Drawing Inspiration While Trying to Inspire
Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Mike Mathia, Founder and CEO of Alyss Analytics
After nearly 2 years of conceptualizing, designing and building a machine learning A.I. technology product now known as Alyss, we proudly introduced her to market at the end of March, 2018. Wanting to share this moment with the rest of Wichita, our team recently celebrated the launch of this new technology with a party inviting friends, family, business and civic leaders to enjoy this moment with us as a collective community. I was ready to inspire our audience gathered there and more broadly, my community yet ended up with a surprising development. Before I reflect on that moment, I have to set the scene…
For me, this journey started nearly 3 years ago with a product idea with no team and no capital to bring it to reality. The thought of reaching the moment we experienced at the launch party last week seemed like a far-fetched dream yet, there we were.
In early May, we were incredibly fortunate to be invited to participate in Collision, a worldwide tech event in which only 700 startups from around the world are invited to exhibit and “collide” in a week-long event meant to help each of these companies create conversations and opportunities for themselves. Alyss was the only tech startup from Kansas and we carried that banner proudly.
As we interacted with different individuals throughout the event, we had conversations with media reps, large enterprise companies, fellow entrepreneurs, and investors. With respect to investors, we received sobering news. They found our product intriguing, they were impressed with our team, and then we were asked about our Company location. “Wichita, Kansas” we said proudly. Then the conversation turned to their focus on convincing us to leave the Wichita market. Not enough early adopters, not enough investment capital for tech-based products, and lastly, high caliber tech talent could not be recruited there. This wasn’t one conversation but many that revealed a pattern: The outside world just doesn’t think Wichita can ever be a hub of innovation.
Well, a 15-hour drive back to Wichita gives you a great deal of time to think. As you might imagine, our team felt slighted based on the perception of our hometown. It lit a fire. Wichita has some incredible economic advantages, we have a solid core work ethic, and we do have a history of successful entrepreneurship - the rest of the world just needed to be reminded of it.
So, I decided that we needed to use our Alyss launch party as a platform to inspire others as a call to action. I prepared my remarks and arrived at our launch party ready to deliver my inspirational words. A strange thing happened. I saw so many friends and family gathered, I saw our Mayor in attendance, I saw several other business and civic leaders there, I saw our team members share their thoughts and their passion for our Company as well as our vision, and we had a crowd of well over 100 on a night where the legendary James Taylor was performing at Intrust many of which paid us compliments on our event, our product and our team. All of this left me feeling – well - inspired!
So here is my call to action Wichita:
If an entrepreneur reaches out to have a conversation about their company and its disruptive idea, product or service, please take that conversation. Notice I didn’t say invest – just chat. Entrepreneurs can learn so much from a conversation with an investor even if it doesn’t end with an investment.
If a local startup feels its product or service can benefit your business, please give them 30 minutes and hear them out. Again, I didn’t say to buy their product/service, that is a merit-based decision that you have to make. Taking the conversation gives the entrepreneur good practice at showcasing their company, fielding questions, and learning how to best position their value proposition.
If a company launches a new product or service, try it out – even if only once. Then give that business feedback on what you liked, didn’t like, and what you would like to see it do. This gives the entrepreneur the critical customer feedback loop that is needed.
I now believe Wichita can achieve great things, I believe a growing number of people care about this City’s future and now, I can’t wait to place our Company on the front lines leading this charge and doing our part. 3 years after we started, we now have an amazing team, a highly credible ownership group, a Board of Directors and lastly, a commercial and academic partner using Alyss just 8 short weeks after launch. Now it’s time to turn the inspiration into action and into positive results. So Wichita, let’s do this together!