Columbus tech guru builds companies, community and culture

Kevin Mack says he averages between 45 minutes and two hours of sleep per night. That may sound like an exaggeration, but take a look at his current workload: He is co-founder of the Discreet AF collective, chief experience officer for on-the-rise startup BYBE and co-founder of the Columbus Web Group meetup, which boasts over 2,500 members.

Besides, running on very little sleep is in his DNA. “My mom is the same way,” he said in a recent interview at a Downtown coffee shop. “I just grew up that way. My mom and I used to stay up and watch [‘The Tonight Show'], and then we'd wake up and she'd give me coffee.”

But dodging traditional bedtime hours wasn't the only unique part of his childhood. He would hang out at the office with his art director mother and also watch his father, an environmental lawyer, at work. “I was always like a sponge, absorbing as much as I could,” Mack said.

He was also exposed to computers at an early age and busied himself learning programming languages and working with design programs. “Windows 95 was like the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “I would just go around and make websites for whoever wanted [them], and it was my passion.”

Mack eventually started his own web design and development company and counted his schoolmates' parents among his clients. After high school, he gained experience in development, digital marketing and design, doing work for clients like MI Homes and a major restaurant chain and bank.

But throughout his career, Mack has always been focused on building community and culture. “I really believe in the sense of community and people coming together,” he said. “[And] culture is the supporting of each other and sharing your experiences.”

That belief informs Mack's work with Discreet AF, a network of people and small agencies providing services for both national and local clients like Pursuit and Tigertree. In the near future, Mack said that each person operating under the Discreet AF umbrella will have health-care benefits and access to a bonus pool.

“I'm investing in people or absorbing small businesses,” he said.

Mack has also brought in Discreet AF employees to help with BYBE, a new company that embeds alcohol rebates in retail applications and websites.

“Through Discreet, I'm able to find really amazing talent and build out the products,” he said. Selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the 2017 Techstars Retail Accelerator program in Minneapolis, BYBE's full product line will be done in four months, Mack said.

But Mack is most passionate about the Columbus Web Group, a community of designers and developers of various ages and skill levels who gather for a free, monthly meeting that operates like a mixer with an educational presentation.

“When we started it … it was about educating people and not just having someone standing up there coding or someone designing. It was to really inspire people,” Mack said of the events, which have led to job opportunities for some attendees.

Next year, the meetup will shift to bigger, quarterly mini-conferences and a massive New Year's Eve party.

“I definitely want to get in a spot where I'm investing in companies,” Mack said. “That's really my goal. And also help people wake up and do what they want to do every single day.”