The Kairos team finally exhaled after long anticipating the outcome of a year-long process to join Endeavor, a prestigious and international network of Fortune 500 business leaders.
Being part of Endeavor means Kairos, a facial recognition Software as a Service startup, now has access to a worldwide pool of talent for hire as well as experienced high-level mentors who will act as advisors. Endeavor also provides support in expanding a company to emerging markets around the world.
“We have some big global ambition,” said CEO Brian Brackeen representing Kairos at Endeavor’s 56th International Selection Panels (ISP) held in Coral Gables on Tuesday, Dec 9.
That ISP was the final step in a process that began with extensive research done by Endeavor on Kairos.com, all its players, and its potential for growth. Brian participated in various preliminary interview sessions, including one hosted in Turkey during the last week of October.
Even though Endeavor has been around since 1997, it has only selected to work with 1,030 entrepreneurs in 22 countries. This year, out of the hundreds of entrepreneurs vying for membership, 40 were chosen across 13 countries. But Miami is the only city to have two locally based startups join, including Kairos. The other is called NovoPayment, a cash management solution platform.
But it was no easy feat.
Long Hours of Preparation
Kairos’ CFO Marc Levinson helped Brian prepare for his presentations by putting together historical financial data, three years’ worth of company projections, and shareholder ownership statistics into a neat package that fit Endeavor’s high standards.
“So you know how Steve Jobs would practice his speeches exactly 100 times in the mirror?” said Brian when explaining how he prepared for Endeavor. “I did just that. Well, not 100 times, but I got close —60.”
All that practice helped Brian speak with ease and confidence at all three presentations in which he faced high-level multi-national executives like the first interviewers, Jaime Carvajal and Ernest Bachrach, both Special Partners at Advent International, a global private equity firm.
The In-Depth Interviews
The interviewers all inquired about how the technology actually works. Brian would explain that Kairos’ API can convert a 2D image of a face, even turned to the side, to a 3D model of the person’s head using computational anatomy science developed at Johns Hopkins University. While that fascinated the panelists, what they really wanted to know about was business strategy.
“Does the technology lead the company or does the market?” asked Bachrach.
“I call it race to the face,” Brian replied. “We believe when you have a single solution, when you can go to verify identity and build trust in relationships, there’s value in that.”
The demand for facial recognition technology is increasing. Kairos’ challenge will be in navigating the market and scaling to meet such demands, mostly on the end of customer relations and sales.
“While we do have some impressive growth, there are still a lot of mistakes that can be made,” he said. “So it’s important to me as a leader to have great batting average. I like to empower those that work for me to make decisions that helps the customer.”
Besides help with talent and advisors, Kairos also needs financial support to sustain itself as our API gets picked up by thousands of customers in the following industries: time and attendance, healthcare, events, retail, security, and government.
Not all questions were about the technology and business strategies. At some points, the interviewers wanted to learn more about Brian as a person and what motivates him.
“What are you afraid of?” asked Veronica Serra, the Founding Partner of Pacific Investimentos.
“Fear? I don’t use that word a lot. I see a lot of opportunity. I’m mindful of risk, but I think fear can lead to bad decisions,” Brian answered. “My challenges in growth are exciting but can also be very ‘scary’.”
He went on to explain part of his drive comes from the fact that he was adopted, like Steve Jobs of Apple. The compassion he believes his parents had for him has become an important value in Brian’s life. He added that the Endeavor team has also been generous with many entrepreneurs in giving them a chance to find success.
“Kairos also has the potential to grow and support others to move on and have their own startups,” said Brian. “I want to be in the nice kids club and create more of those.”
In the ISP, the interviewers could not express their leanings. But at the closing celebratory dinner on Wednesday night, Brian and Kairos’ Growth Manager Meyako Williams were finally able to hear just how they felt.
“As we entered the event, Brian was greeted by hugs, smiles and a million handshakes. He was truly the man of the hour,” said Meyako. “As we mingled throughout the evening one thing was clear with each person we met, Kairos was the company to watch."