Beyond Business

posted on September 2, 2016 by Scott Tibbitts in from scott

“This took my breath away, and this is why we do what we do.”

Katasi attracts talented people because of the nature of the problem set and the business opportunity. The people involved have the opportunity to solve a big problem with an elegant technical solution. The icing on the cake is the reward of a thriving business as we do well. At the same time, scratch the surface and you find we are as driven by the opportunity to do great things as a result of a good business; to stop the heinous devastation to families that distracted driving can be. The import of the mission is not obvious when you walk into the company, with the stunning view of the Flatirons from our windows, the telescope on the patio that we use to spot climbers on Boulder’s mountains, the humor and edginess the company and people exude. But it takes only a simple Facebook messenger post to quickly see what is underneath.

It is unusual for me to be contacted for business on Facebook, but last weekend a message coming from a stranger moved me greatly. “I just heard of Groove on CNN, if Groove were around a year ago I might not have lost my two children…”. The message was brief, told of a loss that a mother was wrestling to comprehend, and closed with a blessing to our company for inventing Groove.

I forwarded the message to a handful of people in the company, with little preamble…just a brief “I received this today” as the message spoke for itself. The responses were similarly short and heartfelt, echoing different versions of “This took my breath away, and this is why we do what we do.”

But the response that moved me most was not from a team member, but from one of our investors in Australia. I was on a video call with Scott to update him on recent progress, and, following our discussion of Telco deployments, and technical successes and various other challenges, I told him there was one more thing.

Video conferencing is powerful for the transparency it provides for the 90% of communication that we see but don’t hear. I pressed send, forwarded the message and simply said “we received this a couple of days back, take a look”. He read the message while I waited.

Scott represents our most significant single investor, without whom it would be difficult to picture how we would have been successful. As he silently read the message, his eyes welled up, and even from 8,500 miles away I could see the impact of the message. With his voice wavering, he commented on how appreciative he and another investor were to be able to help forward the Katasi mission. I similarly teared-up from realizing how much what we did mattered to him, beyond our efforts to provide a return on investment. After a few more emotional back and forth comments, we signed off.

Business gets slammed at times for what is perceived as its relentless focus on shareholder return at the expense of the common good. That has not been my experience. Entrepreneurs and the ecosystem around them are rife with Good People. Maybe it’s the nature of creating something from nothing that attracts these people, but I think that gives short shrift. I’m convinced that rather than attract the good people it simply shines a light on the good in people that is already there.

This is what I believe can be so good and rewarding about business; it is something that goes beyond “hitting the numbers” or showing a return on investment. In this instance, a new technology to prevent distracted driving helped bring together complete strangers, even if only for a few moments, who share a vision or a desire for making the world a little bit better. This mother’s message was a wonderful and yet humbling reminder of the power and serendipity of the journey that we are all on.

Join us in trying to make distracted driving an unacceptable human behavior.