My favorite food is: Bubble tea My happy place is: Hanging with a group of friends at Barton Springs, Austin
Game-changing software for real estate agents
COMMITTED TO THE CAUSE. If there's one thing Olivia Hayes prides herself on most, it's her commitment to executing ideas. Much of her career has involved working in product management in the tech space, where she discovered her strength in bringing ideas to fruition, ultimately leading to her founding her own company. "Ideas are a dime a dozen, but the power of the idea lies in the execution," she says. "That feeling of manifesting something has always been exhilarating for me."
In 2021, Olivia co-founded her first startup, Ink, a tool that allows busy real estate agents to create, edit, and sign contracts from any device easily. The idea sparked after she and her co-founder Caleb Jones learned of the poor experience for both buyers and sellers of property, with many of the tools used by the real estate industry designed upwards of 15 years ago - before the first iPhone was created.
"There's so much emotion and fear already in trying to buy or sell a property, especially if it's the first time you've ever done it. It seemed so stupid to me that the documents and transaction side of that would be part of the stress. As technologists, we know that technology can take care of that problem, meaning agents can spend more time focusing on their clients and helping them with the more emotional elements of the experience."
Before launching Ink, Olivia thrived in fast-paced environments at several startups. While most failed to take off, the learnings from each were invaluable when launching her own business. "I learned that I have an extremely tenacious personality. Some of that I can attribute to my previous career experience, but also to being a queer person where so much of your life is about dealing with rejection and folks who don't care about you. It forces you to develop a coping strategy early on."
DETERMINED TO DISCOVER. Born and raised in Western North Carolina, Olivia's early years were defined by curiosity and a strong motivation to discover the world beyond the walls of her small conservative town. Leaving home for college to study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was, she says, a pivotal moment in her life. "For a university in the south, it was surprisingly liberal, which was quite cutting edge at the time. The experience informed my political and early queer identity, which was life-changing."
Having come out at 18 and been an ardent queer activist ever since, Olivia has never tried to hide her identity. She concedes it has been tough to break into the "old boys network" of the venture capital world with Ink but admits the partnership with her co-founder, a white cisgender male, has benefited both of them. "I've noticed that people gravitate more toward one of us than the other when we're pitching. It's been beneficial to have a partner who can easily gain entry where I might struggle to and vice versa. He’s a fantastic ally, but nobody wants to hear him talk about diversity and women in the workplace."
For Olivia, the launch of Ink and its growing success represents a significant shift in her career and one she hopes to continue developing. "The ultimate goal for me is to be somebody who has the autonomy to work on the things that excite me. For me, that means using my skill sets in technology to give back to the LGBTQIA+ community; that's where I see my future."