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Caryn Noel Werner: “

We have heard countless stories about users discovering KOYAs at the right place and time. For example, one user was going through a rough patch and received a KOYA from a close friend on her way to an important meeting. She loved how something so simple made her feel both seen and loved. Another user […]

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We have heard countless stories about users discovering KOYAs at the right place and time. For example, one user was going through a rough patch and received a KOYA from a close friend on her way to an important meeting. She loved how something so simple made her feel both seen and loved. Another user received a KOYA at his favorite restaurant where he was celebrating his birthday. One of his good friends couldn’t make it, so they sent him a video message and money for a drink through KOYA. I love hearing stories about how KOYA helps people ‘show up.’


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caryn Noel Werner. Over the last decade, Caryn has pursued projects that promote social change. She is the co-founder of KOYA Innovations and is committed to finding ways to use tech for good.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a humanitarian photographer for eight years working with global nonprofits and socially conscious companies. Whenever I was on assignment, I found myself in awe of the relational depth that I experienced. When I co-founded KOYA Innovations in 2018, it was my desire to create a product that would help nurture relationships and increase relational depth.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

KOYA is a family venture. This, in and of itself, is interesting. As a family in tech, our conversations are often fluid. One second we are talking about KPIs and the next we are laughing about something that a relative posted on Facebook. It’s challenging at times to navigate our dynamics, but we all welcome the invitation for growth.

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

One of the first tech conferences we attended, we wore matching t-shirts. I was mortified. The entire day, I felt like I was transported back to middle school during an awkward family Christmas photoshoot.

Going through weird experiences together is definitely bonding. Through our t-shirt debacle, I learned the importance of following my gut and speaking up. I felt like we should ditch the t-shirts, but was outvoted by a more experienced team member who insisted that matching shirts were cool at conferences. If I spoke up it would have saved everyone some unnecessary embarrassment, because we all felt it a few minutes into our t-shirt unveiling.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

The long term vision of KOYA is to be a catalyst that helps end the “loneliness” epidemic. KOYA is a tool that helps users develop their emotional intelligence and relational wellness. After gaining the necessary confidence, we hope people feel empowered to initiate meaningful touchpoints with friends and family.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We have heard countless stories about users discovering KOYAs at the right place and time. For example, one user was going through a rough patch and received a KOYA from a close friend on her way to an important meeting. She loved how something so simple made her feel both seen and loved. Another user received a KOYA at his favorite restaurant where he was celebrating his birthday. One of his good friends couldn’t make it, so they sent him a video message and money for a drink through KOYA. I love hearing stories about how KOYA helps people ‘show up.’

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Increased community events to bridge the gap between virtual and in person interactions. Some ideas: Match Gen-z with the elderly for FaceTime and in person check-ins. Both demographics rate high on the loneliness chart and it would be incredible to see this need for companionship matched.
  2. Provide more awareness about loneliness in schools to destigmatize it and spark conversations.
  3. Community funded grants for companies and organizations that are working toward solutions for the loneliness epidemic.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I define leadership as a courageous individual with integrity who finds ways to support others. Boss Babe Jessica Honneger, frequently talks about the notion of “going scared.” This concept resonates with my definition of an admirable leader. I’m not looking for perfection. I just want to follow someone who chooses to be vulnerable and show up.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. If you want to save time, money, and stress, develop and test prototypes before building a product. We were so excited about getting our product out into the world that we didn’t conduct adequate testing ahead of time. Little UIUX things that made perfect sense to us were foreign to users seeing the product for the first time. I wish we would have spent more time on this upfront.
  2. Conduct market research. In fact, to ensure that you have market fit, conduct more research than you deem necessary.
  3. If you have a job, either keep it or intentionally save up before embarking on the fulltime entrepreneurial journey. I know it seems like a lot to juggle, but in my experience, time is much easier to juggle than financial stress.
  4. Surround yourself with advisors from diverse backgrounds, levels of experience, careers, etc. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know what to do and be willing to learn.
  5. Create margin for rest and play. 80+ hour weeks aren’t sustainable. I’ve had several burn out moments and they aren’t fun. Several of my close friends know about this and check in with me regularly to make sure I am prioritizing rest. Ultimately, I feel happier and more alive when I rest so I think it should be taken seriously!

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

I would want to inspire a movement of meaningful dinners. We have so much we can learn from each other and food is one of the most inviting ways to bring people together.

Last fall, my sister and I started hosting bi-weekly dinners at our house. We talked about memories, politics, religion, experiences, books we were reading, and all the beautiful and hard things life has to offer. Every dinner we had more people than chairs. People crave community and if you create a safe and welcoming space — they will come. We had to pause our dinners during Covid but we look forward to reinstating them in the future.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try, try again.” — W. E. Hickson

This quote inspires me to take risks and view failure as an opportunity to show up again. Grit is an important skill to learn. Many people miss out in life, because they give up at the first sign of defeat.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to meet Jay Shetty. He exudes joy and wisdom and his teachings about self love, worth and purpose have sparked growth in my life. It would be a dream to meet him in person.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Personal Instagram: @carynnoel or Company Instagram: @getkoya

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