Will Edwards had a hard time remembering the names of his fraternity brothers.
As a member of Phi Delta Theta at the University of Arkansas, Edwards had to rely on a spreadsheet to correctly identify his roughly 200 fellow members, and it wasn’t particularly effective when it came to recall. Instead, he created an app with “flash cards” that contained the spreadsheet of people and names he and his fraternity brothers could all access.
“We could literally review each other on mobile flash cards and make another game out of it and quiz ourselves on it,” Edwards says.
He got a patent that gave him the intellectual property to have an app that quizzes people for the purpose of familiarizing them with others and, within a few months after earning his finance degree at the Sam M. Walton College of Business in 2015, Edwards turned it into a company called MetKnow, as in meeting someone and knowing their name. It launched in beta form in early 2017.
Available for iPhones and Android smartphones, Edwards says MetKnow is a good human resources tool for new employees in large workplaces struggling to familiarize themselves with their new coworkers. Two Tulsa companies are already utilizing it, he says. Edwards hopes to branch out in other areas by making digital flash cards and quizzes for various social media, such as for online gamers so they can familiarize themselves with their fellow players as well as those who have several contacts they need to keep straight on Facebook, for example.
MetKnow, which includes two silent partners, a salesperson and contract developers, was named a 2017 Small Business Champion by the American Small Business Championship sponsored by Sam’s Club and the SCORE Foundation. More than 1,500 businesses nationally entered the competition, which consisted of online voting (MetKnow received 6,501 votes) and judging by small business experts. An average of two businesses from each state was selected with MetKnow receiving a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card and a free trip to Dallas for a two-day gathering to meet the other winners, business executives and professional coaches. Edwards suggests any University of Arkansas student who wants to start a business should reach out to their local SCORE chapter, and if they already have an idea they should enter the SCORE Foundation American Small Business Championship.
“It was a great time, and we got to learn a lot,” Edwards says. “It really came at a good time.”
In 2016, MetKnow was voted “judges’ choice” in a G60 Pitch Contest sponsored by Startup Junkie Consulting of Fayetteville and best app in the Tulsa Startup Series. Edwards’ company also won the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference Pitch Competition at St. Louis in April 2017.
Growing up in Tulsa, Edwards says he was eager to venture across the Oklahoma-Arkansas state line to take advantage of the University of Arkansas’ business offerings as well as to be near two major companies, Walmart and Tyson Foods Inc., which were started by Sam Walton and Don Tyson respectively, who were “ordinary people,” as Edwards calls them.
“They were just normal guys who really worked hard,” he says. “So it was really cool to be in Fayetteville and surrounded by these companies.”
Edwards says he appreciated that the Walton College requires all of its business students to take classes in the different business disciplines – marketing, finance, management, accounting, supply chain management, information systems and business law. He says Finance Associate Professor Craig Rennie’s fixed income class gave him hands-on experience by enabling him and his classmates to manage a fund held by the university.
“I learned a lot from marketing,” Edwards adds. “Honestly, marketing is a bigger deal than I thought it would be in college. If I would go back, I would probably do a minor in marketing, or a double major, because that is one of the biggest things that will make or break your business, I’ve learned.”
In addition to finding corporate customers, Edwards plans to put a lot of energy reaching out to college campuses so he can spread the word about how MetKnow can help students remember all of their fellow Greek members and classmates. “We’re improving it every day and trying to grow it every day,” he says.