library on their customer experience. They were especially interested in attracting more students and young professionals, and I sketched some software ideas. One of my ideas was this: What if you never had to search the library? What if the library just let you know when something you wanted was available? In November, I entered that idea into a startup competition. A team gathered, we built a prototype, and we won. Part of our prize was an invitation to the FiredUP Accelerator program this past spring.
Q: How has your experience been working with FiredUP? What can you tell others attempting to make a successful startup about the program?
A: I've been working in a USC Incubator startup since I graduated from USC. The same great people run both the Incubator and the Accelerator. They've been very helpful to us, even recruiting industry experts from the community to advise us. If you're interested in startups, pay them a visit. They'll be glad to talk to you and let you know if any of their programs might fit: 1225 Laurel St.
Q: What is an average day in the life like for a Koios employee?
A: Depends on the day, and the person, I suppose. A big part is "QA" - that is, testing the software to see how it performs in new and special cases. What that really means is looking up obscure books on Amazon. It seems like whenever I QA, though, I end up with another library book checked out... at least the software is working, I guess!
Q: What has been the hardest part of creating the company? How did you work through it?
A: We're bootstrapping right now, so we all have our own obligations to fill. Creating a company culture like that is challenging, especially when half of your team lives in Germany (that's a different story for a different time). Having some sort of routine can make all the difference. Usually, our whole team Skypes in on Tuesday nights. That's our routine. For the most part, I try to keep the tone more like friends hanging out than a business meeting, too. If you enjoy spending time with your cofounders, running a startup becomes a lot easier.
Q: What are some goals for the future of the company?
A: We want to find 3 libraries this quarter who are willing to run pilots with our software. We'd also like to see steady growth in users here in Columbia. This is the home front, so we're eager to succeed here first!
Q: Now that you have some time under your belt, what advice would you give to yourself, if you could go back to when you were first creating Koios?
A: Hire from day one. The best people for the job will share your excitement for the idea. Sure, they'll want you to figure out how to pay them at some point, but more than that, they want to be "in" as soon as possible.
Also, take chances. Don't just go to conferences--apply to be a speaker. Cold call experts and invite them to lunch. Offer to write a guest blog or be interviewed for a podcast. You'd be surprised how many people are willing to help you.
Koios is available for Chrome browsers. Currently, it searches the Richland Library. Those interested in trying the browser extension can find more information at the Koios website: www.koios.co