Ari Vidali of Envisage Technologies tells us about its public safety training and compliance software.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Envisage Technologies.
Ari Vidali: As a classical violinist turned serial entrepreneur, Envisage is the 5th technology company I have found. We started the Company in January 2001 with a simple idea, “Readiness Saves Lives.” Our focus is to build software to improve public safety training and compliance, which is fundamental to ensuring good outcomes during critical incidents. Our largest customer at the time was the Federal Government who chose us because we provided the only secure software platform specifically designed to automate critical aspects of Federal law enforcement and homeland defense training.
Nine months after launching the company, the 9/11 tragedy happened, and our world changed forever. I distinctly remember thinking we would need to shut down the business as I assumed that our Federal Government would focus its resources outward on persecuting the “war on terror” overseas rather than continue to fund our projects. I was wrong. After the attack, our Government focused on anything related to securing our borders and growing the homeland defense workforce. As a result, we were propelled into many new opportunities to help our Nation optimize its Readiness.
How does Envisage Technologies innovate?
Ari Vidali: Innovation is in our DNA. In fact, our Company name Envisage means to conceive of or visualize a possibility before it exists. To Envisage a possibility is, by definition, the foundation of every innovation. As a software company, we use the Agile Development approach to creating products.
This means that we are in very tight alignment with our customer’s vision, needs, and evolution. By taking a highly iterative approach to solving big problems, we are able to test assumptions quickly and pivot if a particular approach is not working. We include our customers in every design decision to ensure our innovations are practical and spend much of our time thinking about problem trajectories and the future.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ari Vidali: Coronavirus impacted us in two major ways. First, we had to move all of our operations to remote work, which was complicated due to our specific high-security requirements. Second, our customers, who are largely First Responders who are on the front lines of Covid, were severely impacted by the pandemic. This caused significant disruptions in their operations, with many of them understandably focused on the pandemic response to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ari Vidali: The most difficult aspect has been trying to find ways to cope with our employees’ stresses of working at home and the limitations on our ability to collaborate and innovate via remote work. So much is lost when communication is exclusively based on video calls. In the transition, we had to face hard choices about communicating with our people and our customers, maintaining service levels, and continuing to operate effectively under the circumstances.
With customers spread all across the United States, our standard practices were simply not going to work.
We learned that the most important thing during a crisis is the people involved. We needed to provide a clear vision and consistent communication and support for all our customers and employees. To that end, we provided all of them with help in getting sufficient bandwidth, mental health counseling, suggestions for work-life-balance during the pandemic, and the tools they needed to continue to work productively.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Envisage Technologies in the future?
Ari Vidali: I take walks…preferably in nature to de-stress and think about the future.
I am not worried about what comes next because I have seen firsthand the resilience of the human spirit in the form of our First Responders who have braved the frontlines of this pandemic, major wildfires, hurricanes, and numerous calamities with professionalism and grace. Everyone has the capacity to be a hero; all they just need is to find it within themselves.
Our employees certainly have. Our company’s future is bright because everyone benefits from highly trained, equipped, and ready first responders, and we will continue to be there, innovating for them when all this is over.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ari Vidali: Our competitors tend to be either “generic” software companies that sell to many different industries or in-house developed platforms that are long overdue for innovation. Our plan is to focus on what we are the best in the world at building innovative software purpose-built for the rigorous demands of the Public Safety space. With over 2 million first responders and 11,000 public safety departments served, we already have the largest installed base of public safety specific readiness, training, and compliance software in the United States.
Our lead will only grow as we accelerate out of the Covid pandemic.
Your final thoughts?
Ari Vidali: If you don’t like the future, create it! What I mean by that is that no matter the circumstances, if you have a higher purpose, a clear vision, and the determination to execute against it, you will be able to innovate even when it seems as if the world around you is falling apart.