When Omeed Shams ('11) first started at UNT, he admits that while he was focused on his academics, he wasn't a big proponent of institutional education.
"I didn't love school very much," he says.
He grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, the oldest son in "a southeast Asian family."
"I was more or less groomed to take over the family business," he says. "At that point in my life, that's what I thought I was going to do."
Getting a degree was a task he needed to complete in order to move closer to one day taking over the family business, a company that specializes in providing health software for medical facilities.
"I was going to class and then going to work. I was working full-time," Shams says. "When I started my undergraduate degree, I was interested, but I wasn't passionate about entrepreneurship. I think UNT was where I started cultivating passion."
That passion manifested in many ways. As he was finding a growing affinity for entrepreneurship, he also was finding his place in the family business, gravitating toward new product development.
"Getting a business degree at UNT helped light that initial fire. While I was at UNT, I actually started and was running my own business," he says.
That business, which leveraged the in-game economics in World of Warcraft to gain in-game currency and then sell it to other players for real-world money, helped pay his rent and other bills. Additionally, it helped him apply the theories he was learning in his business classes to his World of Warcraft venture.
"I started to connect some of those dots," he says.
After Shams graduated with a bachelor's in business administration, his father asked him to pursue a master's degree. That request led him to University of Texas at Dallas, where he met his business partner in a class. Together, they started Kwest, a consumer tech company that creates augmented reality and consumer-faced gaming.
Shams says Kwest uses technology similar to crowd favorite Pokémon Go. Kwest is centered on narrative storytelling, with a goal of taking worlds from popular culture like Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland and bringing them to life in an interactive experience.
"You get to be the character in the story," he says.
The games are currently in closed Beta testing, but are expected to be available in app stores in early 2020.
In 2016, Shams left his family's business to focus full-time on several projects, although he still does part-time consulting for his family.
"I wanted to build something myself," he says. "I'm kind of a serial entrepreneur."
Despite having a number of projects in the works, he says Kwest is special to him.
"I'd say if I had to pick a favorite child, it would be Kwest," he says, noting that the business was his first opportunity to build a team and introduce a new product to the consumer market. "The amount of learning and growing that I've done is unparalleled."
Looking forward, he says his team at Kwest will take over more of the day-to-day responsibilities while he works on a new project that combines his passion for immersive technology and fitness, which he expects to hit the market sometime next year.
No matter where his projects take him, Shams notes that he's come across the UNT alumni community in business situations, which has been a great networking help when breaking the ice with new people.
"It does create that instant layer of connection, which is nice," he says. "We can always reminisce over the Mean Green and Fry Street."