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Building an Artificial Intelligence Software Company from Dallas: Dave Copps, CEO of Brainspace (Part 7)

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 3rd 2016

Sramana Mitra: I wanted to ask you about location and where you’re building your team. Where is the bulk of the organisation?

Dave Copps: We’re in Dallas, Texas.

Sramana Mitra: Everything is in Dallas, Texas?

Dave Copps: We do have satellite offices. We have people in San Francisco, DC, New York, and London.

Sramana Mitra: But those are sales teams, right? You have your engineering and product team in Dallas?

Dave Copps: All the engineering is in Dallas, but we do have a technical resource in London. One of the surprises last year was this global expansion. We’re going to be bringing up just under a hundred new locations this year internationally. We need to fund that, but that was the big surprise. I didn’t think that would happen next year, but it’s happened a little faster.

Sramana Mitra: This is through that channel though. Do you need to have people in all those locations? If your channel is well covered, then that should be the channel’s job to bring those locations up.

Dave Copps: You’re exactly right. We’re developing a strategy that will not have us have offices in those areas, but rather rely on channel partners for services around our software. We’re trying really hard to be a software company. We don’t want to be a professional services company. Right now, any service that happens with my software is part of the contract. It’s not a separate line item. The good news is, and you’ll appreciate this given your experience, our installations are all done on the phone. They happen in literally an hour.

Sramana Mitra: That’s great.

Dave Copps: My VP of Technology has done an incredible job in making that possible. That helps us because we don’t have to consider a big professional services group. The software is very easy to load.

Sramana Mitra: Do you have a technical challenge in Dallas? Are the kind of technologies that you’re working on easily available or are you moving people from elsewhere?

Dave Copps: That’s a good question. Our biggest challenge is always people. People that we’re looking for are hard to find anywhere. In Machine Learning and AI especially, we’re seeing a lot of incredible resources in Canada.

Sramana Mitra: Really?

Dave Copps: Yes, it’s amazing. I think they’ve been doing it for a long time. Educational institutions are having incredible infrastructure with people and students. We were building farm systems. We’re trying to bring people in that can help us find the next generation thinkers.

Sramana Mitra: When you work with these Canadian talents, are you bringing them in to Dallas or are you working with them remotely?

Dave Copps: We don’t have to have them in Dallas. Our last two hires are not here. We’re comfortable with a distributed team.

Sramana Mitra: Distributed teams are becoming more and more common these days.

Dave Copps: It really is. It just doesn’t matter anymore, and we’re very comfortable with that. We have stand-ups every morning in our technical groups and those stand-ups include people all over the country and all over the world. It’s just easier now. Google Hangout can do an amazing thing.

Sramana Mitra: We run an entire global company completely virtually. Is Dallas still a reasonably inexpensive place? I’ve lived in Dallas in the Summer of 1991. I had a summer job at Texas Instruments. It was amazing how cheap it was.

Dave Copps: Especially with people coming from the West Coast, they’re buying houses here with half acre or an acre of land, and they can’t just believe the price they’re getting it for. That’s definitely a plus. Also, the startup community here has really exploded. I created the first co-working establishment here in Dallas and we rented out a big house. It really started to pull the Dallas community together. We didn’t have that before that.

Now what’s happened is the community has really come together. Tech WildCat is exploding. They’re launching 30 to 40 companies a year out of that incubator. They’ve already had several exits. I also noticed last year, for the first time, that there are West Coast startups coming to our incubator, which I though was really interesting.

Sramana Mitra: I think many startup ecosystems around the world are getting to the next level right now. It’s been a good few years. People are learning these lessons of how to build companies and get companies off the ground quite aggressively. This is happening all over the world.

This was a great conversation. Good luck and keep me posted.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Building an Artificial Intelligence Software Company from Dallas: Dave Copps, CEO of Brainspace
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