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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Bobo

Tech Company founded by two UNF alumni receives big day in funding

Yac, a tech company headed by two recent UNF alumni, received $7.5 million in funding for their Series A back in January. The audio first messaging app is based out of Orlando, Fla. The $7.5 million in funding was led by GGV Capital, according to TechCrunch.

Hunter Mckinley and Jordan Walker, who co-founded Yac, both graduated from UNF in 2017.

Walker, Yac’s chief operating officer said they were confident in their product and team going into funding. “That was definitely clear from the start of us heading into fundraising. We knew we were going to get 7.5 [million] It was actually what we asked for,” he said.

Yac is only two years old but has a steady use of daily users. Walker said with the new funding their next step is growth. “We have a healthy user base right now. We have people that love the app. They use it every day as part of their workflow. Now we have to scale that up to millions and millions of people”, he said.

Yac, is a voice-only communication platform that has been gaining traction over the past year along with other remote apps like Zoom. Yac was founded by current CEO, Justin Mitchell, along with Hunter McKinley and Jordan Walker.

Back in late August of 2020, the start-up was backed by Slack, one of the industry leaders in workplace communication. Slack invested $500,000 initially.

Walker said the app focuses on audio messaging for the workplace when they don’t have the time for a phone call. Yac’s biggest feature is its emphasis on asynchronous communication. “Asynchronous means essentially not real-time,” he said. “So you're not dependent on the other person being available right then and there in that moment you could make it respond or get back to you whenever they happen, whenever they become available”.

Remote work-focused apps have been in high demand, with apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams being used more than ever in a pandemic. Remote work is becoming the norm for many schools and companies. In April and May of this past year, 35.2% of commuters switched to working from home, according to a survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Yac didn’t officially launch till March 2020. Originally, they were going to release at South by Southwest in Austin, Tx. But when the event was canceled because of the pandemic they went ahead and released it. McKinley, Yac’s chief marketing officer, acknowledged that luck played into the timing but the groundwork they’ve been laying down for the past year prepared them for an early release. “I think we've just been telling people that this change was going to be coming anyway, you'll get everyone going remote, we just didn't anticipate everybody trying it all at once over two billion people over the world trying it,” he said. The pandemic has forced the world into embracing remote work and McKinley is focused on working on the best way to do that.

McKinley and Walker came up with the idea of Yac when working at their original company So-Friendly, an app-developing company, based out of Orlando. At the time, their team grew and were scattered across the country. “There's no great tool that supports true, remote collaboration and so we came up with the idea of Yac,” said Walker.

McKinley and Walker first met their freshman year at Walker’s birthday party. Back then McKinley had his own t-shirt business and found Walker to be the perfect business partner. They went from making their first sales call together to launching So-Friendly while at UNF. Walker remembers getting their first check of $750. The way they celebrated “you would’ve thought we were Elon Musk,” he said. McKinley said their transition from working in college together into the business world was a “natural progression” because they started So-Friendly while still in college. McKinley even had to intern at their own company.

The two talked about the resources and opportunities UNF provided them. They met their first venture capitalist, Jim Stallings, while in school. Walker stays in contact with one of his former teachers, Nathan Kunz, a mentor and business and operations management professor for UNF. Dr. Kunz’s classes didn’t focus on start-up businesses, but he would try to apply his teachings to start-ups if applicable. He said that Walker was always involved in class and would ask for advice on his company while in school.

The University was forced to go remote last spring because of the pandemic. Dr. Kunz said it was hard at first because they were forced into doing it but quickly found out how useful a tool remote applications are and its “cost, time, and environmental impact are pros,” he said. The future is bright for McKinley and Walker as they push Yac to the forefront in a world where remote work is not a choice, but a necessity.

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