After over a year of settling down into a relaxed lifestyle, serial entrepreneur Gary Fish found that he missed the thrill of competition that comes with running a business.
In April, the successful Kansas City businessman launched Fishtech Labs — a managed security services company that also boasts an investment arm that targets tech firms. And rather than making money, Fish said Fishtech is more about giving back to the Kansas City community.
“My real focus this go-around is about helping others be successful,” Fish said.
Fish said part of that mission to give back is in the form of an accelerator. Unlike most accelerators that welcome applicants for a curriculum in a set time-period, Fish said that he’ll be proactively seeking out investment opportunities for Fishtech.
Another distinction from most accelerators is that Fish will only invest in mature tech firms — not startups or “troubled assets.” In July, Fishtech invested $3 million in Foresite, a managed security service provider.
For future deals, Fish said he’s eyeing larger investments in cloud-based companies that are already cashflow positive.
“I’d rather make fewer large investments than a bunch of small ones,” Fish said. “You can take an investment from an investor who knows nothing about your space or your technology or your company, or you can get someone with knowledge. I call it ‘smart money.’”
For the firm’s managed services component, Fishtech currently is building a swanky new office in Martin City, Mo. Fishtech — whose primary aim is to help customers migrate their services to the cloud — spent $10.2 million on the 20,000-square-foot space that’s set to open in the first quarter of 2017.
Housing about 40 Fishtech staffers — many of whom are former FishNet and FireMon employees — the building will feature an open layout, two patios, garage doors for vehicle access and a 10,000-square-foot event space. Staff will have access to an in-house chef, sleeping pods for naps and company bicycles. Fishtech also commissioned an art car to adorn the space and a Christie Microtile wall, which is an interactive digital display.
The headquarters project received a 14-year, 100 percent abatement worth $2 million, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.
Asked why he chose Martin City, Mo., Fish said he believes the suburban area is up-and-coming. While some have been skeptical of the location, Fish said he has a knack for noticing vibrant, blossoming communities.
“It’s more about making a difference in the community,” he said. “We’ve been really embraced by the folks there in South Kansas City. I said the same thing about putting FishNet in the Crossroads when it wasn’t cool, and I feel like we made a difference in that.”
Fish said that he hopes to build a legacy with Fishtech Labs, and that the firm will never be for sale. For now, the company is focused on brand recognition and making sales around the nation.
Fish added that with his capital and experience, he can grow partner organizations in ways that most Midwest firms cannot.
“Kansas City is very entrepreneurial. But being in the Midwest you have to be pretty exceptional in order to get noticed outside of the Midwest, or to eventually sell your company,” Fish said. “You have to build a real company, and I mean real as in cash flow positive and sustainable. … You won’t be bought just for an idea, like you may see on TV or on the west coast. There are not many ideas in Kansas City that get significant investments and you don’t see a lot of companies getting exposure. When you build a real company, you’re building it for the long haul.”
Those that work closely with Fish validate his straight-shooting approach. Barry Cooper first worked with Fish in 1999 at FishNet Security, and has taken on a position as the vice president of marketing at Fishtech.
Cooper said that the team is currently in “build mode,” which he said is an exciting phase as Fish begins implementing his vision.
“Where Gary goes, success follows and I wanted to be a part of building something new,” Cooper said. “Gary’s always been great at seeing the next thing on the horizon and understanding where the next jump needs to be made.”