When it comes to leveraging technology to boost public safety, TJ Kennedy doesn’t just have experience in corporate C-suites; he’s been on the front lines as a first responder. He started out as a firefighter, flight paramedic and Utah state trooper, doing everything from taking down clandestine meth labs to helping with public safety planning for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Since shifting into the private sector, TJ has brought those experiences to a range of companies, including executive roles at SAIC and Raytheon before leading the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).
FirstNet grew like a start-up inside the federal government to successfully create a $100 billion public-private partnership contract that built and now operates the nationwide public safety broadband network supporting more than 25,000 police, fire, and other emergency agencies across the US. Later, he led public companies Qumu (acquired by Enghouse) and Wrap Technologies (NASDAQ: WRAP) as CEO.
Bridging the gap between the fast-moving startup world and the policy-driven world of government agencies is one of TJ’s specialties.
“Focus on working with an agency who actually has a need. Show them how your idea or prototype will help them do their jobs safer and more cost-effectively. Then iterate quickly.”
“The key is to take your solution to agencies that are small- to medium-size and get some of them to partner with you to use it,” continues TJ. “Then move really fast and you improve the solution and bring those agencies with you as they help you improve the product. Once you have a product that meets their operation needs, 85% of purchasing comes through referrals of public safety agencies.
TJ sees enormous opportunities for AI in public safety. “AI is in such an early phase. We’ve done a very good job of leveraging it in the intelligence space, but not as well in integrating it into many other areas of police, fire and emergency medical services. Those agencies are typically understaffed. What if we could leverage AI to enable the limited first responders on duty to solve more problems more quickly? That’s a win-win.”
TJ holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah.
He enjoys outdoor sports, including downhill and cross country skiing, paddle boarding, and hiking. He also holds an international sailing certificate and charters sailboats around the world.
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