A Conversation with Nathan Brown, Founder and President of Kiona Technologies

We may have officially celebrated Earth Day last week, but at Think Up, sustainability is one of our core values and a year-round endeavor. And when we have an opportunity to combine our love for “thinking green” with our passion for rich conversations with interesting people AND an opportunity to learn something new… well, we call that a Noonovate well spent.

A few weeks ago, our Noonovate guest was Nathan Brown, Founder and President of Kiona Technologies which provides data analytics and business intelligence solutions. Nathan is also the co-founder and President of the Upstate SC LGBT+ Chamber, of which Think Up is a Founder’s Circle Member. He founded Kiona in 2014 with the guiding principles of inclusiveness and excellence and firmly believes the company’s diversity and varied perspectives helps them create better products for clients.

We enjoyed a lively discussion with Nathan learning about the world of data science and how Kiona helps companies make sense of their data by translating those insights to help them optimize their business. Nathan told us, “I see it as our job to turn messy data into meaningful insights. We start with a lot of chaotic inputs and work to find the right narratives to draw from that data.” That resonated with us—not because we help our clients sort through big data, but because clients often tell us we help them create order out of chaos as we help them solve their biggest challenges. Like Nathan and his team at Kiona, it’s what we’re most passionate about. We were surprised to learn just how much of data analytics involves storytelling. Telling the story of the data and creating visualizations helps clients make more informed decisions that often have tremendous direct returns and millions of dollars saved.

We were also fascinated to hear how Kiona Technologies helps clients quantify and visualize their carbon footprints so they can build strategies to become more sustainable. Globally, there is significant pressure for companies to decrease their carbon footprints, and many companies have adopted carbon offsets as a temporary way to achieve their objectives while working to implement more permanent “clean” behaviors.

This got many Thinkers wondering about what can be done from a sustainability perspective on a smaller scale, and Nathan encouraged us to begin by using a personal carbon footprint calculator (wren.co) to better understand our individual or household carbon footprints. He urged us not to become overwhelmed or racked with environmental guilt. “The first step,” he told us, “Is to come to terms with the fact that you are human, so you are going to have a carbon footprint.” He advised us to examine our own personal spheres of influence and think about small changes we can each make at an individual level. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Can I commit to a “meatless Monday” or a week of vegetarian lunches?
  • How can I consolidate my trips when I have errands to run?
  • Where do I shop and what do I buy? Can I choose more sustainable companies and products?
  • Do I know where my money is invested? Can I choose to invest in companies that are taking action to drive down their CO2 emissions? (Activist investors have the single biggest impact on CO2 emissions and future CO2 emissions.)

In other words, we can each look at our own consumption and tweak the most realistic variables. And collectively, one action at a time, we can create meaningful change.

Nathan, many thanks for teaching us about the fascinating world of data analytics, data-driven storytelling, and your advice and encouragement for those of us looking to reduce our environmental impact. We’ll welcome you back to a Think Up Noonovate any time!

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