From band shirts, to dress pants. From rugged instruments to a keyboard and mouse. This is Devon Wright — and his transition was unusually quick. Now 28 years old, Wright holds the title of youngest CEO at AceTech Ontario. He mans the fort at Turnstyle Solutions, a proximity marketing platform which is particularly used for mobile marketing.
Though he’s taken a walk off the stage, Wright sports hair long enough to tie-up and a beard grown beyond any kind of order. It’s safe to say he hasn’t changed his look, perhaps a testament to how quick his professional encore came about.
“For us, my co-founder and I, we started the company when we were still in our band,” said Wright. “We had a really hard time figuring out who was coming to the shows and who our fans were.”
“We wanted to profile who was at the show, and get information on the shows they go to, how long have they been a fan, those kind of things.”
This is how Turnstyle Solutions got its start, and Wright was just 25 years old at the time. With no experience at all in the tech world, he jumped in with both feet. It wasn’t until he landed that he saw that he was just a goldfish in a shark tank. This is how he survived. This is how he turned his simple idea into a reliable proximity marketing tool used by some of the biggest retailers in the country.
How to Swim Among the Technology Sharks
“I’m not a technical co-founder, so the first thing I did and the first thing I would always suggest is – even if you’re not going to be the CTO, still learn the basics around development. I did do that, I learned some coding and it was obviously terrible, but doing that helped me attract my partner, who is the co- technical guy. ”
“Even if you’re the ‘sell guy’, learn how to develop the product.”
“I relate starting something like this to waking up in the morning, it’s the first thing you do, but it’s the hardest thing to do. You sit in your bed and say ‘shit, I want to hit snooze, shit I want to sleep for 20 more minutes’, there’s a million reason not to get started. But if you can be disciplined and just start your day by making that first decision to just get up and go, everything comes a lot easier.”
Don’t Overthink and You Won’t Get Bit
“There’s too much thinking into market research. If you have a new idea that you want to get off the ground, you just have to have a need, you need to identify a problem that you yourself are familiar with.”
“The only research I we did is look at trends… like is Wi-Fi still going to be popular in ten years, is something going to disrupt it, etc.”
“Just make it and see what people say. Let people make fun of you and say it sucks, take all that feedback back and adjust.”
Know Your Scales and Be Proud of Them
“The lack of network and lack of experience is difficult. As a young CEO, you don’t know very much about anything, so it’s pretty tough.”
“It’s hard, you get a lot of people saying ‘no’, you always feel out-gunned. But you learn that doesn’t have to stop you. What’s going to win the day is awareness.”
“Seek advisors and bring your passion and energy and the commitment to work cheap and work hard on something you love and believe in. I think that’s the number one characteristic that’s going to get a team through the tough, early days.”