Artificial Intelligence startups are very hot these days. Read how Dave Copps has built Brainspace from Dallas.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Dave Copps: I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. My dad was an eye surgeon. My parents had moved down from Wisconsin. They were snow birds, as they called themselves. My mom was a community leader. My dad was very smart. He graduated from college at 17. His dad had the same background. He went to the Navy while his friends were graduating.
My mom funded many fundraising efforts in Dallas. From an early stage, I learned a lot about the importance of education, culture, and giving back. I left for college to go to Westminster College in Missouri and came back to Dallas and finished at the University of North Texas. I’ve been in Dallas ever since. I always thought I’d be off in Europe somewhere. Dallas is a great city. It’s a great place to start a business.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after college?
Dave Copps: I went right into software. I initially started selling software for a company called Software Spectrum. I was an inside sales representative and then graduated into a regional rep. I took over the department that sold advanced products like Power Builder and things like that. I was always into software. I graduated college with a degree in Anthropology. I was fascinated with culture, but more importantly corporate culture. In the background, I was always a geek. I was building my own boxes of computers. I’ve always had a fascination with technology. It’s probably no accident now that I’m in the startup world where culture is such a big part of the business.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you continue in that mode of doing software inside sales?
Dave Copps: I was there for three years. Part of my nature is that I get bored. I’m always looking for new things. I got a call from a startup. At that time, it was called Carthage International. It was a real-time new product on the Internet. That was back in 1996 or so. We were delivering real-time news to corporate Internet, which no one was doing back then. We actually even did web services before. We built this idea of news widgets that people could embed inside their Internet.
I started with that and I think that really gave me my entrepreneurial bent. That company was purchased. I learned my biggest entrepreneurial lesson that the way you make money with a startup is with equity because I didn’t have any in that one. Then I started my own company. I was doing some consulting with a friend of mine at KPMG. I built a taxonomy for KMan and KWorld. I was the one who was building all the search strategies. I think the insanity of that product was what made me become an entrepreneur. I was building all of these topics – 3,000 different search strategies that KPMG was using – and by the time I finished, I was not working anymore. That’s where I got the idea of Dynamic Learning.