Matt Romine started his own business selling and supporting PC computers when he was just 17 years old. He followed that up with a couple of degrees in computer systems engineering from the University of Arkansas.
And along the way, in 1994, he cofounded Interface Computer Center LLC, now IFWorld Inc., one of the leading tech solutions firms in Northwest Arkansas. Still plying his trade 21 years later, Romine says he and his colleagues at IFWorld are in a constant state of change.
“The industry is always evolving,” he said. “What we did five years ago is not what we do today, and in five years from now we won’t be doing what we do today. It’s not like selling widgets and the widgets never change. About 25 percent of our time is spent learning new things.”
Romine discovered an interest in computers about 30 years ago, when he was in seventh grade. That was the era of the Commodore, Atari, Tandy, MS-DOS, and a young billionaire named Bill Gates. The fascination with computers motivated him to open B&R Computers while he was still in high school. And before graduating college, he co-founded what would become IFWorld
Indeed, computers have been good to Romine, especially over the last two decades.
“It’s been a fun ride, really, no bad times at all,” he said.
In the old days, IFWorld did a lot of nuts-and-bolts computer support, but little was done remotely because a lot of the connections were still dial-up. But IFWorld now hosts its own data center, or cloud, at its headquarters in Johnson, and the firm has cycled out of client-based web design and instead refers that work to other firms.
These days, Romine and his associates are focused on iPhone and web-based app development. Their latest creation is SnapArmy, an app that automatically tags photos with date and location and stores them in a holding bin for clients. The photos can be used to track real-time developments in construction, for example. The app, which took about 18 months to develop, is about to be marketed to potential clients.
While Romine’s degrees laid the groundwork for his career, his ability to develop an app comes down to experience in the field.
“What I do now is not what I learned in college,” he said. “A lot of it was self-taught.”
Romine, 42, was a partner with Interface Computer Center LLC when he was honored by the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal as a member of the 1999 class of Forty Under 40. At that time, his partners were Jeremy Webb and Scott Mills. Webb, however, took a buyout to pursue other interests in 2012. Four years prior to Webb’s departure, Romine and his partners bought the IFWorld headquarters at 2209 W. Main Drive in Johnson.
Services offered by the company include migrating clients to virtual environments, disaster recovery and security, web presence creation, content delivery and storage area networks. Perhaps the biggest driver of business looking ahead, however, is the development of web and mobile apps that can serve thousands of users.
Industry sources suggest Romine is on the brink of a tremendous opportunity. According to Flurry, a San Francisco-based analytics business that monitors mobile users, overall app usage increased by 76 percent in 2014. According to industry sources, product launches, intelligent recommendations, geo-location, on-demand economy, in-app advertising and purchasing, smart offices and even smart cities will continue to drive innovation and development in the mobile industry.
IFWorld upped its game at the end of 2012 by upgrading its data center and becoming certified Nimble Storage partners. In business for over two decades, the improvements signaled a continued commitment to the company’s clientele.
“We’re lucky because a lot of our customer base has been with us for over 10 years,” he said. “They are long term and they are loyal.”
Each year a new batch of tech wizards arrive on the scene, but IFWorld has withstood the challenge.
“We’ve seen a lot of competition come and go,” he said.
In 2005, Romine married his wife Jamie. They recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary in a favored destination, Jamaica. The Romines have two children, 6-year-old Keaton and 3-year-old Baylor.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I married way up and I never look down. It’s the best part of getting older, being a husband and a father.”