Meet Kurt Henderson
‘My mum is my biggest inspiration.’
Kurt embarked on his business journey establishing a successful record label aged 16 before migrating into the tech industry, co-founding a tech blog at the age of 21. As his journey continued, he found understanding the way people interact with brands exciting and moved deeper into design to focus on how a well-branded product can influence decisions.
This later led him into combining a love for design and technology into developing KOMPAS, which has been recognised as one of Europe’s leading Travel-Tech companies. Kurt himself has been recognised as one of the top 20 entrepreneurs in the UK under 25 in 2017, and is determined to make KOMPAS one of the world’s most unique brands. He currently lives in Croydon and is based in WeWork, London Fields.
Where did the business idea come from?
I’ve always been very user and community-centric from the age of 14, building forums alongside my elder brother Greg and on-boarding new users. With that, the drive to share my experiences and design content with the online world became more prominent as I slowly gravitated towards business. KOMPAS was conceived in Munich (previously known as Hidden Munich) by my two co-founders before we aligned all experiences, ideas and belief that this was something much bigger than we could imagine.
What challenges have you faced?
Learning whilst you build can be very stressful because it’s all in your control and therefore entirely your responsibility. You have to learn fast for what you need and for when that moment arises. You need to constantly prove that what you’re doing is the best thing ever made and has the potential to change millions/billions of lives. People will always compare what you’re building to other existing products on the market. You will be knocked back many times by individuals criticizing your ideas, but you have to be ready to listen, understand and take action. It’s always good to have hunches and to be able to manifest one of them into something tangible with trial and error.
Do you feel that anything in your background has been either an advantage or disadvantage in your start up journey?
There’s many ways to make a bowl of cereal if you think laterally. If your divergent approach to solving a simple task doesn’t meet the conventions, maybe it’s because you’re thinking too far out the box. Maybe, it’s not even a box, maybe it’s more an irregular octagon. That probably sums up how I think and I believe it’s an advantage to any challenge that can’t be solved with A, B & C.
How have you overcome challenges?
If a story resonates with you, how do you take the true underlying values and apply them to your lifestyle? My mother is definitely the fourth hidden figure. She migrated to this country from Trinidad & Tobago at the age of 19 from a poor background, with no top qualifications and little or no contacts. Being an ethnic minority and female in the world of tax-accounting meant that she was faced with a double-disadvantage. However, no matter how many hurdles were on the track, she found new ways to leap over them. Hearing her stories growing up empowered me to always hold my head high.
“— Crisis, adventure. Accept it or let crisis continue.”
Can you remember a day where you thought about packing everything in, what was it that kept you going?
A few times prior to investment. There was a point I couldn’t even afford to get into London, I had to cycle from Croydon just to attend meetings. What was most important was that I had the motivation from my two co-founders who literally never slept and would always keep me full of energy and belief we would get there.
Was there a moment where you thought ‘this is going to work?
Belief in what you do is your biggest motivator and I’ve always had belief in what we’re doing because we’ve all experienced the problem we’re trying to solve and whilst on this journey we’ve met and have spoken to thousands of people with the same problem. When others believe in what you do and share the same experience it validates entirely what and who you’re building this for. Remember, ‘the day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea’ (Peter H. Diamandis).
What’s the best advice you have received?
Keep an open mind. The more you invest in something, the more attached you become over time, which can result in tunnel vision. Don’t be afraid to pivot when necessary. In order to change direction, you need to change altitude, just like an air balloon.
Learn to say no. As a startup/founder you may find that suddenly there’s an abundance of opportunities that present themselves, but it’s about picking the right ones to engage with and saying no to the others. Your output is your input.
What are your dreams/ plans for the future?
We wish to see KOMPAS grow and expand globally, change lives for those seeking to get the best out of their experiences whilst exploring. As for my personal dreams, I think it would be fair to say they’re probably way too irregular and lengthy to fit into this interview. However I would love to give back to those who really need it; build schools, build hospitals, build opportunities for others. Build dreams.
What could existing founders/companies do to make their workplaces more inclusive for someone like you?
“Be accepting. Take time to learn about who you work with, their culture, religion and their background.”
What you create is who creates it and we all have different perspectives. I’ve had various questions and speculations in previous companies about cultures I apparently belong to, which doesn’t breed a healthy environment for those who just want to be accepted for who they are.
If you’re a small startup, why not feature small items of culture around the office. Take an interest, educate yourself and grow with your team culturally.
Why do you think it’s important for tech companies to be diverse and inclusive?
If you champion diversity in your company, diversity champions sentiment. It’s important to consider what specific aspects to a product/company make it so appealing to other demographics. If you lack that multiculturalism or the willingness to understand and encompass it, then the opportunity to engage with those cultures and genders is lost. We see bad advertisements from companies all the time. These mistakes could be easily avoided if that outspoken individual or group objected and voiced their opinions against the advertising message. Let’s be more inclusive of different diversities.
“Take an interest, educate yourself and grow with your team culturally”
What is your message to inspire other under represented founders?
Take a step back — observe, cut through the noise of ‘can’t dos’ because of ‘X’ and ‘Y’ and focus on the ‘can do’ because of ‘Z’. Don’t be afraid to challenge the world because the only person that’s really stopping you, is yourself (the ‘Z’).