Making beautiful, usable things is a particular joy of mine. I co-own and co-operate a firm, Ovyl, that focuses on making high-tech devices with high-end design. We bootstrapped from nothing and have been at it since 2016, and it’s really starting to take shape! We’ve had the pleasure of designing for some startups that are making some industry-shaking tech, as well as partnering with some bigger companies, like Amazon and Smile Direct Club, to push their innovation. My degree and background are in Industrial Design, so usability and aesthetics matter to me. On the flip side, I’ve spent a lot of time working on mechanical things, and have visited many of the factories producing things I’ve designed, and I have a fascination with that side of things too. To make the kind of products I want to exist, neither design, nor engineering can stand on their own, which is why we’ve also brought in a lot of the technical knowhow needed to do these kinds of products end-to-end, like firmware, electronics, and product strategy. I love getting the right people working together toward a good vision. I’m one of those confounding people who genuinely loves what they get to do for work.
What is a personal piece of advice (business advice/saying/quote) that you lean on and could pass on to others?
“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” - Ron Swanson
Best business book you’ve ever read?
I don’t think in superlatives like “best”, but I got a lot out of Josh Kaufman’s “Personal MBA” early on, which I read well before I ever even thought I’d start a business. It’s a solid flyby of most of the relevant topics, with lots of citations and references to dig into when you find a topic that resonates.
One misstep you took in your business that you could caution others about?
We’ve spent years leveling up our business and honing our processes and skills so that we build competitive advantage and expertise. We’ve made the mistake of following other business models on a whim, where they really aren’t served by our advantage and expertise, and in fact drain resources from the part of the machine that’s working well (and has many obvious areas for improvement too). The mindset has shifted away from thinking that horizontal expansion is the only way to find new opportunities. We’re exploring upward.
How do you de-stress after a particularly hard day?
I like playing a number of instruments (mostly guitar, piano, and cello), reading a book, working on a coding side project, taking a very slow walk outside (see below), or hanging out with my two kids and wife.
What’s something about you that would surprise everyone reading this?
I’m lowkey obsessed with foraging wild edible food and preparing it in semi-fancy ways. There is so much to love about it! It’s a fascinating subject that has no end; it connects me to cultures of the past in a grounding way; it connects me to the Earth, making ecological concerns feel real and present, not like they are happening to someone else somewhere else; It’s nutritious, delicious, unbeatably fresh, and exotic (you can’t buy most of it anywhere); it inspires culinary creativity; it forces me to slow down and enter into an observant, meditative mindset; and of course it’s free to do. Please send me pictures of weird mushrooms you find.
What EO benefit has been most valuable to you?
I’m still fairly new to EO, but I expect Forum to be huge for me. Having a community of people who get what it’s like in my position, who I can be open with, and who have experience I can draw on is indispensable.
Any exciting plans for this summer?
My wife and I are taking my kids to the City Museum in St. Louis for the first time. If you’ve not see pictures, Google it. It’s a wild place.