Matt Wagnitz is a 21-year-old junior at Kenyon. He majors in history, has played on Kenyon’s baseball team and runs a million-dollar technology company called Tapp Industries. After winter break, Wagnitz will be leaving Kenyon to move to Los Angeles and focus on growing his company while trying to avoid the distractions that will inevitably come with young entrepreneurship in the age of tech tycoons such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
The idea for Tapp Industries first presented itself roughly two years ago. Wagnitz was on a trip with the baseball team when a childhood friend called him with an idea for an app. “He called me, we started talking about it and we got excited about it. That’s how it all started,” Wagnitz said.
Although the first app idea did not pan out, it led to more ideas that did: websites, hotel apps and partnerships with companies like the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company and skateboarding company The Berrics.
When Tapp Industries partners with a business, it takes on a few different roles: creating apps, doing technical maintenance and running the business’s website, with an emphasis on offering customized services to each client. “[Tapp Industries] is really the first company that allows a business to choose the features that meets its needs,” Wagnitz said.
Of course, these features come with a price. A recent client paid $30,000 for a new website and an additional $9,000 per month of maintenance. Prices vary by client and the service that the client requires, but invoices add up and Tapp Industries’ current value may exceed $1 million.
“Obviously we wouldn’t be where we are without hard work, but we wouldn’t be where we are without just being blessed with connections and resources of our own,” Wagnitz said.
In the past two years, Tapp Industries has expanded to three different offices: one in Wagnitz’s hometown of Detroit, one in New York City and one in Los Angeles.
While he is well versed in the software his company uses, Wagnitz holds a managerial position at Tapp Industries, focusing on making connections with clients rather than actually creating products. Tapp Industries employs roughly 30 people to program and create apps.
“What gives us the ability to work on 25 projects at one time is that I’m not doing all the work myself,” Wagnitz said.
Running a company has made prioritizing homework and papers difficult for Wagnitz. Wagnitz’s advisor, Associate Professor of History Stephen Volz, first learned of his business when Wagnitz asked for an extension on a paper because he had to attend a business meeting. Volz also supported Wagnitz in his decision to leave Kenyon only three semesters shy of graduation.
“Once he started explaining his business venture and the great potential that it held, I was impressed,” Volz said. “He was flying off to L.A. or New York City every other weekend [and] I thought, yes, he should go for it.”
When Wagnitz moves to Los Angeles, he will be living on the 41st floor of the Ritz Carlton Residences, driving his own company car and mingling with celebrities like Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg and Lil’ Wayne, all of whom Wagnitz has met in his apartment.
“We’ll get a text from the guy who [lives below us] and he’ll be like, ﾑWayne’s here,'” said Wagnitz. “That is the issue, the glamour.”
Despite numerous distractions, Wagnitz is confident that his drive and passion for his company will keep him focused. “For right now there’s one goal, and that’s to grow. We’re not going to grow if I’m hungover,” Wagnitz said.
As for plans to finish school, Wagnitz does not discount coming back to Kenyon. He has until next fall to decide if he will return for the 2014-2015 school year.
Wagnitz and his partner have big plans for the future of Tapp Industries. Once Wagnitz moves to Los Angeles, they will be opening new offices, including a freestanding warehouse-style office in Los Angeles, which will house many different departments and facilitate more efficiency between employees.
“I really don’t know what the future holds; I can’t make any predictions,” Wagnitz said. “I’m just going to be living out [in L.A.] and pursuing everything. It’s like a dream; I just love it.”