Kenny Tomlin, who started Rockfish, has eyes on NWA to expand latest tech venture

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 3,841 views 

Kenny Tomlin

With deep connections to Northwest Arkansas, software and technology entrepreneur and angel investor Kenny Tomlin of Texas has his eyes on the region to expand one of his newest ventures.

In a recent interview, Tomlin said he’s planning to expand Austin-based commercial real estate firm Elevate Growth Partners (EGP) to the region next year. The company’s objective is to reinvent commercial real estate using technology that allows companies and consumers to search for and lease office space.

Tomlin, who is the CEO, co-founded the concept two years ago with Austin real estate executive Chris Skyles. They introduced the software and services to go with the idea, called “Elevate IQ,” a few months ago. Tomlin said the platform has the potential to disrupt the commercial real estate industry the same way Zillow and Redfin impacted the residential real estate market.

“Everything we imagined is true. It [Elevate IQ] has been a massive game-changer,” Tomlin said. “Companies who see our platform, they move their business to us. Brokers are joining our firm quickly because they want access to the software and technology. We’re now beginning a process of rapid expansion.”

Tomlin said the company’s goal is not to supplant tenant representatives.

“There’s a need for a broker,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is empower brokers to provide a better service to customers and add speed, convenience and transparency to the transaction process. That’s a better experience for the consumer, and brokers can [complete] more deals annually. They can make more money because they can handle more transactions.”

EGP is profitable, Tomlin said, and should produce about $4 million in revenue this year, more than double last year’s amount.

Tomlin said a formal announcement of an EGP office in Northwest Arkansas likely won’t come until 2021. The company’s goal for the rest of 2020 is to move into other major markets in Texas.

“We’ve had some high-level conversations with some people I know in the [commercial real estate] industry in Northwest Arkansas who would be great to help us seed and found an office there,” he said. “But we need to get the right team and organization in place.”

Tomlin’s career as a serial entrepreneur got its kick-start in Northwest Arkansas, where he lived from 2001 to 2012. He moved to the region to work for Walmart Inc. and helped launch the online component of the company’s financial services business. In 2005, he started a digital agency in Rogers called Rockfish. He eventually sold the business in 2011 to WPP Ventures, where he served as CEO until 2017.

In Austin, he’s co-founded several companies and still visits Northwest Arkansas frequently.

“I’m a big fan of Northwest Arkansas,” Tomlin said. “I own property up there near downtown Bentonville, and I’m going to build a house there in the future. I’ve been in Texas for eight years, so I can’t just relocate. But I can share time, and I love getting up there.”