Where Are They Now? - Q&A's With Notable Jenks Grads
Kayvon Olomi - Technology Entrepreneur
“Geeks are the ones doing all the cool things in life.” So says Kayvon Olomi, a technology entrepreneur, and Jenks lifer. A 2004 Jenks High School grad, Olomi is the creator of an online marketplace for app developers, and most recently, the Co-Founder of Whiteboard, a project management platform. In his “Where Are They Now? Wednesday” profile, Olomi explains how he is able to identify needs in a constantly evolving world of apps and software, and how he traces his love of computers all the way back to a 7th grade Jenks’ classroom.
What are your fondest memories of attending Jenks High School?
Olomi: The relationships with friends and faculty. I am still best friends with the same group of individuals that I became friends with in grade school. We all talk and hang out on a regular basis to this day. One of them lives four doors down from me. I also remember the Jenks school spirit – can’t beat it – and the opportunities. They were everywhere. You just to have your eyes open and be willing to realize them.
Who were the teachers, coaches, or principals who made the biggest impact on your life?
Olomi: I don’t believe I could single out one or a handful of teachers, coaches or principals that made the biggest impact on my life. The support system in place with the faculty at Jenks was amazing and it wasn’t until I got older that truly understood and realized how great my peers and I had it at Jenks.
How did your time at Jenks help prepare you for a career in technology?
Olomi: I remember when I was in 7th grade, my friends and I were really getting into computers and it was the first year we had the opportunity to take a computer class. It was also the year Steve Jobs came back to Apple and released the new iMac with all those different colors. One day after class, my friends and I helped Mr. Beaty setup the new iMacs in the computer lab and from that moment on, I have always been immersed in computers. Oh and I can’t go without giving credit to the Oregon Trail game we used to play in 1st grade on the original Macintosh computers at Jenks East Elementary where we had those huge floppy disk that we would have to insert in order to play the game!
Did you always believe you would be an entrepreneur in the tech industry or did you have other dreams?
Olomi: I always believed I would go onto start my own venture when I was young. At the age of 16, I started my first business, which was detailing cars and it hasn’t stopped since. When I was a freshman at Jenks, I knew I had a passion for business, finance and technology. Upon graduating high school and moving onto college, I knew I wanted to work on Wall Street at an investment bank or as a trader of equities. When graduation from college rolled around, we were at the height of the Great Recession and the opportunities in the finance sector were all but dried up. Fortunately at the same time, the first iPhone was released. Apple decided to open the App Store to third party developers, so I pivoted to my other passion, technology, and started my first venture in that space, which was AppTank.
How did you come up with the idea for AppTank and how were you able to turn an idea into a reality?
Olomi: After I graduated college, Apple announced they were opening their App Store to third party developers and I quickly realized that this was going to be the gold rush of our time and of course, I had great concepts that I wanted to build. Unfortunately for me, my skillset and background was not of being a software engineer but rather a financier. So I went on the prowl trying to not only identify someone that could develop my concept but also identifying a handful of developers to allow me to compare and ensure that I was not only getting a fair price but also a solid product. The conclusion I came to in my search was that it was hard to find anyone, let alone a handful of people. This is when the light went off in my head and I knew that I wasn’t going to be the only one that was going to experience this issue. I went on to create AppTank which was a mobile app development marketplace where individuals and companies could submit the app(s) they were needing to develop to a marketplace of over 5,000 developers and have them bid for their business and prove themselves and their abilities.
What is Whiteboard and how have you seen the app grow over the last several years?
Olomi: Whiteboard is the easiest way to manage your day and stay on top of the tasks you need to get done both at work and at home. It also provides a central point for you to manage projects and communicate with your team and clients without having those endless email threads that we all have come to dread. As with all my other ventures, Whiteboard was self-financed by my business partner and I. We started development in late 2013 and recently had our official launch in November 2015 for iPhone, iPad, Android and web. We have seen great growth and have received a lot of recognition, including being recognized by Apple as one of the best productivity apps for the iPad Pro as well as being featured in over 150 countries in the App Store.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your job?
Olomi: The most rewarding part is that I get to wake up and spend my time focusing on my passions and do what I love day-in and day-out. The challenging part is that there is no steady paycheck and you have to have extreme disciplines. Taking the road of being an entrepreneur is tough. You don’t have a boss or someone above you that holds you accountable. Failure or success is 100% up to you and is in your control. You have to be self-critical and do the things that most people don’t like doing. It is a tough gig and isn’t for everyone. You truly have to love what you are doing.
With technology changing rapidly, and new apps popping up every day, how do you stay ahead of the curve?
Olomi: The key in the game of technology and software is to make sure that you are addressing a pain or a problem in the market and creating a solution that is at least 10x better than what is currently being utilized out there today. If not, you will fail. You want to be “selling” a painkiller, not a vitamin. Even knowing their benefits, people don’t buy vitamins. They buy painkillers to take away a pain. I would advise people not to just sit and think of “ideas” of how they can get rich. More people fail that way because that is not the right way to become successful in the technology sector. You truly have to identify a problem that not only you are experiencing but a large demographic of others experience as well. Also if you are not truly passionate about what it is you are building or doing, you will throw in the towel and quit at the slightest bump in the road.
Do you consider yourself a “geek?” Do you think there are some common misconceptions about you and the people you work with?
Olomi: Oh I am definitely a geek and there is nothing wrong with that. I love to read, to learn and to explore as much as I can. I remember being in school and I hated reading, now I can’t put down books. When you stop learning is when you start to die. There is nothing more fun than learning and growing in life. Also, the geeks are the ones that are doing all the cool things in life.
As for misconceptions about me or the people I work with, I am not too sure. The one thing in life that I have learned as I have gotten older is not to care what others think and to just do what I am passionate about and enjoy doing. If I am too busy worrying about what other people think of me, then I will never do what makes me happy and I will only be concerned about other people.
It’s funny, when you are young and in grade school, you think being a geek is not cool. But in all actuality, being a geek is cool. Being a geek doesn’t mean you are weird, awkward, or don’t know how to have fun. Being a geek just means you know what you are passionate about and you get really excited about it and learn about it as much as you can. Right? I mean, who wants to be like everyone else? That is boring. I would rather surround myself with “geeks” in their own right and learn from them and learn more about how cool life is in ways I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise if I choose to surround myself with people that are like me and don’t geek out about things they love. Sit and look at the people that others call geeks. They are no different other than the rest other than the fact that they have an extreme passion that the masses or “cool kids” do not.
What has it been like to be featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 and to receive so much positive recognition for your work?
Olomi: It has been an honor. It truly made me believe and realize that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. I mean, I am a kid from Oklahoma, the land of oil, that doesn’t know how to code or develop software and I was recognized in the inaugural list of Forbes 30 Under 30 individuals for my efforts in the technology sector. If you have a passion and you work hard at it with the right intentions, you will succeed and be recognized for it.
What is next for you both personally and professionally?
Olomi: I am going to continue putting my efforts towards my passions of technology and finance. In addition to the day-to-day work of Whiteboard, I have gone back to my finance roots where it all started and I have started trading equities again. I see myself continuing this path, most likely shifting in the technology sector from taking the founder role, to investing in the up-and-coming founders of future technologies in addition to building an investment fund in the financial space that focuses on a diversified set of assets and investment strategies.