Meet Kinzoo, Best Innovation Award Winner 2020

January 12th, 2021 in Finalist Profiles

With smartphones and devices now ubiquitous in our lives, children are becoming tech savvy at an increasingly younger age. As they enter this mostly barrier free online world, the tools and resources needed to ensure their experience is safe are still largely in their infancy.

Sean Herman, Founder and CEO of Kinzoo believes he can help. His innovative Kinzoo messenger app offers a safe environment for kids to connect with each other and family members online. His goal is to create the space for meaningful online experiences to happen, empowering parents with the tools they need to be media mentors and help kids grow into responsible digital citizens.

Sean received an early validation of his efforts in 2020, clinching the Best Innovation Award at the Small Business BC Awards. With gold on his mantle and a bright future ahead, we caught up with him to learn more about his exciting business.

What’s the story behind Kinzoo?

I had been looking for a way to connect my daughter with friends and family remotely and I noticed there was a complete lack of products in the space that protected the privacy of children. There was one product owned by Facebook, but I didn’t feel comfortable allowing her to access a Facebook app.

That’s when I saw the opportunity to fill that space myself and bring a privacy-first messenger app to the market. I wanted a product that was really inclusive for everyone, no matter what age they were. Until now, kids had been kind of left out of the conversation and it was time for that to come to an end.

What was your SBBC Awards experience like?

With me being so busy on the app, I brought in someone to the team to handle our PR. She came across the SBBC Awards, presented it to me and thought we’d be a great fit.

You know, we’re extremely proud of the fact we’re a Vancouver-based startup. We’re lucky to call one of the best cities in the world home. That being said, the tech industry in this city can be a bit of an echo chamber. We saw the Awards as an opportunity for us to get outside of that, get a wider audience for our value proposition and see how we stacked up against other businesses.

Even though we didn’t have a product to market when we applied, we thought the experience of participating would be beneficial for us, and the prizes SBBC had on offer for the winners were pretty attractive too!

I found the pitch itself to be a litmus test of my belief. I really enjoyed it, the judges were excellent and really listened to what we were trying to do and came with us on the journey. I can’t speak more highly of the experience.

What benefits have you seen as an SBBC Award winner?

Winning the award has brought added credibility to Kinzoo. We’ve been lucky to have expanded our team since the awards and the fact we won has been front and centre. It’s something we love to promote; it legitimizes us and gives us credibility. In fact, we’ve had people reach out to us looking to get involved and I think that came directly from us winning the award.

We saw a real spike in traffic on our website and social media channels following the announcement. I was so looking forward to continuing the momentum and meeting more people in person. Of course, COVID came along and limited what we could do.

What impacts have you seen on the business as a result of COVID?

For all intents and purposes, Kinzoo was a remote company already. Luckily, we had already made that investment in the software and computers needed to function remotely. Honestly, that part was seamless for us.

I think it’s actually helped our productivity as it’s allowed our devs to get the head down and code without as many distractions. There are fewer meetings to attend, nobody tapping them on the shoulder, so I know they’ve enjoyed it.

On the other side of things, it’s made us reevaluate our need for an office footprint. We had two office spaces on Water Street in Gastown and after about two months it became clear we weren’t going to need them. We can move to a hot desk style setup when we do eventually look to get together in-person again.

What advice would you give to anyone considering entering the awards this year?

Go for it! I found the process really enjoyable from start to finish. When we were considering it a year ago, we were busy, we had a million things going on etc. but taking part in the Best Innovation Award really helped us learn and appreciate where we were as a company and in our cycle.

You could argue it was too early for us. We were talking more conceptually than in terms of showing a finished product. We weren’t able to point to download numbers, usage or any of that sort of thing and it did lead us to question if it was worth entering. Long story short, I’m so glad we did.

What I enjoyed and appreciated so much was the judges and everyone else involved along the way really took the time to read and understand what we were trying to do. They took the time to understand the purpose of the app, our plans for the future, and how we planned to get these. Just having these leaders in the business community understand us and help us win the award was fantastic.

Even if we hadn’t won, I’d be saying similar things. We were extremely happy with everything from the application process to the awards ceremony. If you’re on the fence, put the application in.