10 Questions With John Machacek: Project Phoenix

Written by: John Machacek

John Machacek, Chief Innovation Officer for the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, has worked with countless startups throughout our community over the past seven years. He knows their ups, their downs, but most of all, he knows the questions to ask them. Here are John Machacek’s 10 questions for Anthony Molzahn of Project Phoenix.

1. Tell us your Project Phoenix elevator pitch?

We do three things: custom software development, technical business analysis, and managed hosting of software applications. If you need a software application created or rebuilt, then sit down with us at Project Phoenix and we’ll get started!

2. What does “business analysis” entail?

Right! We approach IT projects from the perspective that software is simply a tool to enable a business process.

We work closely with our clients to clearly define the business process that will be enabled before a single line of code is written. Instead of unnecessary features being created for our clients, we utilize process-driven development to deliver a solution that is tailored specifically to our clients’ needs.

3. I know you created a technology that is a bit technical and nerdy to describe, but why should businesses consider using this technology?

Oh, yes! Our middleware – the PxDB Core. So, there are sets of paths (APIs) that run data between the applications you use and the home where that data is stored, typically via a cloud provider like Microsoft or Amazon. Well, as the complexity of an application grows, so too does the sheer number of paths transporting your important information.

In fact, software application development can come to a total standstill when the management of these paths becomes unwieldy, which is quite common. Enter the PxDB Core, which presents a single path, and the cap on your software application development is removed – managing data flow is easy again.

4. What kind of businesses/projects are your typical clients?

When we start a project, we enter into a partnership, we meet regularly, and we go all out on behalf of our clients’ success. We’ve already delved into Learning Management software, Spatial Image Analytics platforms, IoT and Telemetry systems, Inventory Management and Point-of-Sale environments, and Multimedia Content marketplaces.

It’s like our team was made to do the really cool, complex things that some only think about but never actually do! We are having so much fun enabling our clients’ ideas! Our clients are all doing their thing and gave us the chance to come along for the ride.

5. What success have you had so far in finding your customers and/or them finding you?

It is no secret that I love people! I tend to meet people by attending events or I get connected via an acquaintance. I love listening to and learning about their stories; and wouldn’t you know it… everyone has a story worth telling. It is in that story we find the creative idea hanging about and that is when we ask, “how can I help?”

Sometimes, it’s building a beautiful software application and sometimes it’s connecting them with someone else that will help them move their idea forward… even if that someone else is another developer. Let the app live, I say!

6. I’ve basically known your startup from the beginning and know some backstory. Will you please discuss your rationale for creating the more visible product Aegisflow as part of your Project Phoenix long game?

Well, we had built this really cool middleware and wanted to show the world what we could do, so we picked AegisFlow as the first use case. AegisFlow is an online marketplace for commercial drone pilots to upload, share, stream and sell their photos and videos online. It was conceived in 2017, at the very beginning of the commercial drone industry, with the prime directive to serve as a business bridge between remote pilots and their customers.

After AegisFlow Beta was released, we started to receive queries about building custom software for others utilizing our core technology. We were just wrapping up some custom work in 2019 and ready to move forward with AegisFlow 1.0 when the whole world stopped in its tracks.

7. So, things changed then. How did that plan go and what has changed?

From then through now, we’ve had nonstop requests to enable the ideas of our clients using our middleware. I look forward to putting our team back on to AegisFlow at full speed, but it seems our customer base has asked us to move forward on our own core vision instead.

To that end, our goal was use build and use AegisFlow as the flagship example of what PxDB Core could do – objective complete. While we have not yet released version 1.0 of AegisFlow, the silver lining is we did succeed in proving that our technology works. Allons-y!

8. You’ve hired a couple of new employees from Emerging Digital Academy (EDA). Will you please share your experience with this, as it may be helpful to other companies looking to hire software development talent?

When EDA was first announced a couple of years ago in a side room at 1MillionCups Fargo, I was thrilled! I didn’t know how we were going to fit in at the time, but lo and behold, we are averaging one hire per cohort and, if I have it my way, we will hire at least one per cohort from here on out… so keep ‘em coming, EDA!

It appears that the accelerated learning format is working well for its students. EDA also enables their students and businesses to connect via public project presentations, 1-on-1 interview sessions, and a graduation ceremony for all to enjoy — our region really needed the EDA.

While the engineers we hired from EDA did not necessarily know the technology we were using, they still became contributing players within days of their initial onboarding. They are quite skilled.

9. If you could go back in time to Anthony from several years ago, what hindsight advice would you give yourself?

Put down the golf clubs and start pursuing something that you can meaningfully contribute your mind to.

Since I was about seven, I dreamed of becoming a professional golfer and I didn’t let that dream go until I was in my late 20s. Even after I had started a career in software development and even after it was clear my mind and energy would be better spent creating and enabling great ideas, I persisted.

I look back at what I learned though, on having to give up something that I put so much time into, and it actually makes me smile; I understand now I bloom where I am planted and that expecting change is a super power for creating sustainability, both for myself and for the lives of those around me.

10. What can we do as a community to help Project Phoenix succeed?

I want to hire more team members and we need to get our core technology into the hands of millions of software engineers around the world.

We need you, or someone you know, to reach out to us and share your idea. What is your problem worth solving and how can we help? Tell us your story so we can get your vision out of your head and on to paper.

Send me an email ([email protected]) or connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s build great software together!

John Machacek
About John:
John Machacek has been helping local startups with the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation since prior to his position with the GFMEDC. Before joining the team, Machacek was the VP of Finance & Operations at United Way of Cass-Clay and a business banker at U.S. Bank.
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