Kyle Johnson, Founder & CEO of BIXY

How do you describe BIXY?

We make online ads valuable to consumers and businesses.
What is BIXY’s most important commodity or service?
Bixy is sort of like Facebook, but instead of connecting people, we connect businesses and consumers. However, we’re not at all like Facebook, or other technology giants like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo etc., with respect to their use of our personal information for advertising. They use our emails, web searches, click and social data for ad targeting. This practice is obnoxious and creepy and it still doesn’t get us to click on ads.

We believe it is wrong for web services to misuse the data we’ve entrusted to them. As Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, said recently, “When an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.” We wholeheartedly agree. Instead, we believe consumers should directly control the information collected and used for ad targeting. In other words, we turn advertising into a service for consumers and that makes advertising very effective for businesses.

What is BIXY’s most important priority?

Our most important priority right now is to grow the number of consumers and businesses using Bixy in Lawrence. Lawrence is our first beta market and a case study to demonstrate that Bixy has figured out how to “fix” online advertising. With Lawrence as a benchmark, we will be able to explain to investors how we will quickly scale Bixy across the U.S. and abroad.

What has been some of the most important aspects of your success?

We’re fiercely determined to succeed and we’ve been fortunate to attract capital from investors in Lawrence, Wichita and Kansas City. We’ve been building Bixy for several years and we won the Innovator of the Year Award in January 2012 from Pipeline, an entrepreneurial fellowship backed by the Kauffman Foundation. So, despite being known within entrepreneurial circles in Kansas City, we’ve been quietly working like crazy in Lawrence to figure out Bixy’s technology, messaging and growth strategy. Without the backing of local investors, there’s no way we could have developed the necessary components of Bixy that we believe will significantly disrupt the digital advertising world.

How many people do you employ? Serve? Interact with on a daily basis?
We have 10 employees and contractors and we’re looking to hire additional employees in Lawrence immediately across sales, marketing, product development and operations. As of the end of November, we have about 50 Lawrence businesses on board and we’re now focused on growing our consumer audience.

How do you see, you and BIXY making a positive impact on the Lawrence community?
Of course, I think Bixy will help local businesses advertise more effectively and affordably. However, my plans in Lawrence are much larger than improved advertising. I love Lawrence and I’m dedicated to maintaining our headquarters in Lawrence even though we aim to scale nationally and internationally.

I’d like to prove that Lawrence and other small and/or Midwestern communities can become hubs for high-growth technology companies. Of course, this will require effort by many people and leaders within Lawrence since all startups have needs like seed capital, founder education and a talented work force to name a few. I would really love Bixy to be viewed as a win for Lawrence.

What do you see as your personal responsibility and BIXY’s responsibility to the community?
As a startup, our future success is uncertain, but we’ll continue to work like crazy to bring our vision to life. If we succeed, we will create many high-paying technology jobs right here in Lawrence and of course, we’ll give back in ways that benefit the community. I’m passionate about both Bixy and Lawrence and I want them to succeed together.

What would you change about doing business in Lawrence?
Startup technology companies have very different needs from traditional companies and it’s difficult to understand those needs unless you’ve founded a startup. I sure didn’t know what I was getting into when I started Bixy and I learn new things every single day. So, it’s very important for startups and local community leaders to work hand-in-hand to build an environment with the capital, talent and infrastructure required to help startups sprout and thrive.

Startups have tremendous potential to create high-paying jobs and building a startup-friendly community costs a lot less than traditional economic development. I know the Lawrence Chamber and others have plans underway to cultivate a startup mentality in Lawrence. In my view, sustaining these kinds of initiatives are essential to the development of Lawrence and every other community in America.

What is the biggest challenge you feel your company faces?
Our biggest challenges: people and capital. These are the life blood of startups, and probably any company. Startups are so fragile in the beginning that these two things can easily make or break a company. We’re getting ready to begin raising our next round of capital to fund growth and product enhancements and we’re looking for smart, driven people in Lawrence right now. We’d love to get in touch with anyone interested in Bixy.

What do you foresee as being the biggest challenge for the future of BIXY? And how are you addressing or preparing for it?
With startups, every month brings a completely new challenge. Our biggest challenge will always be overcoming unforeseen roadblocks. We do our best to plan for new hurdles but since we can’t plan for everything, we do what every startup must: adapt.

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