Jason Loia was assembling a “stealth team” in spring 2014 for Unravel, a startup he was co-founding. Its mission was to develop a dating/social discovery app that would find the sweet spot in the market between eHarmony and Match (which serve primarily older clients through a long-form methodology) and Tinder, which provides a faster but more superficial service geared toward the young.
What he didn’t have, and sorely needed, for the team was a smart, seasoned product manager. His search led him to Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, where he met, and eventually hired, Wayne Tow.
“Santa Clara’s business school is prolific at putting great talent out there,” says Loia. “They attract a different caliber of person — usually someone who’s working full-time and looking to leverage their talents toward an actual work environment.”
That description fit Tow to a T. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UCLA, he went into the tech industry, starting in semiconductors, then gravitating toward consumer electronics and software development. He was working for a gaming company called Raptr when he decided to go back to school and get an MBA.
“I had a thirst for more knowledge,” says Tow, “and a realization that getting an MBA would unlock more of my own potential by exposing me to areas of business, like finance and accounting, that I hadn’t really been involved with.
“The SCU program was well located in the heart of tech, with classes evenings and weekends so I could work and further my education at the same time,” Tow says. “And it was great to take stuff you learned in class and be able to apply it right away in a true work setting to see how it played out.”
Loia talked Tow into coming to work for Unravel to build out the product management team, and Tow did so while continuing his studies at SCU, receiving his MBA in June 2015. Not surprisingly, one of the enticements of Unravel was an opportunity to learn in an area (phone apps) where he hadn’t previously had much experience, but that fit the demographic of the app and could make use of his gaming background as well.
“A lot of fundamental interaction is moving toward smart phones,” Tow says. “Unravel was getting its app in the forefront of mobile technology development, helping reinvent the way people make social discovery. It was small-scale enough that I could leverage my knowledge, working with strong, talented individuals on a lightning-quick team.”
As the senior product manager in the second half of 2014, Tow worked closely on the development of the app, connecting with a wide range of team members and customers to continuously improve it and move its release forward. Unravel made its debut with a test run in the U.K. the first part of 2015 and beta-released in the United States earlier this summer.
For his part, Tow is glad he went back to school at SCU.
“There’s an abundance of smart people in Silicon Valley and the tech industry,” he says. “A desire to learn and expand your knowledge base is vital to success in the business environment, because you’re always pressed to learn more. Having that Santa Clara education gives you a head start and an advantage.”
— Michael Wallace