Name: Jason Kang
Country of Origin: United States
Organization Name: Kinnos
Organization Website: www.kinnos.us
Tell us about Kinnos: Kinnos aims to raise the standard of infectious disease decontamination by eliminating human error and increasing user confidence. Our first product, Highlight, is a patent-pending powdered additive that is mixed into bleach at point-of-use to improve visualization and coverage, and also reduces bounce-back and misting of bleach to prevent harmful irritation of the respiratory system. Highlight is used by the Fire Department of New York, was a winner of the USAID Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge, and has been field-tested in Liberia and Guinea. Kinnos was also a winner of the Collegiate Inventors Competition and Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, and was recognized as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Healthcare. Kinnos is actively looking for partners to field-test and implement Highlight for use in both epidemic outbreaks and daily disinfection and is building a board of advisors.
What inspired you to start Kinnos: During the height of the Ebola crisis in October 2014, Columbia University held an Ebola Design Challenge to develop innovative solutions to help healthcare workers in West Africa. One of the biggest problems was that healthcare workers were being infected at disproportionately high rates due to ineffective decontamination. When we traveled to Liberia, we learned that these healthcare workers had sacrificed everything to help other people. They were ostracized because of the stigma surrounding Ebola, kicked out of their homes, shunned by families and friends, and faced the risk of death every day. If we can empower them to protect themselves and be confident that they won’t be infected, and make their lives that much easier — that’s what motivates us.
What is the next big step? We just came back from a successful field-testing trip in Guinea, and we’re working to get it implemented in country. We’ve also partnered with two of the largest medical NGOs to adopt Highlight in their decontamination protocols. In the long term, we see Highlight as an integral part of standard decontamination — not only will it be used for epidemic response, but for daily disinfection in hospitals and laboratories as well to protect the lives of the general population at large.
What has been your biggest obstacle as an entrepreneur? Knowing when to say no. Early on, we received a lot of media coverage and people reached out asking about all sorts of different applications that Highlight should be customized for. When we first started out, it was really exciting to feel like we were gaining traction even if it was relatively superficial. But we quickly learned that it’s better to prioritize and focus on getting one thing done rather than spreading yourself too thin and getting nothing done.
What advice would you give other emerging entrepreneurs? Be confident in your own abilities. Katherine, Kevin, and I started Kinnos while we were juniors in college and entered a space that we didn’t know much about. There are going to be a lot of times when you encounter something you don’t know how to do, but trust that you can learn difficult things if you care enough.