207 – Janne Kouri What’s the Next Step after Spinal Cord Injury?

In August 2006, Janne Kouri’s life changed in a split second. An avid athlete, Janne was participating in a beach volleyball tournament. Between matches he decided to take dip in the ocean to cool off. Like so many times before, Janne ran into the water and dove through a wave. Janne hit his head on a sand bar & fractured his C5 & C6 vertebrae.

In an instant, he was paralyzed from the neck down. The next thing he remembers is being told by his doctors he has no hope for recovery and he will never walk again.

But the real shock was when he was told that there was not a single progressive rehab center in the state of California. After two months in ICU, in order to get the rehab services, he so desperately needed for survival, he had to move 2000 miles away to Louisville, KY.

Janne, and his girlfriend Susan, traveled to Frazier Rehab in Louisville to participate in a cutting edge rehabilitation therapy for individuals with Spinal Cord Injury called “Locomotor Training.” For twelve months Janne and Susan lived in Louisville, and under the watchful eye of his therapy team, saw great improvements in his muscle strength, movement, and general health.

Unfortunately, his insurance coverage came to an end and it was time to move back home to California. Janne quickly discovered there was not a single community facility in California or in the US that offered locomotor training. He discovered that there is a complete lack of community fitness, health, and wellness resources available to the Six Million people with paralysis-related disabilities in America.

Six Million people, that is the combined populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. He wondered what everyone else like him was doing.  So, with the help of his family, friends, and the guiding influence of Dr. Susie Harkema – one of the neuroscientists who created Locomotor Training & enhanced Activity Based Therapy techniques, Janne and Susan decided to start NextStep.

Janne Kouri – President and Founder, NextStep

Janne Kouri, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2006, is the Chairman of the Board, Founder and President of NextStep. Prior to NextStep, Mr. Kouri was the North American Director for Sulake Corporation, a global leader in digital entertainment and media. Mr. Kouri was responsible for Sulake’s overall business strategy and management of its property Habbo, a new type of youth brand, which is based on one of the world’s fastest growing online communities and virtual worlds for teenagers.

Prior to Sulake, Kouri worked in venture capital and was co-founder of Orchimedia, a mobile gaming pioneer. In 1997, he earned a B.S.B.A from Georgetown University Business School. He also played football for Georgetown and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, an All-American, and was recipient of the 1996 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Award. He still holds the record for most sacks in a career (31.5). Represented by the Guild Agency, Janne is an active speaker including: TEDx, Nexus Youth Summit, The Abilities Expo, Georgetown University, UCLA, USC, and Rutgers University. Janne recently gave the keynote speech at the Stony Brook University School of Health Technology and Management. Janne has appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’ “The Doctors,” CNN’s “Human Factor,” HLN’s “Morning Express,” the Discovery Channel, and more. Janne was also the recipient of Brunswick School’s 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award.