Eric Diaz is the CFO for OYE! Business Intelligence, a software platform that provides business insights to Fortune 500 companies, federal government organizations, and large public universities. This platform helps those organizations provide better marketing contact and make better communications decisions with one of the largest, fastest-growing ethnic demographics in the US. OYE! may have started as just an idea, but it now serves MassMutual, Schwarzkopf, got2b, Kroger, White Castle, and other major brands.
What part of Arizona do you call home?
I am a west-central Phoenix guy. For my living I do multicultural marketing, so I love being able to live as my target market does on a daily basis. It’s one of the key reasons I moved to the Valley from Ohio. When you work in Hispanic marketing, no potential client brands give you much credit when you live in a 4 percent Hispanic market (Ohio). At 40 percent, such as Phoenix, you get a little street cred.
What was your very first entrepreneurial venture?
I was a paperboy back in Columbus, Ohio when I was 8 years old. I think that counts because you have to do your own books and collect the money, so it’s basically an entrepreneurial experience. Besides that, around the same age a friend of mine and I started selling baseball cards from our front porch. We would put signs up all across the neighborhood and watch the kids, as well as much older baseball card collectors, come to our sales. We found out that having packs available for people to buy for $0.50 each was a good way to get kids to come, and then they would wind up buying the individual cards which were priced at a premium. It was a good lesson at an early age.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
My business partner, Natasha Pongonis, and I came up with the idea because we’d run a multicultural marketing agency since 2008. As part of our work for our agency, we were often asked to provide social intelligence using existing software platforms such as Radian6 from Salesforce and Crimson Hexagon. We always found these tools to be inadequate for truly understanding what today’s US Hispanic market is talking about. Basically, these tools only listen to what Spanish-speaking Hispanics discuss online, ignorant to the fact that as little as 20 percent of online Hispanics speak that language depending on the industry. If you really want to connect with a Hispanic audience, you are missing the story if you don’t listen to the English as well. OYE was born to fill this gap.
What was the biggest challenge in executing this idea?
The biggest challenge has been to launch a new business when you are already running your own business that is very much a full-time job. It took a lot of strategy in deciding which of the partners would focus on which company to support each other in order to get OYE! off the ground. We are happy that we have received great support from the tech scene here in Phoenix as well as in Columbus, and have been able to get the company to where we are today.
What is your favorite part about running a business?
My favorite part of running a business is that I feel pride in creating jobs, as opposed to taking a job. I like knowing that my happiness and what I am are very much dependent upon what I can produce on my own. Even though it is tough at times, 9 out of 10 days I wake up happy, and the other day I eventually get to it by lunch.
How did you get started in the tech industry?
I have always been interested in technology, however I have never done much in the field. I’ve dabbled in web design, self-teaching a bit of Adobe Dreamweaver back in the mid-2000s. However, I do inherently get most stuff going on in tech, which I credit to being the child of two college professors, including a computer scientist.
I’m a finance MBA from Northeastern University in Boston. I studied finance as I found it would likely be useful if I was to be an entrepreneur, which has paid off. I also have a marketing and supply chain degree from Ohio State University.
What sparked an initial interest in tech?
Scalability, and the importance of it as emphasized by author Nicholas Talib in his book The Black Swan, which I read in grad school.
How long have you lived or worked in Arizona?
I have been in Arizona for 5 years. There are a lot more meetups and startup organizations then there were 5 years ago. I’m really happy with the environment we have now, as it has improved significantly since I first moved here in 2011.
If you could only describe your city with one word, which word would it be?
What’s your favorite thing about living in Arizona?
I love the mountains. One of the main reasons I moved here is [because] I saw how beautiful the landscape was. Coming from a flat place like Ohio, it is really exciting to me to see the silhouettes of all these mountains so close by relatively.
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
I don’t mind the heat as much to be honest. but I think you always learn something new about Arizona—such as not to leave your gym bag with deodorant or rubber sandals in the car during summer.
In what area do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
Not sure on this one. Unless you want me to get political . . . .
The foodie scene is growing bigger and bigger by the day here in Arizona. What is your favorite place to get breakfast in your city?
I like Snooze for breakfast—delicious pineapple pancakes.
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
Lucis is definitely my go-to. Cobb salad is solid for lunch, or the Moment of Zen smoothie is a meal in itself at any time.
What’s your favorite dinner spot?
[My] favorite is El Chullo on 7th St.. Delicious, authentic Peruvian cuisine that reminds me of what I get when I visit family (although there may be better).
What’s your favorite place to work in your city aside from your office?
If I am not at my office at Coworking on 15th Ave (which is rare), I prefer to work from either Lux or Copper Star coffee shops.
Best place for a meeting over drinks?
Personal favorite is Wren House on 24th St.. Small brewery with a great vibe.
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
Best memory was a few months ago I went on a solo-trip backpacking at Reavis Ranch in the Superstition Mountains. It was amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed every perfectly serene moment I had there.
What is something about living in Arizona that only a local would know of?
The abundance of quality breweries! Pretty much all areas of the Valley have a well-kept secret. I was in El Mirage a few weeks ago and stumbled upon an amazing new brew pub. Just search on Google for ‘brewery’ or ‘brewpub’ and you will see.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
Don’t move to the suburbs; central Phoenix is great and safe.