The Tech industry is now one of the largest growth opportunities for entrepreneurs yet African Americans only make up 4% of the tech world. OnceLogix is one of those companies included in that 4%. We had the opportunity to speak with the founders Trinity Manning, Roderick Brown and Ty McLaughlin about diversity in the Tech Industry, being able to solve clients problems and what we can look forward to in the future from the software company.
What is OnceLogix and your product Sharenote?
Roderick: OnceLogix is a software company that creates enterprise solutions for any industry that has a problem. We create products for us and we also create products for other entities and organizations.
Sharenote.com is an electronic health records system for the behavioral healthcare industry or the mental healthcare industry. It is a practice management tool. If you think of a doctor’s office, a physician treats the neck down, so a mental health practitioner treats the neck up. But they have similar challenges in running their practices and Sharenote helps them, manage their priorities, keeps track of their data and all of their documentation, and also helps improve communication in the organization.
What made you want to become entrepreneurs?
Roderick: As a financial advisor you basically eat what you kill. You’re kind of running a small business although you are working for a firm. You’re in charge of working with your assistant, so that’s your employee. You are also in charge of managing the relationship with your client. If you wanted to work 1/2 a day, you can go work a half a day. So you have some flexibility and freedom and then you’re upside potential or your earnings have no limit. It’s really depending on how hard you work and how innovative you were. I did that for several years and all of those things were very attractive number one. Number two, I had a conversation one day with my boss at the time who said something that was pretty poignant to me. He said, “We make a great living but we know we will never own it, we will never own anything.” I have friends that own boat companies and landscaping businesses. They do really well and they actually own something. Something that they could pass on to their kids. So legacy was also something that was starting to become more and more important to me. So that was the second thing and then the whole notion of doing what I did as a financial advisor. The firm had a lot of influence or encouraged you to do certain things. When to move in certain directions or to make certain recommendations that may or may not fit with your values. So there was a moral tug of war for me. If it wasn’t Sharenote or OnceLogix, it was going to be something and so the opportunity came.
Trinity: I consider myself to be an artist. I’m in music, I sing, I draw and all that kind of stuff and I really like to create. I love the notion of creating something. I know I wanted to create something that other people can use that would enhance their lives in some way. I just needed to figure out what that was going to be. I think with every entrepreneur, at the base, really wants to solve a problem and I think there are different entrepreneurs. A lot of them just get into it to own something and then you have the other ones who consider themselves entrepreneurs and they’re just in it to make money. There’s a kind of a distinction between those. I think those type of people are more opportunistic than true entrepreneurs who really want to create something that can help people. The reason why Rod, Ty, and myself work together so well is that we know that money is secondary. We know it’s a byproduct of doing just a good job at whatever it is we’re going to do.
What challenges did you have trying to enter the healthcare industry?
Roderick: All of a sudden we had this product that we knew can help people and we needed to go sell it. So the biggest challenge was the learning curve in the behavioral healthcare or mental healthcare industry. The learning curve was tremendous. We literally had to go in and talk their lingo and understand all of their acronyms. We had to understand the workflow because when you build a system like this, it’s a practice management tool. You have to understand the workflow. So we literally had to, in a very short period of time, educate ourselves on the industry overall.
The other aspect is the folks that use our system. They are highly regulated by multiple governing bodies. The multiple governing bodies expect to see certain things a certain way and if not, then our clients don’t get paid which in turn makes it very difficult for them to pay us. If you can imagine there are 50 states in the US and they all provide mental health services on some level and just about every one of them, although they provide the exact same service, they do it a little differently and they have different requirements. So going into a different state understanding those requirements, but still building a system that doesn’t look like a quilt. It looks one way for North Carolina, looks another way for Georgia, and another way for South Carolina. That was a big challenge as well. Now we’re in 11 different states and over 425 agencies use our system. We had to become mental health professionals on some level.
What challenges did you face on the technology side?
Trinity: It all goes hand in hand with technology. The problem when it was just me, all I knew is what I knew. We had challenges in terms of technology that I didn’t even know of. Whereas, when I was building it, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about the future and the thousands of people using it at the same time. The way I built it was kind of building a house with no plan or bad foundation. So technologically we’ve had to figure out ways to either add a wing on or do you add something on to the house or try to fix the foundation of the house or do you tear down the house and build a new one. A lot of times we’ve had to do a bunch of tearing down and build it the right way and in some cases, we’re able to fix some things. It’s those growing pains of more and more people getting on the system and having technology that’s up to date. Everything is secure and all the different statutes and HIPAA compliance. Now there are new high-tech rules. We have to be certified in order for people to use us. We just continue to build and build. It’s a constant challenge technologically to really keep up with things.
What are your thoughts on Diversity in the Tech World and Silicon Valley?
Trinity: It’s crazy to think that even today being black in tech, you’re still considered a unicorn. We consider Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as technological unicorns. They only happen once in a blue moon with people making hundreds of billions of dollars. But still to this day, being black and owning a true software company is an anomaly. We were faced with serious diversity or racial challenges. There’s a stigma that we have to fix in terms of black business. We were at a national conference and we were told to our faces that we might not want to tell people that we are the owners. That we should say that we work for this company and not really say that we are the owners. After hearing that we made sure they know who we are. We actually ended up, that year, winning this Best in Show award because we were running around telling everybody to vote for us. We’re the owners, y’all need to vote for this system.
Roderick: When it comes to diversity and tech or black and brown and tech we need exposure. We have to expose more young people. When I say young, I’m talking really young people. I’m talking about middle school kids and exposing them to tech. My 11-year-old is going to a STEM program camp this summer at North Carolina A&T State University, just to give her that exposure. She may be like “this stuff is boring” but if we don’t expose them then they’ll never know. So that’s one thing. Then when we get in a position, we need to make sure that we help other folks. It doesn’t necessarily mean give them a job but it means to educate them. Kind of show them the game, teach them. Again a learning curve was our biggest challenge and one of my mentors is a non-minority that’s in tech. I didn’t have anybody else to look to and say mentor me in this game and help me run this company. What we have to do is solve a problem really well. If you have a problem and I can solve your problem you don’t care what color I am. As long as you know I can solve your problem. I can solve your problem better than the next guy or the next gal then that’s really all that matters. So solving problems, exposing people and then just working really hard to fix problems.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting a business in the Tech Industry?
Roderick: One of the things that I know for a fact without a shadow of a doubt that helped us tremendously is the fact that we started off as a partnership. We have some pretty specific rules related to the partnership and some covenants related to the partnership, like things that we would do and wouldn’t do. But no one can do anything by themselves and be really successful. Nobody can do life alone. If you look at anyone that’s done anything tremendous or anything great, they’ve had a partner or they’ve had two partners or even three partners sometimes. I actually coach people and I mentor people that are entrepreneurs and they get stuck on just being a Lone Ranger. They are hell-bent on this is mine and I birthed this and this is my baby. So what happens is they become a single parent and realize how hard it is to be a single parent. But when you have a village helping you raise that baby, then it’s so much easier and the growth is so much better. I tell people all the time, you can’t do life alone. You can’t do business alone. The thing Trinity pointed out earlier is that he’s the artist. Typically you have three skill sets; you got the artist, you have the manager or the leader, then you have the entrepreneur. You got the artist that wants to paint. They can care less about marketing and sales. They just want to paint. Then you have entrepreneurs that say “Hey I know what we can do with all these paintings” and then you have the manager/leader who says “we’re going to need a team of people to do what you want to do with all these paintings that the artist painted”. Now very few people have all three of those skill sets. Some people may have one or two of those skill sets. I always tell people to make sure to take inventory of who you are and what you are and make sure you have a team of people that can help you go after that dream. Then the only other piece of advice is when it comes to business just make sure you’re solving a big problem. If you’re not solving a big problem, then you’re going to have a cool hobby.
What can we look forward to from OnceLogix?
Ty: What we’re looking at in the future is really taking what we’ve learned in the last 12 years to the next level. I tell people the first 10 years were almost like our internship or our college or MBA years. So now that we really understand how to do business and how to get things done, I think you’ll see a lot more projects. We have some financial projects coming out. We just launched a product called Debtables, which is a product that helps people get out of debt. Which is in the Google Play and Apple App Store. We are going to continue to solve problems.
To learn more about Oncelogix head over to their website.