Jeremy Black, CEO of YodaCom, manages the mobile revolution from Silverthorne
October 18, 2013
Jeremy Black remembers the very first remote sale he ever made. It happened when he was skiing in Summit County.
"It was an early cell phone," he said. "(I was) cross-country skiing at 10,000 feet. I got a call from a company in California and I closed the deal. I remember turning to my wife and going, 'I just closed this big deal and here I am at 10,000 feet out in the wilderness. How cool is that?' And she goes, 'It's not cool at all. I just wanted to be out here all alone.'"
He laughed and then shrugged. "Opinions vary."
For opinions on technology and how cell phones and the Internet are going to change everyone's lives, Black is a good one to talk to. Technology is not only his business, but also his passion.
Getting into the tech business wasn't always the plan, however. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Black moved to Arizona for his senior year of high school, going on to attend Northern Arizona University and graduating with a degree in social science. His next move was to Denver, where he attended Denver Seminary and got a master's in divinity.
"I was thinking about going into the ministry," he said, "and my last year of seminary, I felt like that was not what I should do. I wouldn't be a good pastor. I'd be a good teacher, but not a good pastor, so I went into business and have been there ever since."
Since then, Black has been involved in a number of companies, all related to technology in some way. During the 1980s, he traveled around the world speaking as a consultant on the financial software that he built to manage risks and rewards in stock and bond portfolios. In the early '90s, when Google was still just a baby, he started up his own search engine — infohighway.com. Eventually, he sold that company, bought a house in Summit County and moved here permanently in 2001.
Due to the nature of the tech business, physical location isn't all that important, and just about anywhere with a wireless connection will do. That's how Black is able to live in the mountains and still connect with clients from all over. Although a lot can be done over the phone and email, however, it doesn't quite mean that Black can hole up in the mountains forever.
"I found you do need face time, because it really helps," he said. He travels to Denver about twice a week.
For the past five years, in between consulting gigs, Black has been running his latest business venture, YodaCom. It's a mobile app developing company, creating applications for anything from big companies and restaurants to schools. For Black, working with mobile software is particularly exciting.
"It's fun, it's changing. I like learning new stuff all the time," he said. "I think the mobile thing is even bigger than just the Internet was (when it started)." This is a mobile revolution, "because everyone has a phone in their pocket, and that is the Internet, that is our connectivity, that is communication, that is business, everything."
Just recently, YodaCom made a specialized app for a machine tools company. Instead of having to fill out paperwork and use a special appliance to scan the barcodes on their tools, the employees now just use their phones to scan, and the app prepares the order forms for them.
"It's transformed their company from being a clunky old Midwestern company to, 'Now we're on cutting edge,'" Black said. "And that story happens over and over and over, because the mobile revolution is making this in everyone's pocket. You never leave home without your phone."
One local example of Black's mobile apps is the one used by the Summit High School football booster club, called Go Tigers.
"The biggest problem the booster clubs face is mostly communication — who's on the roster, where's the next game, who's bringing snacks, logistics," Black said. Now, instead of complicated phone trees and contact lists, the app takes care of it. If a game is delayed or the team bus is late coming back, all the parents with the app receive a notification. If someone needs directions to the game, the app uses the GeoSync in their phone to give them exact directions from the place they're standing. Parents can even take a photo of their athlete with the app and have it immediately uploaded to Facebook or the Tigers' website.
Black has also offered free apps to nonprofits. YodaCom designed an app for Romp to Stomp, the Summit County breast cancer fundraiser, that listed schedules and suggestions on where to eat and shop and that gave directions to where participants' cars were parked.
"We love doing that kind of stuff," he said.
Black is almost constantly connected to his computer, iPad and, of course, his phone. However, he does try to unplug every once in a while. He takes his dog, Daisy, out for walks and makes a point to meditate for 20 minutes every day.
"I'm totally fascinated by (technology)," he said. "I'm always looking at what's new, trying to stay on top of what's new so I can be a benefit to my consultant clients. I have a meditative practice that I do every day that not only disconnects me from wires but from my ego. If I wasn't doing that, I might just go crazy," he added with a laugh.