Investing in technology: update on SimplySocial: Alaska investors support Alaska-grown transplant.

Author:Anjum, Shehla
Position:SPECIAL SECTION: Telecom & Technology

He describes himself as "just a boy from Alaska figuring out how to take steps forward in the world." And, boy, is he stepping out. Anchorage born and raised entrepreneur Tyler Arnold, twenty-one, now lives and works in the fast moving world of high tech in San Francisco, trying to build up SimplySocial, his newest venture launched in May 2012.

Arnold is a stranger to neither entrepreneurship nor the high tech industry. He started his first company, Tyler Systems, in 2009 when he was only sixteen and a junior in high school. That firm converted mockup designs for websites, created by advertising agencies and other companies, into working websites. It also provided some of the initial resources for SimplySocial, Arnold says.

Arnold's experience in finding investors willing to put their money--and faith--in his businesses dates back to when he was trying to set up Tyler Systems. Anchorage businessman Allan Johnston, a supporter, mentor, and investor, remembers how the precocious sixteen-year-old contacted him.

"Out of the dark I got an unsolicited email from a teenager I didn't know, introduced by 'mutual friend' whose name I didn't recognize. It was an interesting introduction and I became curious," Johnston says.

After meeting Arnold and seeing his business plan, Johnston was fascinated both by his chutzpah and by his precocity and invested in Tyler Systems and lobbied other business colleagues to invest. The financing provided by those "angel investors" helped Arnold initially and later when he began thinking about SimplySocial.

What impressed Johnston most was how Arnold recognized that he needed help. He had no knowledge of finance or business. "He had the wisdom to know that he needed help. Most people who form companies don't get that kind of wisdom until they are on their third business, or about forty years old."

The Knack

Arnold, it appears, has a knack for impressing people with his intelligence, his drive, and his ideas. Anchorage businessman Rick Nerland was still making up his mind about investing in Tyler Systems when he saw Arnold's presentation at an Anchorage conference on entrepreneurship organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. "Rick was impressed with Tyler and his ideas and believed the venture was a good one, but he was not convinced. That presentation helped him make up his mind," Johnston says.

As the business grew it also became international. Arnold began using Romanian software coders and even contracted with some as far afield as Pakistan. He also relied extensively...

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