By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Imagine balancing a full-time job at Keurig Green Mountain, duties as a husband and new parent, and leadership in two start-ups. That has been the life of Knoxville entrepreneur Tyler Hays, and it most likely is a key reason that he was just named to the latest “40 Under 40” cohort at the relatively young age of 30.
Now, after seven years with Keurig Green Mountain, Hays recently decided to resign from the company to focus full-time on the creative start-ups.
“I’m an ENTP, idea-driven creative thinker focused on crafting unique sustainable media solutions that promote innovation,” the youthful entrepreneur and industrial engineer writes in describing himself on his LinkedIn page. “I have a keen eye for artistic design, a fascination with the creative process, formal training in statistical problem-solving, and knowledge of the latest digital marketing trends. I’m always looking for opportunities to utilize both the creative and analytical aspects of my skillset.”
We first met the University of Tennessee, Knoxville alum in mid-2015 shortly after he and Patrick Teasdale had launched Evolvr Media and were participating in not one but two start-up accelerators simultaneously – the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s “MediaWorks” and CO.LAB’s “GIGTANK” program in Chattanooga.
Today, Hays has primary responsibility for Evolvr, along with Chris Berrong who joined the start-up to help with business development. Teasdale is still involved on a project-by-project basis.
“That’s what we need right now,” Hays says of the role that Berrong is performing in “finding innovative projects for us.”
As noted in a July 2015 article on teknovation.biz, Evolvr literally evolved from Hays’ passion for video production developed as a youngster and the emergence of virtual reality and 360-degree video platforms. The company combines the three in innovative ways to serve its clients.
Shortly before co-founding Evolvr, Hays had already joined forces with Alex Widmer to found Vessul Creative. This venture is a digital marketing collaboration of the top creatives in the area, focused on telling compelling stories through visual design while also providing data-driven marketing strategies to ensure content is effective with audiences.
“It’s the wheelhouse we started in . . . video production,” Hays explained. “We partner with companies to create digital content that will help them better connect with their audience and ultimately, grow their business.”
To illustrate the importance of this work, Hays cited something that many of us have experienced more times than we like. Think about the annoying pop-up ads on a website or commercials that interrupt programs on television and radio.
“You will begin to see this older method of invasive advertising become less and less effective, similar to how the billboard is today,” he noted. “Our goal is to create relevant, targeted content for our client’s audience to build their brand for the online generation.”
Hays says large companies are taking advantage of the techniques that allow their messages to cut through the clutter, but many smaller ones are not. That’s a unique niche that Vessul Creative is addressing.
For now, Hays plans to keep the two companies separate. “They are like brother and sister, but may one day bleed into each other.”
In terms of virtual reality, he says that the technology has progressed considerably as players like Google, Facebook, HTC, Sony and Microsoft are becoming more involved and developing newer technology.
“I own a few headsets,” Hays says. “Some are better than others. Those that are good are really good. The iron is hot for VR.”
More recently, he and team members spent a week in Jamaica producing videos for the Travel Channel.
“We are showcasing several different adventures that Jamaica has to offer, all in VR,” Hays noted.