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Making Something From Nothing —KEVANI’s Bartanian on Success

Kevin Bartanian Of KEVANI On How To Go From Idea To Launch

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Making Something From Nothing: Kevin Bartanian of KEVANI On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Bartanian.

Kevin Bartanian is the Founder and CEO of KEVANI, an out-of-home (OOH) media sales organization specializing in urban-scale, iconic media assets.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in Lebanon into an Armenian family who had migrated there after escaping the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The timing of my birth coincided with the end of Lebanon’s civil war. In the late 80s, I arrived in the US at the age of nine with my mother. Unfortunately, she soon succumbed to her battle with ovarian cancer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The graveyard is the richest place on earth” — Les Brown

The quote refers to the graveyard being a place that you will find dreams and hopes which were never fulfilled because people were too afraid to take the first step.

Dealing with loss at a young age gave me a unique perspective on life. I learned that nothing is certain, and you’ll need to make each moment count. So, in that sense, death is my biggest motivator. This of course doesn’t refer to only business; it can apply to all aspects of life.

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Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Two books, which I’ve read several times, have made an impact on my business. At the age of seventeen, my older brother gave me “48 Laws of a Power” by Robert Greene — a book about politics and power in which Greene conveys lessons by telling stories of ancient soldiers, emperors, pharaohs, and kings. This book provided me with early exposure to politics and positioning.

The other is “Pitch Anything” by Oren Kleff. Kleff did a great job explaining the difference between “selling” and “pitching”. In fact, he suggests pitching a concept to “three brains”. The theory suggests that we have three brains which have evolved over time. These are the “croc brain” — primal instincts like fight or flight, housed in the oldest part of our brain. In the middle, the “midbrain” creates meaning and reason around things. Lastly, the “executive brain” oversees complex decision-making and problem-solving. Kleff argues that pitchers generally need to talk to all three brains and not just the decision-making brain because that is what you used to design the pitch. What we miss constantly is going via the other brains to get to the executive layer.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

The saying goes… “Ideas are a dime a dozen” and that’s true. What makes you successful is the execution, not the idea.

I meet with startups often. One of the biggest mistakes I see made is that most of them don’t have a business plan or specific blueprint drafted.

Here are the initial idea vetting steps I recommend:

STEP 1 — Draft a detailed description of your idea and get specific — include your ideal customer and price point as well as why this would work. At the same time, explain why this idea would not work. During this process, you’re going to find out the idea is not viable most of the time. If it is, you can proceed to Step 2.

STEP 2 — Try to do a prototype of the idea if it’s a product. If it’s a service, create a simple brochure in Word, Pages, or Google Docs. This exercise helps you flesh out the idea. After this, you’re ready to proceed to Step 3, but if you tweak the business idea, you need to go back and repeat Step 1.

STEP 3 — Reach out to three influential people in the industry that your service or product in which you will be. For example, if your product needs manufacturing, meet influencers in the supply chain. However, don’t contact a possible direct competitor or a person who just started their business — they’re too busy crawling up the ladder and won’t be of value. Instead, reach out to a person that’s “made it”. The funny thing about those who “make it” is their priorities change and they begin wanting to pay it forward. In your outreach, be genuine — you’re seeking help to vet the business that you are wanting to start in their industry. If you’re not able to complete step 3, you’re not yet ready to launch the idea. Focus on your networking skills and keep trying until you’re able to get in front of at least three people.

CONCEPT DESIGN: Identify your plan to launch, and validate the profitability of your idea.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Your initial steps should include extensive Googling, searching for specific keywords, and identifying current or potential competitors. If your product involves a patent, invest in a patent attorney to perform a preliminary patent search. I have found that folks go into the search not wanting to find a potential competitor, so they end up never seeing one. You should go in the search process doing your best to find competitive products or services.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

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The following should be of most help to you readers.


1. CONCEPT DESIGN: Identify your plan to launch, and validate the profitability of your idea.

2. PRODUCT DESIGN: Create a unique product that provides the best and exciting experience.

3. BRAND IMPACT: Create a brand to help you stand out from competitors by connecting with the values and emotions of your target audience.

4. MANUFACTURING: Meet in person (not online) with at least three manufacturers and compare quality, pricing, and speed.

Depending on the product you’re launching, there might be co-packers and manufacturers who are eager to help you. If you are patenting a product, the attorney who assisted you with the patent is also a great source for you to connect to manufacturers.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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