Alumni Journeys: startup life
January 7, 2022
Liam Kinney ’08, classics major now immersed in the tech world
“Growing up in Aspen makes you trust that there’s always a place for you; it kind of emboldens you to venture forth. In this distributed world, especially with Covid hitting, no one feels that grounded, so it’s really nice to have a place where you feel that sense of belonging.”
- High school: Phillips Exeter Academy
- Undergrad: Stanford University, BA in classics and classical languages, literatures, and linguistics
- Grad school: Stanford University, MA in computer science
- Early career: After internships at DIRECTV, SoundHound, and Synack, Liam joined a startup called Jumpstart (now Canvas). As the company grew from five to 50 employees, he became head of AI, helping young adults navigate the transition from university to career.
Five questions for Liam Kinney ’08
What are you up to today?
I’m the co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Canal (shopcanal.com). We’re a tech company, focused on e-commerce enablement. We maintain a network of high-end direct-to-consumer brands, and allow them to connect and share inventory. For example, we help a coffee kettle brand sell coffee beans. Covid caused a bunch of brick and mortar retailers to move online or lose their business, so my co-founders and I wanted to lower the barrier of entry for curators to move online, and for existing online businesses to grow their inventory. We founded the company in January, and raised our seed round later in the year. You can read more about it here.
How did ACDS prepare you for the career you have had?
ACDS sparked my love for startups. A company’s founding team looks a lot like an ACDS class — a small, tight-knit group of intelligent friends who can make anything out of nothing. Our Eighth Grade math class with Mark Sumera turned the quadratic formula into an inside joke. On outdoor ed trips, we’d write parodies of pop songs to express our displeasure with the cold, and belt them out while trekking through the snow. In Spanish class with Maria Carbonetti, we weren’t allowed to speak English, so we’d hurl translated jibes across the classroom every time we learned a new one. ACDS taught me that the smallest group, together, could do anything, and you could extract fun from the most banal material.
Favorite ACDS memory?
Blue-Green day capture the flag, hands down. My team, Green, was smaller throughout my tenure, and I took that as a challenge. Being one of the fastest runners in the class, capture the flag was the event that I prepared for all year, and took it upon myself to coordinate when it came around. Capture the flag taught me leadership, determination, and the value of goals. It also kicked off a storied career of running that led to a captainship of my varsity team in high school.
Which of the ACDS core values had the biggest influence on your growth?
Community and respect are the ones that stand out to me. Everyone sees the ripple effects of each action they take. Every classmate of mine, and every teacher, was part of an intimate team, in a way. And teams only work when every teammate has respect for each other member of their little community. I’ve internalized those values in my career and in my life; I value a strong community around me and try to treat everyone I meet as if I’ll see them next period in English class.
Blue team or Green team?