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Kahana - Group Travel thé Kahana Way

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

An Introduction

Felix was preparing to pitch his company at an accelerator’s demo day, and posted about his journey building this company, Kahana, to his LinkedIn network. A connection of mine reposted it, and there I was thinking, ‘the name sounds cool, the startup sounds cool, I bet it’d be cool to speak with this guy.’

So, I messaged him, and we got talking straight away. He was keen, I was keen and within 30 mins we agreed an interview date for the following week.

I had fun prepping for the sit-down with Felix. I scrummaged through his LinkedIn posts, researched into Kahana and other initiatives he had worked on. But it was a medium blogpost he wrote about a friendship group trip to Cannes years ago which birthed the idea for Kahana which made me think, yeah, we’re going to have a great conversation! From the blogpost I could tell that Felix loved travel, I felt his passion, and I wanted to capture it

Felix during his one-on-one with To The World

The Pre-Kahana Story…

‘When I was younger, we moved around a lot’ Felix started. ‘Before university, I had never spent more than 2 years in the same educational institution in my entire life’.

He moved to different schools in different states in Nigeria, then repeated the same routine moving to different schools in different cities in the UK.

‘It was difficult at times constantly moving.’ He explained. ‘But it made me adaptable. You move to a new place, you meet new people, you make new friends. Today, I’m comfortable anywhere. I feel like I can go anywhere and settle, and it’ll be normal for me.’

It’s important to recognise that these experiences made Felix comfortable with moving, with relocating, with traveling. Travel became an expectation; it became a way of life.

Inspired by Travel…

Two trips in Felix’s life are particularly noteworthy. One was a turning point in his entrepreneurial journey; the other… eureka!

In 2017, Felix and some of his friends at De Montfort University (DMU) enrolled in a school experience called ‘DMU Global’, a bursary that allows students to take trips linked to their career development. That year, DMU ran a trip to Silicon Valley. This was a turning point in Felix’s life!

‘It was amazing’ he started, ‘we visited Facebook Campus, Google Campus, met the VP Hardware of Google, met Michael Acton Smith CEO of Calm, we even visited The Stanford Design School, which was particularly eye-opening. The students there were being taught to think not only about how what they were building could impact California, but how it could impact the world… They weren’t afraid to think big.’

He continued, ‘there’s an aspect of UK culture that doesn’t allow you to think too big… It’s subtle. People look at you and say “why are you trying to do all that. Are you sure? Is that possible?”.

Felix with Michael Acton Smith in Silicon Valley

Felix was in awe of the mindset of people in the Valley. He soaked and immersed himself, and took it all in.

‘You look around and you’re like, people started these things. People who had visions to change the world and weren’t afraid to say it out loud, weren’t afraid to pursue it. That shifted my perspective…and when I returned to the UK, I realised that I’d been thinking too small!’

One of Felix’s initiatives, IdeasLab Global was inspired from visiting San Jose state university which had a designated space for students building startups to gain support. It’s notable to mention that through IdeasLab Global, a knowledge sharing platform supporting young founders in the UK, Felix worked with some promising founders, two of which are Harry Panter, founder of Housr, and Samuel Flynn founder of ‘Hands In’, both of whom recently raised just over £500,000 each.

Probably the most valuable asset Silicon Valley brings, is Serendipity2, due to its hyper-concentration of successful technology companies, and the potential to bump into future successful founders on the subway…

Ever heard of David Hsu, the CEO of Retool? If you’re an Oxford grad, then probably because when David graduated from Oxford he joined Y-Combinator’s 2017 cohort to accelerate his startup- Retool. Felix got talking with him on the Subway curious about the value of the new iPhone he was using. Just a random bloke, in a random place. Well, Retool is now worth $2 billion dollars.

‘Tell people in Edmonton (where Felix lived at the time) that you want to build a tech company to change the world, they’ll probably be cautious. But drop that kid on a google campus and tell him that two university students built this company… well then you completely expand his worldview’.

This was the beginning of something special.

Kahana To The World

‘If you can create value for people, there’s no reason you can’t win!’- Felix Ochefu

Felix went on a trip to France with friends a few years after his Silicon Valley trip, which sparked the concept for Kahana. It was a struggle planning the itinerary, splitting payments beforehand and during the trip, and became a chore keeping everyone informed of the plans during the trip, when the goal should have been to simply enjoy a getaway with friends in scenic Cannes. Felix didn’t think of Kahana on the trip, that’s not exactly how these sorts of things work. But it bugged him, itched him, and stayed with him for years until he started the company. It was eureka, or at least something close to it.

The name itself, comes partly from a software his team used when he worked at Bosch called the ‘SAP Hana’. He liked the sound of ‘Hana’ and so tried a combination of different prefixes until he stumbled on ‘Kahana’. ‘It sounded smooth’, he said. Of course, I checked online to make sure it wasn’t offensive and instead found it meant ‘Turning Point’ In Hawaiian.’ He smiled, ‘It was perfect!I believe travel can be a turning point in people's lives. Just like it was for me when I went to Silicon Valley, or for Howard Schultz when he visited a café in Milan and gained the inspiration for Starbucks, or for Steve Jobs going to India and encountering a style of calligraphy that influenced Apple’s ethos of design’.

Felix went into a passionate stream of consciousness here, ‘Kahana isn’t just about travel, more what travel can do for the world, how it can impact a person’s world view... And you see the people in our community, our customers, they’re not users, they’re explorers. And we give them the means to explore the world the Kahana way’.

A Team of Travellers

Felix’s team at Kahana is fully remote. 6 founders across 4 continents, with experiences of working on projects at snapchat, ebay and premier foods. I was curious how they made it work, and if they’d encountered challenges.

‘Yeah, it can be challenging at times working in different regions.’ Felix said, ‘3 in London, 1 in New York, 1 in Namibia, and 1 in Pakistan… but you see We’re all travellers and that’s the point’.

A Million Reasons…

Speaking to Felix a few months ago was refreshing and fun mainly, as I said at the start, because his passion was original and infectious. In October, Felix won the Founders Live pitch competition hosted at Samsung KX, London, collecting prizes amounting to $1 million for Kahana.

Felix Pitching Kahana Technologies at Founders Live

Final Words…

Felix’s vision for Kahana is to ‘scale humanity’s empathy through travel’ and him and his team are working hard to connect their community of explorers to explore the world the Kahana way!

Felix had some words for young founders that I think every young founder should hear. ‘Even if what you’re building is small, you must be audacious. Because either way the chances of it succeeding are slim and, depending on your environment, the chances of people supporting you are also slim, particularly if people can’t see today what you want to build tomorrow… You have to be audacious!’


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