Building Your Own Dream Job Graham Novak '19 may only be a junior at W&L, but he has already lined up a job — at his own company.
“NomadX’s maturation plan aligns with my education such that I’ll be prepared to graduate and immediately continue my dream job: running a company that I’ve built.”
Hometown: Naperville, Illinois
Minor: Computer Science
Last January, I spent late nights in the Connolly Center mulling over business ideas. In the months that followed, I converted my bedroom into an office, flew to San Francisco to meet with an investor, launched a two-month beta test in Lisbon, received sponsorships from Facebook and Google, landed a major corporate client, and hired a 40-year-old technology superstar to lead the development of my company’s upcoming technology platform for remote workers. Considering the circumstances, I didn’t mind the C+ in Macro Theory.
The premise of NomadX relies on a prediction that the standard notion of the workplace dramatically changes in the next 10 years — a transformation my team and I plan to shape and monetize. Observations, research and data show that the dominance of “nine-to-five” jobs in traditional office settings will yield to a new norm: working when you want where you want. For many, this may be working from home — a reality we’re beginning to see already. Extrapolating this trend, NomadX predicts the meteoric rise of the “Digital Nomad,” a term used for location-independent workers who travel the world. Similarly, companies will have to adapt. In order to retain high-performing millennials that operate with different incentive structures (i.e. work-life balance, ability to travel, workplace flexibility), businesses will terraform their culture in order to accommodate remote and distributed teams.
The goal of last summer’s beta test was to create a proof of concept for an international network of host cities that allows remote workers to seamlessly travel the world while maintaining full productivity. Naively optimistic, I expected bumps — but not the type that tests your willpower, friendships and sanity. On more than one occasion, I buried my face in my hands, nearly certain that failure was inevitable. Customer acquisition costs bloomed, target demographics were different than anticipated, and a month prior to the launch, there were zero signed clients.
Fortunately, my investor-turned-business-partner, Dave Williams ’93, provided some game-changing advice:
“Stop cold calling and advertising—connect directly with your target market. See things from their perspective and offer the product they want, not the one you think they need.”
We got our first client. Four more. Two more. Six more. The spots continued to fill and we avoided a near-catastrophe. Our clients included 24 people from 11 countries through the months of July and August. We curated co-living apartments, developed partnerships with top-notch co-working spaces, and created an environment suitable for personal growth, productivity and global immersion in Lisbon. Meanwhile, we began planting seeds for our next growth phase through community development. The result was a thriving ecosystem of fascinating individuals. Over 1,000 people attended 25 events hosted by NomadX. We not only created an incredible community for our paid customers but also built a tremendous base of high-potential clients.
Following the summer, the team had some tough questions to answer. We hadn’t found product-market fit yet and we needed to try something new. In November, our first corporate client signed on. We agreed to provide services for their 110 employees in May 2018. Soon after, we started making plans for our long-discussed technology platform for remote workers. With an influx of capital and some strategic reallocation of equity, we hired a talented individual to help us realize this vision.
After significant learning and growth, the year ahead will prove to be the ultimate assessment of my liberal arts career. Among other things, it will require that I draw from marketing, finance, computer science, economics and real estate courses. Although many rising seniors spend their summers at companies with the hope of returning after graduation, my situation is unique. NomadX’s maturation plan aligns with my education such that I’ll be prepared to graduate and immediately continue my dream job: running a company that I’ve built.
To all of the incredible professors, alumni, students, friends and family who have supported me along the way, “thank you” cannot possibly convey my gratitude for your constant feedback and enthusiasm. As I embark on the next leg of NomadX’s journey, I look to you for continued inspiration and motivation.
If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.
A little more about Graham
- Venture Club, Executive Team
- University Ambassador, Vice President
- Contact Committee
- Leading Edge, Trip Leader
- Freshman Orientation, Event Chair
- ITS Work-Study
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
Dr. Jeff Shay is an incredible human with a knack for pushing students to accomplish more than they think is possible
What’s your personal motto?
I’ll have time to sleep when I’m dead.
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
I’d give my left arm for Napa Thai’s Chicken Drunken Noodles.
What one film/book do you recommend to everyone?
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Contrary to belief among the scientific community, time passes faster when you’re in college than any other point in your life.
Favorite W&L memory:
On a whim, my first-year hall decided to organize a fancy five-course “family dinner” and invite President Ruscio. He and his wife not only joined us, but later invited the hall to his house for dinner to return the favor.
Managerial Finance with Professor Kester
Favorite W&L event:
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I peaked in middle school as a wrestling conference champion.
Why did you choose W&L?
The tight-knit community, small classes, incredible professors, proactive alumni, and RIDICULOUS access to resources.