Why Kirk Morrison created Krugo to change the way you and your friends travel

Aug 21 2019, 10:43 am

Daily Hive’s “Something or Nothing” series features both up-and-coming and established entrepreneurs from around the country and asks them why they do what they do, their biggest failures, success strategies, and more. Know someone who should be featured? Let us know.


Planning the perfect trip can be a struggle.

Planning the perfect group trip can be, well, a lot worse. You spend hours scouring the web in search of the best places to stay, eat, drink, and play in a new city – and try to find things everyone will be happy with. And then you have to figure out how to split costs and collect money.

Kirk Morrison, and his friend (and co-founder) Andrew Cretin, faced this exact problem when they were planning a boys trip to Phoenix.

The process was exhausting and Morrison, with his entrepreneurial spirit, knew there had to be a better way – and if that easier way didn’t exist, he was going to do something about it.

And so he created Krugo.

Without a background in tech, Morrison has had to learn a lot on the go, but his experience in entrepreneurship gave him the confidence and resilience needed to survive the startup life.

Morrison took the time to give us the inside scoop on what it’s like to be the CEO of the tech company, and shared what it’s like to start a company in Regina.

Kirk with some friends in Santorini / Instagram

  • Birthplace: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
  • Place you consider home: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
  • Age: 27
  • What you wanted to be when you were a kid: Nothing particular, but always had an entrepreneurial mindset
  • Favourite post-secondary class: Canadian history
  • Previous job: Worked in entrepreneurship for Regina Economic Development
  • How do you commute: Walk or drive (transit is not so great in Regina)
  • What you always have with you besides your phone: Gym bag
  • Favourite vacation spot: Bali, Indonesia 
  • What time you normally wake up: 6:30 am
  • What time you normally sleep: 11 pm
  • Normal breakfast: Energy bars or fruit — anything on-the-go
  • Reading/listening to right now: “Masters of Scale” by Reid Hoffman and “How I Built This” on NPR

What’s your elevator pitch?

Krugo is the digital headquarters for your social life. Everything that you’re planning, from things to do with your friends on the weekend to big group vacations — we make easier to plan. We bring together events, tickets, accommodations, and provide groups of people with a way to keep track of the details, and easily split expenses.

How did Krugo start?

We had the idea for the business three years ago when we were trying to plan — for lack of a better word — boys trips. We’d be planning a trip to Phoenix, and we’d be trying to catch a baseball game and a football game and we’d need to find a big Airbnb with a pool, and figure out which restaurants we wanted to go to. Any problem that you maybe have experienced when traveling with a group of people, that was where we started.

As we got into it, we learned that a lot of these things, in terms of relaying details to friends about what the plan is, keeping track of payments for everything, planning who’s in and who’s out – that definitely exists when people are traveling with big groups, but it also exists on a smaller level when people are just trying to make weekend plans or they have a movie they want to go to and they’re trying to figure out who wants to go with them.

In classic startup fashion, we did the nights and weekend thing for probably the better part of two years before we actually made the plunge and jumped in full-time, which started in April 2018.

Have you raised any money to date?

Yeah, we did a small $300,000 pre-seed round that just closed in December from a group of angel investors in Saskatchewan.

How has Regina played a role in the development of Krugo?

There’s a lot of research out there now about whether or not tech startups can be successful in smaller centres, and I think municipalities and regions are competing to retain tech companies, particularly high growth startups.  But we’ve been really well supported in our small community.

The Saskatchewan government just launched one of the most aggressive angel investor tax credits in North America, which we’ve been able to benefit from when raising money. There are also new incubator spaces popping up across Saskatchewan, so we’ve been able to benefit from that.

How has your past history and experience helped you with the business?

It’s helped me understand what supports were available in terms of government incentives and grant opportunities, as well as a host of other things, like how to get connected with the right type of people who are looking to support the growth of companies like ours.

What’s one of the biggest challenges your team is facing right now?

Recruiting the right type of people. We’re still in the formative stages of the product and trying to get that solidified, and at first it was hard finding development talent. We were able to overcome that by taking chances on younger people, maybe earlier in their careers with less of a track record. That’s been a good strategy for us, and we’ve been growing a really good culture because of that.

What do you wish you knew three years ago?

I don’t personally have a background in tech, but most of our team (of 10 people) does. I wish I had known what it takes to build a consumer-facing product. People are used to really well-built consumer products in this day and age. We’re constantly learning where we need to be in order to have a product that can stand on its own with some of the other social utility or travel platforms that are out there.

What’s been the biggest pain that you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?

I think for me, it’s prioritization. As an entrepreneur, there are obviously a million things to do. Everybody’s got a perspective on what you should be doing, but really, there are only so many hours in a day. I try to think — what can I do as an individual that’s going to have the biggest impact and be the most beneficial? And then go from there.

What are you learning right now and why is it important?

How to maintain a positive culture in a growing organization. Reid Hoffman has a lot of great thought leadership on that in terms of their experience at LinkedIn — along with other businesses — on how structures and systems need to be built up and broken down and rebuilt kind of continually as a company goes from one to 10 to 100 to 100,000.

We’re early in our growth trajectory, but we’re at the point where we’re moving from level one to level two and trying to understand how to remain efficient and effective while we grow.

As you grow, is there anything specific you’re focused on as you scale up from the 10 people you have today?

It’s continually trying to figure out how we include everyone who’s part of the organization on the vision of the company. On one hand, you have to communicate and demonstrate the vision, but on the other you have to find ways for new people who are coming in to offer a fresh perspective on it. Finding the balance of those two will be the challenge.

Morrison with his mother / Instagram

How do you prevent burnout?

I try to prioritize time to workout, which I think is really important. And then an area that I’ve missed the last couple of years is prioritizing time with friends and family. It’s easy to get caught up in the business and think everything is important, but this upcoming summer, I’m going to try to set some weekends aside to go away and meet up with friends I haven’t seen for a while.

I definitely have less time for a social life now, so as a result, I’ve grown apart from a few people.

What’s the biggest failure that you’ve experienced and how did you pick yourself back up?

Understanding our ability to get the right team in place at the beginning of the project. For a long time, we knew that we couldn’t do it alone, but we struggled to find people who were aligned with our mission and vision for what we wanted to do. We originally had this idea three years ago and worked very slowly at it for two years. I think we probably could’ve gotten going a lot faster if I would have been able to find more people to get behind it.

What about you personally?

When I was fresh out of university, I was working with a senior partner at the consulting firm, and I felt like everything I did was wrong. I just could not get anything right. It was pushing me over the edge. After a couple of months, I thought, “this career’s not for me. I can’t cut it.” I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

Eventually, I kind of broke down one day when I was in a meeting with my boss, and he said, “I don’t understand what your problem is here. This is how we work. This iteration and failure and discovery, this is how we find the best solutions for our clients.” I hadn’t understood it to that point, and it just gave me a whole new, fresh perspective on a work style of iteration and innovation. And that the need for healthy conflict in a workplace is really kind of beneficial for driving a better approach.

It was a low spot in my life because for so long I thought it was just something I was doing that I was failing, but then I was able to learn that failure was really just a part of the process.

What’s preventing you from being where you want to be?

For us, it’s two-fold. One is on the product side. We’re working through a pretty dialed-in development roadmap, but quite frankly, it takes a lot of time to develop our desired product.

The second hurdle is creating brand awareness and sharing the vision for what we’re trying to build.

Perhaps to contrast what I said earlier, the negatives about working on a company in a place like Regina is being a bit isolated from some bigger centres where there’s probably a lot of people who would get a kind of value from what we’re doing. So trying to get the word out there and figure out how we reach people who might be interested in what we’re doing.

Why is it you that needs to do what you do? How come no one else has done this before?

Not trying to sound too aggressively ambitious — we do see what we’re doing as kind of category defining.

A lot of companies that have tried to do what we’re doing were more established than us, either in the travel or ticketing sector or a number of different areas. But we see ourselves as a jack of all trades that’s bringing together all of these siloed content and bookable offerings, all in one platform. Our goal is to make our platform appropriate for use in a group context rather than in an individual context, which is something that’s unique to what we’re building. It’s a trend we recognize, that younger generations are looking more towards experiences than possessions, and that’s what they’re prioritizing.

Morrison at his university graduation / Instagram

Is there a quote that’s changed the way you approach business?

This is a line that my mom used to tell me: “Treat other people the way you wish to be treated.” I think that’s the golden rule.

Whether it’s partners we’re working with or team members within the organization, always try to take that perspective. If you were in their shoes, how would you want to be treated?

What’s the most surprising part of the job people wouldn’t think is part of the day to day of being the CEO of a tech company?

I don’t know if it would be surprising necessarily, but the range of what I do day-to-day because we’re so product-focused and have limited resources. As a result, I become the bookkeeper, the HR director, the accountant, and the business development representative.

I think it might be surprising to know the breadth of work I do.

Do you have any mentors?

I do. I’ve been really fortunate in my career. Out of university, I worked as a management consultant at a small consulting firm for a couple of years, and then I moved over to the Economic Development organization. In both of those places, I was really fortunate to have really, really strong leaders who I worked for – learned a ton from both of them.

There was a point in my role at Economic Development Regina, when our CEO, my boss, knew that I was working on Krugo during nights and weekends, and he was very supportive of that, which I think is unique.

How did you come up with the name Krugo?

We were struggling to find a name that wasn’t trademarked, quite honestly. We tried putting random sounds together to create a word, and Krugo was one of those words. We said it and then it dawned on us that it had this double meaning, this kind of pun associated with it, and then we were like, “Yeah, that’s it.”

It’s five letters. When somebody hears it a couple of times, they’re likely not going to forget it.

What’s next for the company?

It’s been a pretty quiet last couple months because we’ve been really focusing on the backend systems. Now, the next few months will be exciting as we’ll be rolling out new features for our users.

We’re always looking to incorporate more content and more bookable offerings. Everything ranging from events, activities, dining, travel, accommodations, anything that a group of people would ever need. If they’re planning something for the weekend or planning a trip, that’s what we want to bring into Krugo, to make it a one-stop shop.

Morrison catching some serious waves / Instagram

Have you thought about your exit strategy?

We want to continue to grow with the end user experience in mind. I think there’s probably some natural synergies with some bigger companies that are out there right now, whether they be in the travel space or the ticketing space. We’re always kind of looking for partnerships, and that could potentially someday inform a potential merger, acquisition.

How do you want people to remember you personally?

I would want to be remembered as somebody who was kind, respectful, and provided opportunities for others. I think that’s the best legacy that any leader in an organization can aspire to.


Interview edited for clarity

 

Get in touch with Kirk via email or on Twitter or Instagram, and follow Krugo on Instagram at @krugoapp.

And if you know an entrepreneur that should be featured, let us know!

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