Tim Jones' path to president of an advanced data analytics and systems engineering consulting firm started early on, when he joined the Navy right out of high school to become an electronic warfare technician.
Jones, who grew up in North Carolina, worked his way up through the ranks, becoming an electronic warfare senior chief, and was selected for a commissioning program as a limited duty officer before retiring in 2003.
He knew he eventually wanted to own a company and earned an online degree in business after retirement. He put together a generic business plan and began marketing his skills to Lockheed and Boeing. In 2007, Lockheed sponsored him and helped him get the first contract in place, doing engineer work for the Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
Question: What is the business of ISSAC?
Answer: ISSAC is an advanced data analytics and systems engineering consulting firm. We employ 15 people and are planning to open another office in Huntsville, Ala., to support our MDA contracts. ISSAC is building on its success and continued work for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Q: What is the fastest-growing part of your business?
A: We're very excited about the data analytics side. We developed a data association tool for the Navy that allows us to do data relationship discovery within very complex data sets in ways people haven't been able to do in the past. We're looking at other commercialization of the technology in energy, health care and finance industries.
In the health care industry, in clinical trials, for example, there is a massive amount of data gathered, and most of it is complex. One of the challenges is understanding the causality of that data and what are the effects that are happening based on different data points and how do you associate them.
In the energy sector, we're looking to use that data to optimize how we use the energy we're producing better, to find what makes sense for grid alignment and transmission alignment, based on weather, time of day, and time of year.
And, in finance, we're working to find ways to make smarter decisions from lending, knowing risk factors and mitigating those risk factors based on historical patterns.
Q: How does ISSAC uniquely serve the community?
A: We believe in social responsibility, and we support and invest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education on many levels. I'm on the Colorado Education Initiative advisory committee and support the governor's initiative for STEM education. Locally, we partner with Palmer High School, and on a monthly basis, we send one of our folks to talk about a different subject and relate the technology to what the students are studying in school. We also support the STEM boot camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy during the summer, working with middle and high school teachers and showing them how to conduct science projects.
We do this because we believe workforce development and economic growth comes back to education. You can't get there if you don't have a good workforce pipeline, and you can't attract good companies to your city if you don't have a good pipeline.
Q: What advice would you offer entrepreneurs?
A: Surround yourself with great people. Don't get into debt up to your eyeballs. A large infusion of cash early is not necessarily valuable and can even be counterproductive - especially if you don't know what your customer base is. Also, you need to have some great mentors out there that trust in you, and you need a good network around to help you think through challenges.
Q: Do you have a personal formula for success?
A: Don't give up. Take risks, but make sure they're calculated risks. Don't get an idea today and execute it tomorrow. Sleep on it a lot.
Q: What do you think of the Colorado Springs business climate?
A: I think we have fairly good entrepreneurial spirit here, but it's not aligned. There are lots of little pockets such as the technology incubator and various venture groups. Also, if you look at most thriving communities in the nation, most of them have a very strong research and development capability there. Higher education is the differentiator.
Edited for space and clarity.