by Luke Jones
Posted 1/27/2014 12:00 am
Updated 9 months ago
Oladayo “Dayo” Olagunju is a Nigerian citizen who spent much of his life shuttling between Nigeria and England. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville for his undergraduate degree, majoring in computer science, electrical engineering and economics. In 2005 he attended Stanford University at Palo Alto, Calif., to earn his Master of Business Administration, and then worked as a director for Samsung’s North American LCD business.
Now, Olagunju is the owner of Nyoombl Inc. (pronounced “Nimble”) of Palo Alto. Nyoombl is a tech startup that has released two iPhone apps — Nyoombl and Questions. Olagunju considers Arkansas to be his “Ellis Island” and wants to see the state building up its base of technology entrepreneurs.
Q: You’ve said that Arkansas tends to be overlooked in the technology field. How can the UA get a leg up on its competition?
A: Given the resources that Arkansas has — given the Walton family and Wal-Mart in Bentonville — I think part of what Arkansas can do is try not to make entrepreneurship some formal thing you can learn. You can’t really learn entrepreneurship. Also, I think the UA can entice certain professors that already have credibility in the [tech] space, especially from the West Coast. Just like — maybe you’ve heard how the universities in Saudi Arabia have poured so much money into attracting professors from MIT, etc. I don’t think Arkansas … currently encourages the radical kind of mindset that you need for entrepreneurs. You need people that really want, especially in technology, to spur the environment. I think that’s what the UA should do.
What would you tell a student who is trying to choose between attending college in Arkansas versus a bigger tech-focused university out of state?
Let’s say this is my brother, or son, choosing between MIT and UA, and let’s say money is not an issue, and he has a 100 percent free ride. Go for the one that has the professor or the faculty that is crushing it most in the country. So if you’re going for agricultural engineering, then no school can stand up to the UA in terms of agricultural technology. If you’re going for robotics or computer science, then I’d say Stanford or MIT. But what I would tell the person, though, is don’t use the name of a university or its ranking to make that determination. Like, there are certain professors in the College of Engineering [at UA] … that are working on great things. Don’t make a decision based solely on the school alone.