Connecting Families Through Story: Interview with the Founder of Kinecho

The technology startup Kinecho, is bridging the gap between generations, spurring meaningful conversations with family members in a way that is easy to record, save and share with the people that matter most. The lives of our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles often are more unknown to us than we’d like to think. The stories of how they met their spouse, memories from high school and childhood are left untold. These are the stories that make up who our loved ones are, yet they often don’t get shared.

Kinecho, recently featured on Denver 7 News,  offers a set of tools online to create your own family legacy in a multi media manner that combines photos, text and voice recordings on a platform where you can save and share them with a private group. By sending questions and recording answers with Kinecho Legacy, or having a professional interviewer collect and record the stories with Kinecho Interview, the library of family memories can be cherished forever. We had the chance to sit down with the founder of Kinecho, Ryan Brown, and learn more about the foundations of the company, the power of the stories that it helps to preserve, and his vision for the future.

What prompted you to start Kinecho?

Our team at Kinecho gained experience working at a startup in Denver, Craftsy, serving a customer demographic between the ages of 55-75 and we got a really deep understanding of that customer’s needs. When we left to start our own business, we ascribed to the idea of getting the right people on the bus and decide together where that bus should go. Something that was really exciting to us was continuing to work with the older adult demographic who we feel is generally underserved by technology and is a fast-growing segment. I think it is both a shame that it is underserved, but it is also an opportunity for the companies that are willing to try to address some of their problems.

What need does Kinecho fulfill for this customer?

A problem that we gravitated to early on was senior isolation or loneliness. This is a predictive indicator for a host of conditions and issues like higher blood pressure, dementia, mortality, and elder abuse. Something that we started thinking about was helping to connect them to their families. One thing that all of us really felt was I don’t really know my parents, I really really don’t know my grandparents. I know some basic details, the kinds of things you would read in an obituary and nothing that is more personal; those family stories that say a lot about who you are and how you were raised.

I have young children and when we talk to my parents the conversation usually consists of what the weather’s like today, what was in the news, or what they did in the last 48 hours (which is honestly never anything that interesting). They were people before they had me and my older sisters and I don’t really know who those people were. For example, my dad was in a band in the 60s and that was the extent of the story that I had previously known. Using our product, I got the actual story from him, learned the details and I now have that recorded and saved so that I can share it with my children someday when they are old enough to process what that means and hear it in his own voice. There is a saying that the voice is the window to the soul and I think that there is so much communicated in a voice beyond just the text. There is a subtext, context, the emphasis on the right words and syllables that help you understand something at a deeper level.

Why did you choose to focus on sharing family stories along with photos?

Pictures are what are shared today. Pictures get passed down, the problem is, those receiving it wonder Who was this? Why was this photo taken? Who were these other people? When you are with the person they explain, oh that’s me! We were doing this, right before we took the photo I did… and this person was… All of these details, all the context, all of the story is lost when you just pass the photos on. For us, photos are great, we love photos and our platform supports photos, the whole point though is that photos are a prompt for a more in-depth story. It might be an important piece of a story, but it is not the entire story. If a picture is a thousand words, we want to get both the picture and the thousand words as that will be a better story.

What is it about stories that you find to be meaningful?

If you have a one-pager, obituary type story of a person, you speak at such a high level that states what is deemed the most important things but often the least interesting things. It communicates the least amount about your personality and your values. Two people that served in the military for example, could have gone for very different reasons even if they both voluntarily went. One person could be trying to get away from a problem at home, one person could have a strong sense of duty or obligation to country. There are dozens of other reasons why someone might have served and gone to war. To me, story is our ability to weave meaning into events. I think that when you understand the meaning that weaves into events that you hear from your grandparents, you start to understand more about what was important to them, what motivated them, what scared them: the things that make us people and not just events.

What reactions have you seen in users of Kinecho in hearing the stories from their loved ones?

We imagined it would take years for people to tell stories and really value and appreciate it, but we’ve found that after a very small number of stories are shared from an older adult to a younger adult, the younger adult feels the excitement of, I’m learning things about my family that I didn’t know. Kinecho has you pay for the suite of tools to share the stories. An early customer told us, “honestly, after three or four stories I felt that I’ve gotten my money’s worth”. Generally, I would say that the customer is learning new things about the older adults in their life and even if they don’t necessarily go back and listen to them regularly, they feel that they have something saved that they really cherish and will want to share with the rest of their family.

What is it that makes the Kinecho way of sharing stories and preserving memories unique?

First off, you should absolutely go and have real conversations directly with your grandparents and loved ones. That is the most ideal scenario, however, if you are like me and like most people that we’ve spoken with, you are not going to do that. Kinecho is not just a set of digital tools and website applications that facilitate, record, preserve and make these stories shareable. It also has an aspirational aspect of helping you to change this piece of your life and help you ask meaningful questions. A lot of people wouldn’t end up doing this. If you have a set of tools and you make a commitment to doing it and you feel less vulnerable about it. It makes it easier to start those conversations.

How does Kinecho help find the right questions to elicit meaningful stories?

The Kinecho product has hundreds of questions and prompts about different stages of life, relationships, philosophies, values, things to help you remember very specific moments. For example, the first time you met your spouse or something meaningful about a childhood best friend. Things that you got in trouble for or were given accolades for. A couple of things to avoid when asking questions are really big questions like What was the most important day of your life? or What has been the hardest thing about being a mother? With this, how would you even start? Also, with superlatives, you can be wrong and go back saying, “oh wait, that wasn’t the hardest thing!” Just changing this to What is a hard thing about being a mother? is a better question.

The degree to which you can isolate a particular moment, asking someone to describe a tree in a forest rather than the forest itself is important. What is a moment you remember in learning how to drive? is a much easier question to answer than What was the trip you took on your first drive ever? This way you would get an actual story rather than a narrative that’s been repeated a bunch of times that ends up sounding more generic and superficial and covers way too much time. Try to focus on a particular moment that has a particular story to be told.

Where do you see the vision for Kinecho going in the future?

We were attracted to this idea because of senior isolation. We also feel with social media in 2019, that people want to be connected online, but their options are limited. Most people in the United States are on Facebook or one of Facebook’s properties. I believe that in a few years we will look back and it will be very clear that we have, at this point, barely scratched the surface of social media. Part of the problem with social media is that there is a joke starting around 2009-2010 saying oh great, now my mom is on Facebook.

I think that what will happen with social media is that it will disaggregate, so that there are lots of ways to connect with specific people in your life. Right now, Facebook includes your mom, your middle school friend, your coworker and your boss from your last job. That would be a really strange party to have, but essentially that is what Facebook is. It’s like the yellow pages of social media. My vision for Kinecho is that 1) whether or not people have Kinecho, they have more meaningful conversations with their family and 2) that there is a safe and secure place online that you can share deep stories with the people close to you.

CONNECTING THROUGH STORIES

Through recognizing the ability of stories to bring people together and preserve meaningful bonds, Kinecho has found a niche for its products. With marketing, stories are a way to pass along important, meaningful, nuanced information to connect with clients and customers. How you share these stories is important. Whether you take a Kinecho approach using voice, pictures and text or you use other forms of media, the content should be valuable and resonate with the target market.

At Magic Flight Studios, we believe that storytelling is a powerful way to connect with others, whether building a family legacy with Kinecho or growing your brand. Learn more about the use of storytelling in marketing with Magic Flight Studios here.

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