Kyle Thomas is a busy guy. A mainly self-taught entrepreneur, Kyle is working on his sixth and seventh businesses and juggling both at once. Adora is a charity-focused marketing platform that helps consumers give to charities they love by allowing brands to send them messages. Half of the resulting revenue goes to charity, little by little, message by message. Sharpn creates community-driven experiences built around entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship that educate, inspire, and delight.
What part of Arizona do you call home?
What was your very first entrepreneurial venture?
I’m a fourth-generation farmer and rancher, but my grandfather has always (since returning home from WWII) been one for buying just about anything in bulk and reselling it. As a result, I was selling this or that from a very young age. My first official venture was a company that arbitraged the unwanted security deposits of college students (how many just pack up and leave after finals?) with cleaning crews: everyone wins. I was 24.
What is your favorite part about running a business?
Solving real pain points in a very win-win way.
How did you come up with your entrepreneurial ideas?
Adora was years in the making. I come from a blue collar background and yet I’ve had the opportunity to experience the way the extremely wealthy live, earn, and give. It was the giving, that ability to be charitable to a degree that was out of my reach at the time, that I fell in love with. With every company I’ve started, the greatest motivator was to build something that would allow me to give to a greater extent than I was previously able. Adora is the culmination of that thought, that desire becoming real in a way that, when in full swing, has the ability to make a greater impact than I had ever dreamed possible.
The idea itself came from the simple realization that the lockscreen of mobile phones is a largely untapped piece of advertising real estate.
The problem: people do not like advertising. This is a problem for both consumers and for businesses. Consumers learn about amazing new things on the market through advertising, yet brands have not learned that the ways in which they are trying to send those messages are intrusive. [They’re] often not any more than flowery words that mean very little. Everyone is the best, yet words are cheaper than the actions needed to back them up. People get that and see through it.
This is a huge problem for brands and businesses. They need to stop talking and start acting. This is what we encourage with Adora: for brands to do good and then tell that story through our platform. This is something people resonate with and will buy into, [so they] basically opt into advertising.
Sharpn was not my idea. JP Taxman came to me in March of this year with an idea that I resonate with: the need for us to help develop a better, more prepared entrepreneur if we are to be considered one of the best places to build great companies. To do this, we realized that we needed to find a unique solution to the problem of connecting our community, developing and retaining talent, and supporting young ventures.
What was the biggest challenge in executing these ideas?
Execution is everything. With Adora I have run into the stark reality that as a non-tech founder, I made some really frustrating mistakes early on. It’s been a wild ride, but things are smoothing out now.
The lesson: what is going to ultimately make your company successful is happy customers. If you can’t perform in a key area or skill that you need to do well in order to make your customers happy, you’d better find someone who can fill in gaps for you. [Your] team, founding team especially, is key.
This is true for both of the ventures I’m working on.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I actually did not want to do sales or agriculture of any kind when I was younger. It didn’t matter that I was good at sales. It wasn’t until I left and went toward a creative direction that I ended up coming back to sales (well, more marketing), and realized that it was just storytelling. Storytelling is something I love—seeing eyes light up when you hit on something that touches someone is amazing to see.
This look in people’s eyes when you tell them you can solve a problem for them, and the look when they come back and tell you how much better life is now that they’ve experienced that solution, is very satisfying.
How long have you lived or worked in Arizona?
I’ve been here for four, almost five years now (I moved here from Denver, and November will be half a decade—wow). It really has been the last two and half years that I’ve seen something special change here in AZ. Honestly, I think it all started with a few really passionate people in the community all working in their own ways to help the community get ready for that very first startup week in 2015. After that, with the advent of the #yesphx effort and happy hours, the effort to keep us all engaged and connected things have started to snowball. It really is a very cool time to be in this community.
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’m horrible at favorite questions, I don’t have a favorite food, or movie, or person. There is so much to love about Arizona: the weather nine months out of the year, the outdoor lifestyle, the diversity, how fast we’re evolving on so many levels. Again, it’s a great time to be in AZ.
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
I miss the green and all the trees that I left in Colorado.
In what area do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
It takes time to develop a culture of excellence—one where we have high expectations for ourselves. The largest issue I see is talent level. We are addressing that, but it takes time to really develop that level of talent that will help us compete with any city in the world.
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 have two: I love Matt’s Big Breakfast, and I’m a sucker for the Breakfast Club’s breakfast sandwich. (I get them to put it on a croissant with over medium eggs, and just . . . wow.)
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
Favorites again . . . . Okay, I’ll give a shout-out to Burger Rehab. They’re opening up a location right by my office in Tempe! So excited!
What’s your favorite dinner spot?
I used to office out of DeskHub Old Town (Love Gabe & Jay, those guys rock) so I did fall in love with the Roaring Fork.
What’s your favorite place to work in your city aside from your office?
So many: Sip in Scottsdale, CO+HOOTS, DeskHub . . . but if I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be at a park with my little boys.
Best place for a meeting over drinks?
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
My baby sister’s wedding.
What is something about living in Arizona that only a local would know of?
I love our art scene. It’s underrated and very eclectic.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
Explore. The city is very spread out; just go explore the different downtown areas.