Tech company thrives on neighborly culture and hometown values.
As you drive down Holmes Road north of 135th street, it’s hard to miss the Fishtech campus where some of the most advanced technologies and specialized expertise are quietly protecting companies and public institutions across the country. Modern architecture with a sleek, sculptural appeal introduces a distinct elegance to the Martin City landscape. As Fishtech expands its footprint and portfolio, the people who power the company are settling into their community in ways a good neighbor can appreciate.
Growing Up in Martin City
What exactly does Fishtech do? Well, in a word: cybersecurity — very high-tech cybersecurity designed for the cloud era. Once considered a luxury, digital defense is becoming as essential to doing business as balance sheets and benefits. Founder Gary Fish saw it coming long ago, and now medium-size businesses all the way up to corporate giants count on his team to protect their operations.
Fishtech started in a little warehouse on the west side of Holmes Road. A staff of two dozen soon found themselves crowded around a conference table, working elbow-to-elbow, waiting anxiously for the construction of new headquarters on the other side of the street. That little warehouse is still there today and has been renovated for use as Fishtech’s laboratory annex.
The move into Fishtech headquarters in 2016 was a celebration of design, sustainable materials, employee amenities, and cutting-edge technical capabilities. The building’s features might make even the most privileged Silicon Valley workers a little jealous — open areas for collaboration, quiet spaces for solo work, indoor and outdoor dining areas, specialized windows that double as whiteboards, video screens galore, a stage with sound and lights suitable for concerts, a nap pod, the list goes on and on. It’s no surprise that Fishtech was awarded the title of Coolest Office Space by the Kansas City Business Journal despite serious competition.
2019 marks the introduction of CYDERES on the Fishtech campus.
CYDERES is the Security-as-a-Service division of Fishtech Group. It’s housed in the Cyber Defense Center (CDC) where experts help organizations take charge of a spectrum of security issues in real time. Through CYDERES, Fishtech manages and protects the digital networks that businesses and government groups depend on.
The CDC itself is about as secure as one can imagine with protections like facial recognition access and sensitive areas locked within gunmetal walls. The building’s iconic profile wrapped in cool shaded glass makes a high-tech artistic statement just to the north of Fishtech headquarters and features a massive outdoor deck that can easily host a party for hundreds. The CDC has a big backyard too that will soon include a walking trail and a replica of the famous Augusta golf hole number 12.
The original Fishtech team of roughly 25 people has grown to more than 70 in Martin City and is expected to soar into the hundreds as awareness of the company’s vision and ambition attracts developers, coders, project managers, marketers and administrative experts from all over. Satellite facilities in other parts of the country are expanding Fishtech’s presence from coast to coast as the company solidifies itself as a preferred security brand.
Big Success with Small Town Roots
Transcending the innovative operations, enlightened work environments and digital magic is founder Gary Fish, a man who inspires his team with his allegiance to the values that shaped him while growing up. Fishtech Vendor Management Director Laura Potter worked alongside Gary Fish even before Fishtech as the renowned entrepreneur built other companies.
“Gary is a small town guy at heart. He’s the kind of guy you want as a neighbor. I think that’s why many of us feel so loyal to him. He’s very grounded in what really matters.”
Fish wasn’t born into the big money or privilege that typically provide a springboard into the kind of success he now enjoys. He grew up in Barry, Illinois, a town just small enough to keep most relationships personal as people pulled together in the classic spirit of a rural community. Fish remembered Barry in a recent company video.
“It was great growing up in that town. It was a small midwest farm town. People there, like my parents, worked hard.”
Service in the Army National Guard also shaped Fish’s character and he became a top student at Devry University, where he began focusing entrepreneurial thoughts into the formation of FishNet Security and Firemon. Both companies took off and afforded him tremendous flexibility to do more with his success. Fish had used his businesses to help grow Kansas City’s Crossroads District. Laura Potter says he then imagined similar potential in Martin City, a neighborhood near his home and close to his heart.
“He actually retired for some time, a little over a year I think. But then he had the idea that became Fishtech and decided that he wanted to do more with it. He wanted to build a legacy. I think Martin City gave him the space and the opportunity to do that. He wanted to help the community grow but didn’t want to make Martin City into something it’s not. He just thought he could leave his mark here and contribute meaningfully as a good neighbor.”
Fish was quick to show his support for Martin City one person at a time. Soon after Fishtech was born, he rallied employees around a family in need in Martin City and showered them with gift donations at Christmas.
Perhaps most telling, Fish hosted his own high school reunion in Martin City. Potter says that gesture said it all.
“He was so proud of Martin City and wanted the area to benefit from the event. He actually flew all of his classmates in. That was probably 30 people. He put them up at a local hotel and treated them to what Martin City had to offer. I mean that high school reunion is just a testament to the kind of person he is and made an impression on all of us.”
That impression helped convince Gary Fish’s staff that he was after something more meaningful than profit. It inspired them to follow his lead and give back to the community that plays a role in Fishtech’s success.
A Culture of Community Connection
Fishtech employees have a particular interest in schools. Once or twice a month, you’ll find them reaching out to kids from kindergarten to college with hands-on tours of Fishtech or speaking engagements in classrooms aimed at opening young eyes to new possibilities. Office Manager Kristy Meyers says employees want young people to know that when it comes to tech, the sky’s the limit.
“We’re very involved with schools. We want kids to get excited about technology and help define the future. Who knows what could happen if we inspire them at a young age. It could lead to lifelong passions and rewarding career paths.”
Potter says schools look to Fishtech to help guide curriculums because technology is ever-changing and drawing more interest among both boys and girls.
“I’m involved with the Women in Security organization and we host events here a few times a year and get Girl Scouts of America involved so that young women know about technology opportunities available to them.”
Fishtech is still very much a startup culture. When it comes to charitable efforts, there’s no formal community liaison or point-person in charge of an official company charity. Fishtech folks just jump in where they can to help make a difference. It can start with a simple phone call to a local school asking about what kids need. That’s how Fishtech’s supplies drive benefiting Martin City Elementary School began. Employees have delivered blue jeans, backpacks, shoes and more than 60 coats to the school.
Fishtech has opened its doors to Wayside Waifs and United Way fundraising events. When a need arises at organizations such as Ozanam or Habitat Restore Fishtech is quick to alert employees to the opportunity or even create their own. Last year they put their heads together with the KC Culinary Center and turned a holiday party into a casserole-making event that sent dozens of warm dishes to the City Union Mission.
Promoting Martin City businesses is a priority for Fishtech and employees are directly invested in the community. Laura Potter serves on the Martin City Community Improvement District Board of Directors, Kristy Meyers is a South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce board member, and Fishtech senior accountant and Martin City native Chris Corless is involved in the Martin City Business and Community Association. Potter says through these positions, Fishtech joins other local business leaders in guiding the healthy growth of the community.
“The variety of perspectives is great and working together is so rewarding. We bring a technology view that goes well with retail, restaurants and other businesses that are already long established.”
Fishtech’s biggest impact on the local business community may be through directly driving customers. It’s not uncommon for a crowd of Fishtech employees to pop into Jess and Jim’s, Margarita’s South, Jack Stack Barbecue, Martin City Coffee, and other local restaurants. Meyers says seeing the people who work there is almost as good as the food itself.
“It’s a small town feel. I love that because I’m a small town girl. I like seeing my neighbors and catching up with them.”
Potter says you can bet that when Fishtech vendors and customers are in town, they’re dining in Martin City.
“Gary always says ‘keep it local.’ But honestly, why would we go anywhere else? I’m meeting with vendors almost every day, and sometimes in large groups. When they suggest going to some other part of the Kansas City area, I always steer them to Martin City. It’s happy hours, lunches, dinners. We have it all right here in Martin City.”
Having it all includes the kind of relationships that harken back to that small town culture where Gary Fish was raised. Here in Martin City, there’s something even more special than a community on the rise with growing businesses, beautification projects and rich, hometown traditions. There’s the simple joy of just being surrounded by good people. Meyers says if that doesn’t interest you, you may not be a good fit for Fishtech.
“We draw employees who want to be in a neighborhood environment. We like knowing the people we see around town and knowing they have our back just like we have theirs.”
Potter agrees. She says the professional work that goes on inside Fishtech and the personal relationships in the community offer a healthy balance.
“It’s really just as simple as the good feeling that comes with having good neighbors. It’s like borrowing a cup of sugar next door. That’s how easily we relate.”
Communications Manager Jennie Hanna says Fishtech employees feel like they’re a part of more than a company.
“Whether it’s getting together as a group to go to events like the Martin City St. Patrick’s Parade or the Whiskey Run 5K in Martin City or just delivering cookies to neighbors during the holidays, we love joining the local fun. Our campus may look a little different on the landscape, but as people, we’re right at home in Martin City.”
The Fishtech team has made a tremendous impact on the cybersecurity landscape. However, they seem just as proud of the way they’ve settled into Martin City and earned a place in the community. It wasn’t by design, but as Laura Potter emphasizes, it’s a predictable result of the right people coming together for the right reasons.
“Gary has said that no CEO can build a culture, no matter how successful the company is otherwise. The culture builds itself. But if you set a good example, people will follow. That’s what’s happening at Fishtech. We’ve seen his passion for taking care of people and helping a community become all it can be, and we’re following that lead in Martin City.”
To learn more about Fishtech and Cyderes, please visit their website.