Goal: Combat global corruption through immersive, story-driven compliance training.
I co-founded Kinethics, an anti-corruption compliance-training company, as a UNC-Chapel Hill student in 2014. My team came together at Reese News Lab, an early-stage media incubator out of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism. Kinethics started with an enormous prompt: “How might we combat global corruption?”
Our eventual answer? A game-based compliance platform that used the power of storytelling to train employees of multinational corporations in anti-corruption law.
Our team started at the beginning of the design-thinking process: empathy and discovery. We talked with dozens of business ethicists, compliance officers. Then, we brainstormed hundreds of possible solutions to the enormous problem of global corruption, including an anonymous bribery reporting platform and information marketplace for companies looking to avoid corruption.
Ultimately, we identified one crucial, and broken, part of the corruption landscape: anti-corruption training for employees of multinational organizations. Current compliance training was boring and, as compliance officers told us, largely ineffective. The stakes were going up: DOJ and SEC fines for corruption and bribery cases were increasing, and governments were increasingly prosecuting individuals, not just companies.
- Reimagining boring, non-intuitive compliance training.
- Better tracking and risk analysis for compliance officers and H.R. leaders.
- Connecting abstract laws with real-life consequences.
After two years of building, testing, iterating and pitching, our team came to a crossroads. We knew we had picked the right problem, and were on the path to the right solution. But for Kinethics to truly be impactful, we needed to raise more money and bring in a CEO with a legal and compliance background.
I was eager to get back into journalism, and the team ultimately decided to move on from Kinethics. One of the first design-thinking principles I learned was to “fail fast.” Failing fast takes on special meaning when you’re running a startup. In deciding to leave Kinethics when I did, I was failing fast, and arming myself with a set of skills, experiences and lessons learned that I carried with me to my new role at McClatchy. My team and I also strove to “fail well” by respecting the contributions of all those who helped shape Kinethics along the way, including our board and mentors at Launch Chapel Hill.