As the center of technology innovation has shifted from the coasts, more often, smallish areas that were once not considered tech hubs are stealing the talent and momentum. Retail Aware, a retail-based technology company, is based in Omaha, Nebraska.
And just like many other early-stage startups across America, they are inventing new ways to bring in top talent and innovate, not just with code, but with culture.
When you talk to Co-Founder Keith Fix, it's pretty clear that leadership has a firm understanding on the type of culture you can expect when you work here. And it starts with the hiring process.
"When you grow from a small team to a bigger team like we have, you begin to start to see the seeds you planted evolve before your eyes," Fix said. "Everything we do here is very intentional. On a high level, when we talk about the type of culture we build here, it's all based on three simple core values."
First on Fix's list is finding people who take ownership. That means whether you're interacting with clients, setting your own schedule, or taking initiative - at Retail Aware, employees are made aware that they need to have a strong sense of ownership mentality. Everything moves forward, and quite quickly here, and people are sometimes asked to do many things at once.
But at the same time, leadership doesn't 'hover'. At Retail Aware, you're given the authority to try new things, handle your workload and even take as much time off as you need. In the end, providing space for employees to handle their own tasks - and trusting that they will do so - has been a great philosophy that's worked out well.
Fix also talks about innovating fearlessly. In the same vein as ownership - it's clear that if anyone has a good idea or a better way to do things, then they can 'just do it'. He stresses that the best ideas aren't always at the top, and everyone here is open to new ways to get things done.
Things move fast here, too. The company technically began in 2016, but quickly ramped up, and by June 2018, they had their first client. And then by August, they began shipping the technology to retail locations. That's a very quick turnaround.
"We run fast, but we run smart too. And when something breaks down, and we run into a roadblock, we run fast to fix that too."
Retail Aware is in a fast-growing and innovative space. The company specializes in sensor detection on store shelves - and works with the world's top brands to understand customer behavior in real time. Think of it as web analytics for store shelves. Using sensor technology, Retail Aware can report back to brands how often customers interact with their products, and what their inventory levels are like.
"We use sensors and AI to actually replicate the type of data you can get from a camera," Fix says. "We want to connect the world's shelves. We think the store of the future will take an ecosystem of different sensing technologies."
Fix says it's really impactful when he and his team get to create something innovative and groundbreaking for some of the brands his team grew up with as a kid.
All of this talk of IOT and cloud computing and machine learning means his team needs cutting edge engineers get to sink their teeth into something that is evolving in real time. It hasn't been hard to find them, Fix says, as engineers are excited about breaking rules and defining this quickly-growing space.
The Retail Aware working environment is a combination of virtual and in person. They're 'pseudo remote.' Slack and Zoom are used regularly, and there are team members all over the world.
In Omaha proper, it's a fun, laid-back place. Since the company is in downtown Omaha, the team regularly walks together to lunch or happy hours.
Additionally, Fix wanted his employees to feel appreciated, so he makes sure that everyone has the best benefits possible. And another surprising benefit: Living and working in Omaha. What was once considered a deterrent, living in Omaha is now a perk. Fix gets a lot of interest from talented professionals from all over the US who want to enjoy the booming tech scene, while living an affordable lifestyle.
"It's not hard to get people to apply in Omaha like it was years ago," Fix said. "Half the applicants we get are from out of state. People want to enjoy a good salary and a great local economy.
"Omaha has arrived - we have major flights to all the other tech hubs, and even the culture here is finally catching up. There are more tech hubs like us than I've ever seen and it's growing all the time."
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Retail Aware may also be known as or be related to RETAIL AWARE INC, Retail Aware and Retail Aware Inc.