Mr. Mackie has over 30 years of experience in Operational and Product Development. He has led diverse teams in highly complex environments, including large multi-million dollar industrial development projects. These projects included the building of Complex Industrial Processing Environments, Clean Rooms, Manufacturing lines, Worldwide IT Infrastructure and Bespoke Software and Hardware Products. He has designed and built an array of diverse products from Medical Carts, Rugged Wireless Gateways and High-Density Wireless Design and Implementation Services. These products have been integrated at customers like Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Scripps Hospitals, UCSF Medical Center, University of Kentucky Medical Center and MUSC.
In 2014 he founded Olea Edge Analytics, an AI/ML Cloud-based Platform for the management of commercial water delivery. He now leads a highly talented group of engineers and industry experts that are changing the way that cities manage and account for their commercial water infrastructure. The team has built a one of a kind, patented AI/EDGE and Cloud-based platform that recovers lost revenue and extends cities’ capabilities and working capital without raising rates or increasing the debt burden in cities.
Mr. Mackie lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two dogs. He has two children and enjoys painting, drawing, bread baking, amateur radio, bow hunting, fly tying and fly fishing.
Where did the idea for Olea Edge Analytics come from?
The company was founded originally as a wireless gateway product servicing the construction industry and first responders. We pivoted toward the water industry as we looked for a way to increase scale and market penetration. We focused on a water management platform for commercial water meters as we further evolved the product.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
This is a tough one. Right now, we are focused on growth and finishing the 2.0 version of the product and expanding our account base. We manage all product development and manufacturing, including our component supply chain. We are growing the company from a small 15-person startup to a larger mid-sized company with a much larger customer footprint. I am using a much more metric-driven approach as we grow, including the implementation of OKR-driven metric-based performance. So most of my days are filled with a mix of sales, developmental and operational issues. Typically I will start with an operational overview and then focus on any issues that I think need attention.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I love the maker movement and all that comes with it. Fast prototyping and the ability to quickly bring physical and software solutions to market testing is critical to this success. I surround myself with complimentary people with very little overlap so we can make fast decisions and maintain an environment that challenges itself. I have been able to attract and facilitate some of the best minds in the maker movement. I also believe in engaging quality assurance engineering and process-driven analytics early to measure success and, most importantly, failure. Once we believe we are on the right track, I then focus all the company’s energy on exploiting this new direction until we either course-correct or can drive forward quickly to the next milestone.
What’s one trend that excites you?
As I said, I love the new maker movement capabilities. We are a strange duck. We have five 3D printers of different sizes and capabilities, we have our own CNC machine, we develop our own PCBs and all other components and we write all of our software. If I were to think about one thing that really makes a difference, it is the compression of our supply chain. We can source and get all the components we need without having to engage costly CMs or ODMs to help us. Our suppliers, for the most part, are in other countries, and to enable this kind of global reach used to be the dominion of much larger multinational companies. The ability to reach our individual component suppliers and our rapid prototyping capabilities is key to our success. The world is getting a lot smaller, and it is much easier than it used to be to make quality products and control your own destiny if you know how to leverage it.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am unbelievably stubborn at times, and I believe that being this way allows me not to give up or be swayed when it is necessary to stay the course. But more than anything else, I believe that I love and care for the team and want them all to be successful. I hope and believe that the team believes this also. When you can be part of something that is collectively driven by the same goal and believe that “impossible” is just a word that can be overcome, it is really special.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Honestly, I would have to say that being better at managing through involvement and influence has been something that I wish I had done a better job when I was younger. The human element is really important, and being able to express this part of yourself to others is a strength rather than a weakness. I have always been a risk-taker, but I have had to learn to be a better, more inclusive person.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This is funny because right now, I am working on our marketing messaging. I firmly believe that the only way to market our product effectively is by customer evangelism. The days of SEO and jamming products into the market via an endless stream of “used car commercials” will not do it and do not create customer loyalty. So the idea of being more information-driven and community-driven is the only way to build a great customer base. This is a pretty big change because it requires us to work harder at not pushing things that usually drive marketing and work more closely on genuine relationships with mutual benefit.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Get up off the floor, don’t quit, stay centered, don’t take the failures out on the team, acknowledge that everything is your fault in the end and try to learn from it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We are starting to accelerate now. In the COVID-19 world, you have to be able to be creative and trust the team but also make sure that the team continues to evolve as you bring in new skills and viewpoints when necessary. What works for a small company does not always translate into larger organizations. However, it is important not to lose your company’s culture and soul.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest failure has been my inability to manage our investors more humanly when you are at the early stage. It is all very high risk. The basic understanding of the angst that early-stage investors have is important to understand. In the end, I really believe that early honest communication is critical to keep everyone believing in the vision. It took me a long while to understand the human element of this.
Taking money from early-stage investors is a fiduciary responsibility that you must do everything to live up to. I have really worked on this, and I believe that it has made a real difference. I am grateful and responsible for every nickel and owe the investors the respect that comes from investing money and effort in a common vision.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If I were not doing what I am doing currently, I would be focusing on bringing the global supply chain closer to entrepreneurs. A business that can bring together prototyping, procurement and a highly distributed supply chain would be very impactful, especially if coupled with crowdsourcing of financing. Simple-to-use interfaces that do not require language translation or huge overhead are the next frontier in product development. Cloud-driven and meaningful ways to bring all the makers together into one common product development and supply chain platform is the next evolution of rapid product development and GTM processes. I believe the world is ready for this.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A new pair of walking shoes, I try to walk every day with my dogs. There is nothing like a new pair of good walking shoes.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use a huge amount of cloud-based productivity tools. We just started using Mavenlink, a project tracking product that I really like. I am hopeful that it will bring the team together and focused on universal OKRs and KPI’s that will drive success.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It is my business bible. Everything should be hard to do. If it were not, then you are not innovating. But managing a business requires a skill that can only really be learned by doing it. I use this book as a roadmap for staying the course as we grow. As Ben Horowitz says, the best CEOs just don’t quit. “There are no silver bullets, only lead bullets.”
What is your favorite quote?
“Spend zero time on what you could have done, and devote all of your time on what you might do.”― Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
- Be fair and honest with your team and investors, but demand the best from yourself.
- Be innovative and use every lever you can to gain an advantage.
- Embrace the maker community and all it represents.
- It is amazing how fast things are evolving.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.