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How a College Football Contract Opened the Door to Helping Other Startups Launch After landing the prized contract for digital infrastructure, this software founder paid it forward by creating a nationwide competition for early-stage startups.

By Jonathan Small

Key Takeaways

  • Jason W. Taylor leveraged his family's entrepreneurial background to launch several successful business ventures, including a software development firm and a tech startup accelerator competition.
  • Taylor created the CodeLaunch startup competition to help nurture and provide no-cost tech development for other early-stage entrepreneurs, paying forward his own success.
Photo courtesy of CodeLaunch

Growing up the son of an entrepreneur, Jason W. Taylor had a front-row view as his dad launched everything from an HVAC business to an A&W restaurant franchise.

"Creating businesses—having an office and trying to hire and grow employees—was all around me," he says.

But his desire to get into business wasn't so he could follow in his parents' footsteps. "I wanted to show the world that my family's reverence for entrepreneurism was well placed," he says.

So, during his senior year at the University of Oklahoma, Taylor and his friends started a dial-up internet IT business that still exists today. "We need to have a 30th anniversary party," Taylor laughs.

From there, Taylor went to work in corporate America and hated it. "Corporate was the wrong culture for me," he says. "I'd already seen how fun and energizing building and growing a business could be."

After being "the worst employee" for two-and-a-half years, Taylor saw the late-90s technology boom kicking in—and he joined.

Football put code authority on the map

His forays into entrepreneurship started in 2001 when Taylor launched the Frisco, Texas-based software development and digital marketing firm Code Authority. It was a slow build: the company remained under the radar for a solid decade as it built mobile applications, performed data analytics, and created cloud-based databases.

And then, roughly 12 years in, Taylor got a voicemail that changed his and company's trajectory.

Taylor recalls, "The message said, 'I'm representing a party that wishes to remain anonymous and is looking for a custom software solution vendor.' My first thought was that my competition was calling to get into my sales process."

But the cold caller seemed legit, so Taylor and his team bid for the opportunity to build an entirely new infrastructure for this company, which, at the time, he theorized might be the Federal Reserve. After jumping through multiple hoops, Taylor found out that it was down to Code Authority and another company bidding from California. He still didn't know what he was even competing for.

It was only when they won the contract that Taylor—a college football diehard—discovered their new client was the College Football Playoff. Over a decade later, they still have the contract.

Helping others was key

But another project Taylor launched was just as significant as winning the football contract.

CodeLaunch is a traveling tech startup competition that develops digital products for early-stage startups without requiring any cost or equity. For 12 years, CodeLaunch has helped startup founders get their digital products off the ground to increase their chances of raising funding and succeeding.

From the beginning, the competition garnered interest from the cities of Frisco and Dallas, Texas. It received coverage in the local news; a CodeLaunch-inspired entrepreneur named Raheel Malik donated his support as emcee. And over a decade later, it's still going strong. "None of our first seven events ever broke even, but they made every single metric at Code Authority, from revenue to headcount – go up," says Taylor.

The acquisition of Taylor's dreams

One of the companies that supported CodeLaunch greatly was Improving, a modern digital services company that provides enterprise software consulting, development, and training to Fortune 500 and Global 1000 enterprises worldwide. With Improving's support, CodeLaunch scaled from an annual event to a five-times-a-year event, with the first World Championship scheduled for this November in Dallas.

After two years of supporting CodeLaunch, Improving began to talk to Taylor about acquiring Code Authority and CodeLaunch, and Taylor was elated.

Taylor was drawn to Improving mainly because of the support they'd already shown him. He was inspired by the philosophy they embraced of Conscious Capitalism—a term coined by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in his book of the same name.

"It's part of Improving's ethos to share the good things that capitalism does for people and communities," Taylor says. With Improving's support, Taylor hopes to expand CodeLaunch frequency, market reach, and ecosystem participation.

Jonathan Small

Entrepreneur Staff

Founder, Write About Now Media

Jonathan Small is an award-winning author, journalist, producer, and podcast host. For 25 years, he has worked as a sought-after storyteller for top media companies such as The New York Times, Hearst, Entrepreneur, and Condé Nast. He has held executive roles at Glamour, Fitness, and Entrepreneur and regularly contributes to The New York Times, TV Guide, Cosmo, Details, Maxim, and Good Housekeeping. He is the former “Jake” advice columnist for Glamour magazine and the “Guy Guru” at Cosmo.

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