From Donald M. Austin, Head of School
December 10, 2019
Empowering Student Leaders
December 10, 2019
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Choosing Extraordinary

Zack Oates ’04, Founder & CEO of Ovation

Fifteen years after his Newark Academy graduation, Zack Oates ’04 still draws on his NA experiences as he runs his business, Ovation, which he launched in 2018. A relationship enablement platform for restaurants and retailers, Ovation makes it easy for end-users to rate their experiences, as well as for restaurants and retailers to bring back happy customers and chat with unhappy ones.

Zack’s inspiration for Ovation actually stemmed from his dating life. After going on more than 1,000 dates before getting married (something Zack wrote about in his book Dating Never Works…Until It Does), he realized there wasn’t an easy way for him to remember all of the places he had visited on those dates, including which he liked and which he wanted to leave reviews for. “It seemed crazy to me that online there were so many tools to remarket to happy customers and live-chat with unhappy customers, but for restaurants and retailers, there was almost nothing,” Zack says. “It was a huge gap in the market that needed to be filled.”

Ovation is prospering in the tech world as the company recently raised $1 million in seed funding and graduated from the 500 Startups accelerator in San Francisco as part of Batch 24. (More than 1,800 tech start-ups from around the world applied to the program, and Ovation was one of 20 companies accepted.) “One of our most important values at Ovation is ‘Keep focus. Family, beliefs, health, job – get it done in order,’” Zack says. “It’s my hope that no matter where I am in life, I can keep those priorities!”

“Choose extraordinary, for ordinary will always be waiting. If you have an opportunity to create value in the word, do it!” – Zack Oates ’04

Starting a business is no easy feat, but Zack’s time at NA and “the open-minded community and culture” of the school really inspired him to go out and try new things. “NA helped me try everything. From fencing to football, from acting to astronomy, from photography to physics – there was nothing that said, ‘You don’t belong here.’”

When asked what advice he has for anyone interested in starting a business, Zack’s answer was simple but powerful: “Choose extraordinary, for ordinary will always be waiting. If you have an opportunity to create value in the word, do it!”

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