Meet The Disruptors: Daniel Larson Of Kyros On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

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“Your job isn’t to ask a client what keeps them up at night, it’s to tell them what should be keeping them up at night”. This allows you to truly add value for your clients by highlighting potential blind spots that they may not have even considered.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Larson.

Daniel Larson is an entrepreneur with over 15 years’ experience in technology and labor market solutions. In previous roles at SHI One Platform and Field Nation, he built two nine-figure revenue programs from the ground up, resulting in eight-figure revenue streams for each company during his tenure. This year he launched, Kyros, the first of its kind digital platform for recovery services, that harnesses the power of technology to connect and empower clients, providers and organizations. The company’s mission, to increase positive outcomes for the millions of Americans managing their own recovery, is already proving itself with Kyros’ seeing 90% percent growth quarter over quarter since launching.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory? And what led you to this career path?

Early in my career I worked at a company called Field Nation where I focused on contingent workforce solutions. During this time, while my professional interest in business development and disruptive technologies was being ignited, I was also struggling with substance use disorder. When I started my own recovery journey in 2019, I saw an opportunity to take the skill sets that I’d learned from working at these disruptive labor platforms and bring them into an industry underserved by technology. Throughout my life I’ve seen close family members fight addiction and sadly several of them did not make it. During my recovery journey, as well as those of family members, I saw people stumble because of administrative obstacles to finding support services and recognized a desperate need for technology-led improvement. From my past experience I knew that incorporating technology could be a game changer.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The addiction medicine industry is only 30 or so years old and there is still significant stigma surrounding it. While significant funding goes to small organizations and nonprofits in the form of donations and grants, there isn’t the same level of accountability to achieving specific performance metrics as would generally be required by private investors. These organizations do incredible work but there is little incentive to modernize the industry to offer services that are more effective and efficient at achieving long-term recovery. When someone goes into recovery they generally go into a program, after which they are on their own and given a list of support groups and services. They are not supported in any way by medical professionals, agencies or any other services. While this support often exists and is even within their reach through insurance, they either don’t know about it or don’t understand how to connect with it. This is where Kyros’ marketplace comes in– we do all the heavy lifting and connect them with a support team to reduce barriers to recovery. This is how we are disrupting the industry.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Or can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was born and raised on the east side of St. Paul, which is a lower income area with a diverse population. Our original office was in a house where we all worked together and lived together in extremely close quarters; you can imagine what five guys all working on Zoom and living in the same, small space was like. We were all doing interviews and onboarding employees on Zoom with everyone basically hearing everything. We would joke that every meeting or call was a group therapy session with three or four guys adding their comments and suggestions. While not a mistake per se, this was a happy accident and it led to the formation of our corporate culture. From day one we have had an open door, collaborative culture where everyone is encouraged to weigh in with their opinions and ideas.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors and can you share a story of how someone made an impact?

What’s different about my background is that I don’t have any formal training and didn’t go to college or business school. I rely heavily on mentors because they have been my “teachers” throughout my career. One such mentor was the former CFO at Field Nation who helped me view things realistically through a pragmatic business lens; learning to separate the “pie in the sky” ideas from the more tangible ones. He also gave me excellent advice on how to negotiate in both funding and legal areas. It has been incredibly helpful to have him as a resource since the beginning. I have been lucky enough to have others who I continue to rely on as we grow.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective, but is disrupting always good? Do we still celebrate a system or structure that has stood the test of time? Can you articulate to our readers when disruption in an industry is positive but also when it may not be a good thing?

We built this company in the wake of one of the most predominant examples in recent times of the difficulties of scaling technology to support mental health. In mental or behavioral health, especially when you have a platform that’s prescribing, this is a system that almost literally and identically mimics addiction. People are in essence hitting all their appointments and markers which give the impression of success. From a technology perspective your adoption rate and your stickiness factor are both excellent which is what is measured. Yet without the contextual understanding of the recovery industry, you would never know there is inherent danger here.

This is a main reason the industry has not been entered in earnest by many technologists; many things that are inherent in most other industries just aren’t in our field. In most other industries a technologist can come in and solve your problem without knowing much about the industry. They know what to develop to make services better; how to get takeout food into the hands of a driver, how to aggregate suppliers of furniture and books and ship them to your house. They can do this without knowing anything about books, furniture, or take-out food, they just need to understand the assets of technology. With substance use disorder, you must understand the behavior of the people you are serving and the desire and the drive behind the providers. This is an example of how disruption is good but must be done carefully and contextually.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey, please give a story for each

I have some key `pieces of advice that have guided me since high school. I attended a Charter High School specializing in business where classes were taught by executives from around the Twin Cities — many who were leaders at Fortune 500 companies. My marketing and business management teacher was a Senior Vice President at Target Corporation and I remember walking in as a sophomore in high school, into my first business class ever. He explained what he considered to be the golden rule of business; Don’t just bring up a problem, but also bring a solution. When you start with, “I can’t bring up this problem unless I have the solution” then you’re already thinking ahead. You’re constantly in problem solving mode which allows you to break down barriers quickly.

I also love this quote about sales which I learned from a former colleague; “Your job isn’t to ask a client what keeps them up at night, it’s to tell them what should be keeping them up at night”. This allows you to truly add value for your clients by highlighting potential blind spots that they may not have even considered.

Another one of my favorite quotes is one I picked up from an early mentor regarding negotiations. “In the absence of logic, you look for motive” and you will see what they want. It’s very easy to walk into a conversation and understand the logic behind something. When it starts to not make sense, if you switch over to tracking their motive you can figure out what they are thinking and what they really want. When we started building this marketplace for recovery where the odds of return-to-use has historically been very high, it can be difficult to follow the logic. Much of the work we are doing at Kyros is emotional and motive driven. Why do they want to help these people? Why is it important to them? Looking for motivation helps you step outside of the business of an operation or of a platform or a technology, and it gets you to the essence of why something is needed.

We are sure you’re not done. How are you going to shake things up next?

There are a few things we’re focusing on at the moment. How we navigate our expansion is at the top of the list. We want to be in more states to help more people. We will be launching in two more states this quarter and then in ten in total within the next year. We are also working to create technology solutions to help gather and consolidate the data, in this case the notes from treatment providers, family members, and support services. Being able to share this data, will give anyone in substance use disorder treatment a more holistic view of what they are being challenged with and what they are accomplishing in the recovery process. We are developing tools that will take this all into consideration.

Okay, do you have a book podcast or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story about that with us? Why it resonated?

I really love the podcast, The Jordan Harbinger Show. The host finds the world’s most interesting people, from all walks of life, and asks them questions about how they got to where they are. I like it for many reasons but primarily because his cross section of guests. His guests run the gamut from a CIA spy to a former drug kingpin, to a groundbreaking surgeon. On paper they have nothing in common but hearing how they critically think, what led them to where they are and the lessons, they have learned along the way reveals some interesting commonalities among people while also providing a new perspective and empathy for people from all walks of life.

We generally seek opinions from people in our own circle which typically results in the responses we expect. I think it’s important to be able to take any conversation that you have and to find the value in it, regardless of how you relate to someone at face value.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson and how it is relevant to you?

For years I have lived by the saying “I will never be as stupid as I am today”. It may seem negative at first, but it keeps consistently in the mindset of humility and open to continuous learning. If you’re making the same mistakes tomorrow that you did yesterday, then you are not learning from them. When I’m unpacking my day, I make sure I understand the key learnings and mistakes and hopefully I don’t have to learn the same lesson twice.

You are a person of great influence, if you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Today things are very black and white in this country. You are either a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal. You are immediately categorized and put into your lane which means you generally don’t collaborate with anyone outside of that lane. I’d like to see people look beyond their cultural and political divides to listen and try to help one another solve some of the pressing issues of our time. Today many people immediately reject any ideas or solutions that come from outside their existing circle. This type of thinking does not foster collaboration or problem solving. I would like to see a movement where people are encouraged to collaborate and trust one another regardless of their beliefs, to help solve some of the serious issues we are all facing.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market