Featured Founder: Andrew Stephan of Kaya
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Andrew Stephan of Kaya, which is the convenient, automated way to get active and out on the water.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
I’m a recent graduate! While wrapping up university, most of my time was spent both owning and operating a local juice bar, Swami Juice, as well as scaling our cryptocurrency company, Quad Coin.
The inspiration for Kaya came when visiting Cocoa Beach for a SpaceX launch that ended up getting canceled. Some friends and I were bummed out while eating lunch by the pier until I saw a bunch of people surfing and was ready to grab a board. We sadly found out all the shops were closed for the day and far from the pier. A light bulb popped up in my mind, and a mission to make watersports more available and efficient was born!
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
Accessibility is the key pain point that Kaya is aiming to solve. Kayaks and Paddle-boards are expensive and difficult to transport. By using technology we’re able to eliminate overhead costs and create stations in areas that can’t normally accommodate standard rental shops.
Creating a unique solution that allows the opportunity for more people to be active and on the water is what gets me excited to work on Kaya every day!
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for Kaya has been finding an optimal first location. In order to get over this hurdle, we needed to contact as many people as possible, push through all the rejections, and focus on the best opportunities. Ultimately, we might have now solved it through an unexpected partnership with someone who technically would have been a competitor to us.
Where do you see your company headed next?
After finalizing the first location and launching our MVP, I see us revising our product and system in order to create a more efficient solution for all future locations. Then grow the team and scale as quickly as possible along the east and west coast!
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.
Choose a mission you believe in that lights a fire under you. Prioritize well. Always focus on the “one thing” you can do that will make everything easier!
Why Tampa Bay?
Home turf! Tampa is rapidly growing in many ways and there are so many new communities forming. This city is increasingly becoming a great place to launch a startup, and for a company like Kaya, it’s positioned perfectly with year-round weather, beaches, water, and many parks. It’s a great place to be active!