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Senior Stories

Senior Spotlight: Harry Valner

“I've always wanted to climb the Seven Summits. Hiking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and being in the outdoors are the things I’ve always been into.”

Kyoku founder Harry Valner is always looking for the next mountain to climb. Fueled by a desire to bring physically-engaging products to an app-saturated world, Valner's love for the outdoors serves as his entrepreneurial compass.

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy? What were you looking for in an undergraduate program?

Before looking at schools, I was already enthralled by technology and startups. I had worked for a few startups like ROBO 3D, CTRL Me, and StartEngine. I knew I wanted to start a company of my own someday. A few companies said that they'd hire me straight out of school, and so I thought about what else could I learn in college. As soon as my mom came across the Academy, I knew that was where I belonged. I set my eyes on it, and fortunately, that plan worked out, otherwise who knows where I'd be.

How have you evolved over the years? Any unexpected twists or turns in your journey?

Over the last few years my interests have, without a doubt, shifted. I've become less interested in web development, and more interested in creating products people engage with physically. While I enjoy working on both web/mobile and physical products, my passion has shifted to focusing on project management, as I no longer can see myself sitting in front of a monitor for 6+ hours a day coding. Kyoku was definitely a twist/turn in my journey. Who would have ever thought that in the middle of my sophomore year I would have created a company I'd still be working on to this day? 

What are some of your goals post-graduation?

My goals all depend on Kyoku. If Kyoku ends up being what I hope it will become, I will fully pursue that, and grow it as large as possible. However, I also have a few other ideas in the back pocket. But for now, Kyoku!

Describe a passion project you're currently working on or interested in?

Besides Kyoku, I've always wanted to summit the 7 summits. I've always been into hiking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and the outdoors. While its currently on hold, I do plan on resuming it shortly.

What inspired the project?

My love for the outdoors.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you?

My dad.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?

"I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list." - Susan Sontag

What advice would you give to a freshman?

Have fun, and maybe wait till senior year to start a company.

Describe one thing most people don't know about you?

I have three sisters.

Fun Facts

What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?

Advil. Every type of cable/charger possible. Laptop. Contax film camera.

Favorite app or website?


Favorite class at USC and why?

BAEP-451: The Management of New Enterprises taught by Albert Napoli. Just take it, you won't regret it. 

Favorite way to de-stress?

Getting outside for a weekend. Going climbing, biking, and camping.

Guilty pleasure?


Thanks, Harry!