The following are excerpts from the OR/MS Today interview with Matt Brady, Volley Solutions Founder & CEO, featured in the June 2002 issue "What's Your StORy". We cover topics from starting a business during a global pandemic, to coaching a Lego robotics team, to setting a paper airplane to record (well, maybe).
Length of INFORMS membership?
Let’s start with how you became interested in this field, and what your main career expertise is.
Using technology to help people. From the first code camp that I went to in elementary school, to work on a variety of technology projects from there. In Higher Ed, my career interests were really formed. The core concepts of the business that I founded two years ago were originally formulated at Purdue University, based on a project commissioned by the Dean of Students Office to assist the disabled student population. The crux of the solution was a decision engine tuned for Supply & Demand matching, based on various quantitative and qualitative criteria. This solution emerged as an important framework to solve myriad organizational problems at Purdue.
Tell us about your startup Volley Solutions, and the path that led to its founding.
Over the last 25 years, I have seen world-class organizations make decisions based on intuition, tradition, and the “path of least resistance”. While doing my undergraduate and graduate studies, I had the opportunity to pursue a very specific area of OR/MS that focused on leveraging decision science and behavioral economics… and the result is Volley Solutions. I have helped run and co-founded other startups that were successfully acquired, and now I am building an organization from the ground up to be the leading platform for “collaborative decision optimization”.
It looks like you started your company mid-pandemic. Did COVID-19 affect this or other aspects of your career in any way?
No. I completed the M&A sale of the company that I was running, and having had two prior successful exits within 7 years, I needed a break. I took some time off as COVID became a global phenomenon; my wife did as well. We both incorporated businesses and began pursuing our passions. Those events reinforced our sense that nothing is certain. I wanted to “bet on myself” at some point in my career, and this was the time to do it.
How do you define “analytics”?
Finding actionable insights that help... “faith” that data has tremendous value when used correctly.
Do you have any advice for analytics/data science students who are trying to decide between industry and academia careers after they graduate?
There is significant overlap even now, and that will continue as industry takes on more of the responsibility of funding education, and academia puts more emphasis on strategic and applied training (borrowing from the “bootcamp” model).
How did you discover INFORMS?
From the online content… written, video, etc. Shortly after I joined, I registered for INFORMS BA 2022 and submitted a proposal to present, which was accepted. It has been an excellent experience thus far, and I look forward to the Annual event in Indianapolis, and then welcoming everyone to Denver in 2023!
As a new member, what benefits have you found useful so far, and what others are you looking forward to utilizing?
The breadth and depth of resources are remarkable. OR/MS Today and the many specialized journals are of significant value. As an entrepreneur and educator, I think it’s critical to foster overlap and collaboration amongst for-profit, non-profit, and higher-ed. Ultimately though, INFORMS is about the people.
For anyone who may have missed it, can you summarize the talk you gave on “How an Entrepreneur & Educator Embraced Decision Science?”
Sure. My talk addressed real-world examples of leveraging decision science in startups, regional teams, and global organizations. The use cases included deciding who to hire, when a phase-gate has been achieved, and which project to resource next. I include aspects of behavioral economics to explain why it’s so common to revert to intuition (otherwise known as habits, biases, and, group-think), even when making material decisions. I provide ways of elevating decision-making in organizations… to decide using information. To decide better.
What were you like in high school and what advice would you give to your younger self?
I was interested in math and science, but also in helping people and making a difference in the world. Those interests and passions have carried through being a parent. I was able to coach my kids’ sports teams, but also niche areas that I think matter. A couple examples include leading my daughter Alexandra’s Lego robotics club in 6th grade… and I have included the core concepts of deductive reasoning and First Principles in the college curricula that I have developed. I love applying technology to inspire and improve peoples’ lives…
Tell us something that not many people know about you. Any hidden talents?
I believe that I set the world record for the longest paper airplane flight. My fifth-grade science teacher can vouch… it was like 2.5 minutes of flight time according to his stopwatch. But it wasn’t documented, and Guinness only allows for indoor measurements. I used this on my application to Google. That story, and about 15 interviews at their Mountain View HQ, led to a job offer… which I proceeded to turn down. But someday I may work there, or may try to go back to my elementary school gym and get my science teacher to help me set that record. I love that the movie “Paper Planes” was made as an inspirational story to others. We all have to believe that we are here for a purpose… something meaningful and unique.
Last question, say we end this interview and you walk outside and find a $10M winning lottery ticket. What do you do?
Give, Save, Spend. We have been teaching our kids to do that from an early age, and we have practiced that for quite some time. With the money that I would spend, I think that we would get a lake house in Indiana, so that we could gather all of our family and friends for holidays.