I met Jenn Louie, Founder of Kinvite at Paola Mendoza’s Creative Mornings’ talk encouraging creatives to take on the responsibility of being the change in the world. Jenn from Kinvite was one of the hundreds of women in the audience who stood out, and is doing just that as Kinvite focuses on getting people to align the way they spend their time and money in ways that are ethical, valuable and purposeful. Kinvite believes, “We can make really substantial collective change if we can actually organize and rally people, go to things that are socially conscious and actually support people to be well and also be good and do good in this world.”
ML Dreams with Jenn Louie, Founder of Kinvite, A Social Good Events App
MADE LOKAL: Kinvite is a mobile app for wellness and social good events. My interpretation of Kinvite is that it is a curated meetup for socially conscious people and events, but I want you to correct me and really explain what Kinvite is.
KINVITE: Kinvite is focused on getting people to spend their time in good ways that align with their values. So in many respects, we are a conscious events guide to access the best events in the city to be well and do good. It’s a curated list of events, not just meetups, but talks, educational events, museum exhibits, free yoga, whatever that may be. But it’s also co-created, so we want it to be an open-source guide where people can list and promote new events they like for free to encourage other people, and rally them, to participate in these events.
MADE LOKAL: You recently moved to Brooklyn. What it’s like living and working in Williamsburg? We’re sitting in McCarren Park, do you have favorite spots in the neighborhood?
Kinvite: Just amazing! I moved here in Winter so I’ve been here just a year. When I started this endeavor I decided to make a clean slate and move to Brooklyn from Manhattan. I just love the energy of this place. It’s got that blend of being really diverse and creative and I think it’s about the pace that I need right now. But also, it feels like a really great community. I like living in South Williamsburg and being surrounded by so much beautiful culture and it has a neighborhood feel. So, yeah, I love Brooklyn!
Black Brick Coffee is great. They have this great backyard. North Brooklyn Farms is one of my happy places. It’s beautiful, it’s right there on the water. I bike around a lot now; that’s kind of the beauty of being in Brooklyn. I’ll head up toward Fort Greene or to the Dumbo area. Our friends just launched a space in Midtown, Prime Produce, so we’re excited by that. For a while there I worked out of the New Women’s Space, which is also fantastic at 118 Woodpoint in East Williamsburg.
MADE LOKAL: So now you work out of the creative shared working space A/D/O?
KINVITE: Yeah, so we work out of A/D/O a lot. We’ve migrated to a couple of places. I’ve used Kettle Space and we’ve used WeWork as well. We’ve shifted a bit because my co-founder has moved, and so have I. But A/D/O is about halfway between us right now so that’s where we are right now.
MADE LOKAL: Explain how Kinvite works for both organizations that want to list events and individuals who want to attend?
KINVITE: Some of our design is a little like Instagram meets Tinder. The idea is that you see events and you can swipe through them. You’re either interested or not. We curate that list so we allow people to share any event that they think the Kinvite community would appreciate and submit it to us and then we just quickly review it to make sure that it’s acceptable and part of wellness, mindfulness and social good. And then it’s up and listed!
We want to co-create this community. We want people to both list those things and invite people to the things that think are really meaningful. We think that if we can make it just as easy to find and access things that are socially good, that make people feel like they’re being well and doing well and doing good in this world, and make finding those opportunities just as easy as it is to find a bar in Brooklyn or Manhattan….they’ll go to them more! Part of it is that the information isn’t easy to access. So we’re just making that much easier so you have a mobile app to find them all for free. So you can create it in the App or you can send us an email and we’ll list it for you. Organizations that are already using their own booking mechanism or outside booking mechanism like Eventbrite, can continue listing their event there, and simply use Kinvite as a marketing avenue.
Here are the super simple screenshots from the Kinvite App!
Sign up + start swiping to view events. "Like" or swipe right to save in your Kinvite calendar + Swipe Left to dismiss.
To view event details, tap the event. To attend event, click 'Reserve a Spot'!
Creating an event is simple + free. Click 'Create an Event' + submit for approval!
MADE LOKAL: The look and feel is very similar to Instagram which makes it very familiar and easy to use.
KINVITE: Thanks! We added a few event-specific features to make going to events easier: "Add to calendar", "Get Directions", and SMS Invitation features to the design. There are different people, themes or categories that you can follow or filter out. Once you follow them, you will be able to receive special invites from them in the future. You can swipe right and left on each of the cards to either get rid of or save events automatically to your calendar. Tap into one to see details and book it.
Part of the potential of Kinvite is that we’re going to spin up a blog or magazine to celebrate collective initiatives. So stay tuned! I want people to feel engaged. In this day and age, especially post-election, there are so many people that are newly activated, but they’re not sure where to put their energies so we want to give them a model to inspire them to actually create that for themselves.
MADE LOKAL: You have a degree in Bachelor of Arts and Sciences and then went to work for some tech companies, including Google and Meetup. I’m guessing that’s not a typical path for someone in your shoes?
KINVITE: My path is a pretty meandering one. After I graduated from Haverford, I ended up moving to Japan and worked for the Japanese government for a bit. When I came back I had a couple other stints and then ended up at a biotech startup. I just applied myself. At Google, I started as an Admin Assistant. I ended up picking up projects in things I wanted to do and asked to be transferred. I ended up growing my role in Policy, and later Strategy and Operations and Monetization work for new products so it was pretty exciting stuff. I love the way it made me think. I think what’s wonderful about Google is that they really encourage an athlete mentality. They want someone who is agile, generally mentally fit, but who is willing to take on any problem and solve it irrespective of whether or not they have a degree that’s tech-focused.
MADE LOKAL: What’s your take on the recent women in the workplace at Google’s discussion and your experience as a woman in tech?
KINVITE: For a while there I was part of a committee, or ERG (Employee Resource Group), called ‘Women at Google’. It was really great to be a part of that leadership team to grow Google’s programming because certainly women are a minority group there. Google is amazing in that they are willing to acknowledge their problems and try hard to help empower people to make changes. It’s hard, I think it has to happen at every level and every part of the organization and I know that it is hard with certain types of inertia to make that change. I think it requires maybe a slightly deeper commitment, honestly, than just an Employee Resource Group. I think it’s something that has to happen at every level and at every fiber of the organization, which I think they’re working on.
Out of all the companies that I’ve worked for, they’ve certainly been the most progressive about it. I think they’re quick to recognize change. I was really fortunate to have incredible managers there and that makes a huge difference. So, they always supported my work with ‘Women at Google’. They always allowed me participate and to create programming around that as part of 20% of my job and allowed me the flexibility to improve. I think they understood that I was always really deeply committed to improving the workplace and overall improving the work situation for women. I’m super grateful for having managers that understood that and were supportive of it.
MADE LOKAL: Sometimes you don’t realize some of the issues that women face until you hear the stories from others.
KINVITE: I can’t say it’s not without it’s challenges. Now being a female founder, I certainly feel like it’s more challenging. And part of it is not having the archetype or diverse models out there to follow so it means that one has to really forge and blaze their own path to it. I am also intrigued by the fact that fundamentally I like looking at the problem differently. I think that there are some very traditional ways of building a business. I found out that only 12% of Creative Directors are female, and I believe that is a US statistic, and not that long ago it was only 3% of Creative Directors. So this means there is almost nothing in our visual language that has not been touched by a man.
The same thing for how we measure marketing, the way that we measure what’s successful business, the kinds of questions that we ask when we try to figure out what we’re going to invest in. Not that I’m discouraged by it. I actually see a large opportunity in it, but it’s really challenging. But it also means that we have to make our own space to redefine...can we create sustainable businesses that don’t just follow what I consider the archetype of a male model? Does it have to be so competitive and cut-throat? I’m really really jazzed about collectivism. How can we mutually support one another, elevate one another, uplift one another so it doesn’t feel like you have to beat each other out. I actually think there’s room in this space, in this market, in this world.
I think there is a very competitive business part of it and sometimes I’ve been tricked into that mentality, like I have to do a conscious reminder because so many of the people that I encounter blindly accept and don't question. It’s hard not to think that way when that’s the general education around how you should build a startup. Sometimes we look at how to dominate or get deep market penetration and even in the way that’s worded is kind of invasive and strange, but I understand it. I’m just wondering if there’s a way to work through it that doesn’t feel like I have to annihilate someone else in order to do it.
And I’m not saying that everyone approaches it that way; I definitely think that it’s a mixed bag, but it can be a really competitive to be in this business. It’s not to say that I’m not competitive in some of these ways, but I also am trying to think deeply about how do we hold space for one another. So much of this app is having people realize their fullest potential, and I think realizing your fullest potential is to spend your time in ways that really feel valuable to you. That really encourage you to give better to yourself and better to the world. So much of that is tied to the need to elevate one another. We all fall back on the lowest common denominator. If we don’t uplift everyone with us, then we as a whole community can't achieve more, and so in some ways we have to help each other get there. It’s hard in the wellness space where it is a little bit privileged. How do we encourage everyone to get there together? How do we make it more accessible?
MADE LOKAL: You are on the board of Equal Access. What does this organization do and how do you help drive them drive them towards their goals?
KINVITE: Equal Access is an incredible organization that creates media, radio stations and television stations, specifically in conflict zones around the world. In some ways it’s counter-terrorism, but also providing education for women and children and other resources more broadly. The radio waves and television waves are sometimes controlled by militant factions so it’s nice to have something that is completely a-political and just focus on health, education, literacy and that kind of programming.
They’ve done such incredible work in Northern Nigeria, Pakistan, across Nepal and so many countries. I’ve been really excited by everything that they’ve done and I cannot take any credit for any of it. I mean, it’s such an incredible team. I think being on their board has been such a privilege, but it’s been such a wonderful way to be of service. Honestly, they kind of lead and guide that themselves, as an organization, and I’m so honored to be a small part of that.
MADE LOKAL: I noticed that you have a co-founder. Who is he or she and how did you connect?
KINVITE: Jesse and I met over a year and a half ago through a mutual friend. We bonded over a couple different topics. We kind of geeked out on how it is that people gather. We were really committed to this question of how do people fundamentally create social movements and gather and create community.
What’s great is that Jesse has such a different perspective than me. He’s definitely our technology arm of things. We’re both just really committed to problem solving, which excited us both. And we both like the same kind of gatherings so it was easy to invite him to things. I like small, intimate gatherings and things where we’re committed to discussing and move the conversation forward and so he was always a part of that.
Jesse is brilliant, he just is. He’s just phenomenally brilliant, a super committed problem solver. I feel completely honored and fortunate to have him through this journey honestly. It’s been tough, but I can’t imagine being with anyone else.
Right now Kinvite is NYC based. You can still download the app if you live in other cities and start listing things yourself or email Kinvite to say you’re interested in the service in whatever city you’re in. They would love to hear from other cities and towns. Email Kinvite at hello@kinvite
Upload Kinvite on Android and IOS by searching: Kinvite