Skip to content

Business as Usual: Andy Fraley

Business as Usual

On Business as Usual, we have Andy Fraley, one of Pittsburgh's most prolific tech entrepreneurs, advisors and investors, joining us for what promises to be a dynamic conversation about his journey and insights for those building tech ventures in the region.

Andy's tech chops go back to leading software development at FORE Systems, leading engineering at the Resumator (now JazzHR), cofounding CoManage and serving  as CTO at SnapRetail. 

Ask Andy questions about building your startup, reminisce a little and get a dose of good vibes while you're at it!



Good afternoon, everyone. This is Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh tech Council. And I am thrilled on the sunny day in January, it's pretty warm in 2021, to have a chance to do a dive with someone who, as Jonathan says, is a real legend in our tech community, and everyone does know that. So just sit back, have your lunch, and join us because we're gonna have some fun with Andy Fraley entrepreneur. But actually more things than that, so that that little tagline doesn't necessarily capture who Andy is and what he's been up to. So we'll have a chance for you to ask questions, and we'll have a chance to mute you. How about that to make sure that we're not hearing any noises in the background. And I also want to remind everyone that the chat is used for questions for our guests, not to sell your wares and to promote your own businesses. That's not what today is about. So just sit back, relax, enjoy, because I think you're really in for a treat. So I want to thank Huntington bank for the work that they've done in supporting us along this journey. I think we're on like our 190. I don't know, Jonathan, what how many shows have we done so far? It's been our commitment since the pandemic, how many

like 194 ish five is we're getting close to 200.

It's a party on the 200. We have one, but that's gonna be. But needless to say, Jonathan kersting is with us, as always, and he's the Vice President of all things, media and marketing, and storytelling, and making sure that we are telling stories and sharing what's happening here in our region. And as I like to say, against all odds, but we are still Pittsburgh, and we're strong, and I'm looking forward to an amazing 2021. So, Andy, I'm welcoming Andy Fraley, we have a Tat, we have a comma that says entrepreneur, but I think you're a lot of things. And you've been a lot of things. And I don't think entrepreneur captures sort of everything. But first of all, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today. And hope that this finds you safe and sound given all that's happened over this last year. And it's so great to just see your face and to have a chance to just to talk just to talk about your observations, what you're up to what your journey has been, and all those fun stuff. So how are you doing this year? And they

are doing really well? Thank you for having me.


You know, like everybody else. I'm dealing with situations that everybody's dealing with right about now. Right? I know, you've been talking to my co manage co founder, Dave, and we're talking about some of the stuff that we've been up to in the pandemic, which basically riding bikes together distance. And he's gonna write an article that's going to talk all about the new tech that allows for those types of things to happen, but I'm doing well. I'm taking the same measures a lot of people are taking, but doing well. Thank you for asking.

Awesome, that's great. So let's just start and like I like to say set the table who is Andy, who is an frailey.

I'll give the tech perspective of Andy, you're asking a complex question. I didn't like the name legend that you used earlier. I'm just a guy who likes tech. And I've had some great times and some bad times just like everybody else in their life. I grew up with computers. I have say that we call this the computer. I'm in my office right now. That's one of the computers back there on the wall that

is that.

That was a Commodore PET, I would have to guess it's like 77 or something like that. Oh, my

you know, after that you had the Commodore 64 and the Vic and all that kind of thing. Those are after that one. Before that before they even had heathkit This goes back into the mid 70s that on the wall? I don't know if you can see it. There. Yeah, it's a single board computer called the Kim one to the first 6502 based eight bit computer, one K of memory. You know, I laugh when people tell me that they got to get a new computer because they only got a couple gig of memory. So yeah, I learned to program first on a 6502 there was no basic actually I was in a computer club with Bill Gates. And he was writing basic that eventually ran on that Kim one over there.

So what ran on that what what sort what were the applications?



Yeah, well, I don't even see it down. Right. In fact, if you let me share screen, I can show you a close up of it.

Right? That would be great.

Let me see if I can pull off this tech here and excuse any sharing issues I run into here, see if I can find my photos.

So were you in Were you writing in like,

assembly? 65 or two machine language? machine learning? Okay, super. Excuse me

while you do this, were you Where were you born? Where's your home?

I was actually, uh, you know, boulerice. I was born in Ohio. I was born in Columbus. And I actually grew up very early on. My dad was right Pat working on lasers. And he ended up working for Bell Labs on lasers, the first trends, they call it, the Transat projects, the lasers that they strung underneath the ocean, to interconnect all the continents. So he was on those projects. He was a laser guy. But he brought home this computer. I don't know if you guys can see this. Yes, we can look at one. So like, You are asking me, how do you program this thing, it looks like a little calculator keyboard down here. And those are hex digits, you literally start typing code. So you have a little code book, like a nine is load a and you know, a zero is load x, you know, I remember all these old, that's all 6502 stuff. So you type in the stuff. And then you hit plus, and you enter the next thing, you hit plus, and then you hit go and go goes to addresses zero on the computer, you've just typed a whole bunch of stuff in. And when you hit go, it starts running from zero, initially, and what you can do is you can take over the segments, and we used to write games that would like we do asteroids, where stuff would be flying at you down in the little LED segments here, where kids were just learning to program. And so we'd write simple games on this thing. Now the games that you could write on the pet, the thing that was behind me, that's a little bit easier. Because it's got a screen and it's more traditional. But yeah, that that Kim, one thing had no permanent storage until we added cassette storage to it later where you could save out your programs with cassette and we load it and that kind of stuff. So it was nothing like today. You know, today, I don't you know, you can pull up something like you know, a phone. And it's a million times more powerful than that, that Kim, one that we were looking at there a second ago. So things have changed quite a bit since 70.

So where did you go to school? Or where did you go to college?

So I went to college at MIT in Boston, okay, and I'm a computer science major out of MIT. But I also got pretty deep into the digital hardware design side of things. And when I went to HP Hewlett Packard out California, I was doing a combination of hardware and software. I was working on networking equipment. So we built the first starlin one hub, which is the twisted pair you probably got plugged into your machine right now. We couldn't get it to run faster than one megabit per second back in the day because it would turn into a radio antenna or a radio broadcast system. And so I was working on one megabit Ethernet and then 10 megabit Ethernet. HP was one of the first we were competing with company called synoptics. And competing at 10 megabit who can get 10 megabit to run over twisted pair without turning in a radio station first. Basically, we've tried going faster and faster. And we were at 100. And before we could go beyond 100, I bumped into some guys, some professors that were out of Carnegie Mellon at a trade show, networking, trade show, net computer networking, not like networking, the computer networking trade show, and they were talking about this ATM stuff. And I knew where we were at from an Ethernet perspective. And it was going to be hard to take the next step. And they were already running at 622 megabits, which is faster than 100 megabits. I'm like, Huh. And it integrated telephony and computer networking was a new technology. And so I always wanted to come back east. I was living in California for almost a decade. And we just had our first son 1993 and went to be a little close. My parents are closer to Philadelphia. So we moved. The four professors hired me that was four systems. There's 1993. I see some four people on this line right now. And there are others bloomers on but I see I'm sure there are others. So yeah, I moved and I worked with four professors. I can't believe that at age I had to be, I don't know, 27. At the time, I was considered the adults in the room. Because I had gone through what he calls the lobotomy, which is they send you off for one week. And they teach you management training. And then when you come back, your engineers look at you and say, What happened to you? It's called the lobotomy. You know, it's Dilbert kind of stuff. And it's somewhat true, because HP forced you to lay down your, you know, your design tools, and you're no longer coding because it just became a pure manager. So he took kind of an old fashioned approach to things. But I joined the the four professors that was Francoise own at Robert and Eric for us. already. And there's already a software team, Todd, who's on the line was already at four systems when I joined. And but it was a small team where we grew the team. And you know, we probably had about 200. If you include we had operations that were in DC and California, so we had a lot of software developers, even though you think of it as hardware company, there were probably about four times as many software engineers as hardware engineers, just because all the stuff that happening on these switches all makes products pretty complex. So Oh,

wait a second before we delve into this iterative journey here. Something about Bill Gates, what? What's your relation? there?

You mean? So my brother went to CMU. You know, I went to MIT just a little bit sibling rivalry there. But he went to Microsoft right out of CMU. And he, you know, it's one of those weird things, he ended up being the third programmer on a very small project, which was called Visual Basic. And then he went on to become the architect of Visual Basic, all the way up to VB seven dotnet, because I was first dotnet version of Visual Basic, and then he left. So my brother and I, like I said, we just had lucky points here and there in our careers. That was the only one he needed. But I I have a lot of respect for Bill Gates. I like what the Gates Foundation has been up to. As I mentioned, I mean, he was, I think he's probably about 10 years older than my brother, so seven years older than me, Bill Gates, that is, but he was a programmer working on that camera one, I literally, I kid you not, I had a pile of paper about two inches thick. It was like the fanfold stuff that you printed on that matrix printer. That's what they sold, Bill Gates sold me that $200 for two inches of paper, you know what the two inches of paper was? It was the 6502 code that you type in on that keyboard. Though, clearly, you're not doing this until you could have permanent stories. So my father who's a he's much more into the hardware engineering side of things built the cassette recorder and DD converter, and all this kind of stuff to save out on the cassette tape, and load back. So after we had that, we took guilt Bill Gates program, my father, my brother, MD, sat around this thing for a couple of weekends, and typed it all in. And that was basic that ran on a Chem one.


Bill Gates got started pretty darn early. I think we were in a coding contest together. Well, Bill Gates was in the group that we were competing against. And my brother and I won this little contest, like how much can you possibly do in one line of code? So you know, you got single letter variables, and it's very terse, you only have 256 bytes and one line of basic back in the day. But so now those are, those are old days.

So what about so so then you're at four systems, right? So there you are sort of early on and four system has an exit? Right? Where were you? Like, where were you back to the journey?

I had pre accident, I guess you could say four systems? Well, no, that's not true. I mean, four systems went public in 1994. But then was bought again in 1999. I left in 1998. July 4 1998, and co founder co manage with Dave Nelson. And just like I was at HP, I was working on hardware and software is working on something called HP OpenView, which was where it became a $4 billion business. The earlier developers and the HP OpenView team and my team developed HP OpenView products. So I had a network management background at four I started working on network management stuff, but then also managed other aspects of software across four. But after I left for I kind of went back into my, my, my playground of network management, we bought a company around network management called co manage, and we built at the time, all of the telecom operators had gone through the telecom D reg act of 1996. So you got people selling DSL everywhere. COVID northpointe rhythms. We basically built the shovels and the blue jeans to sell to the miners. So we sold software that allowed them to run their networks, they could buy their equipment, buy our software, put a small team together and boom offer service. That's what we built. And we sold that in 2005. I stayed around for a while but left after it got bought by a public company, right sold to a Canadian company called send us us and they got bought by a public company out of India called Sue backs. And I left after that and you interviewed Me, started my next job. That was 2010. You and I talked a decade ago, Audrey. Oh,

my gosh, that's crazy. So So then what? So now keep going because they're still in unravel,

networking, computer networking went through something they called the Ice Age. It happened starting at when the power towers fell telecom had melted down about six months after crash in October of 2000. telecom crashed, and it never really recovered until 2005. And the recovery was call it limp. You know, it was never the business it was, it was the heyday, SAS was becoming the new thing. So I joined a sass company. I joined snap retail, they had already built a first product. And we went from there to build on that and expand it. And so I was at snap retail with Ted teal and team for about three years. And I left at the end of 2012 to retire. And then A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum I mentioned in a early discussion that, you know, Dave, moe Winnie had approached me about snap retail because he was friends. It's a small town. That's what that's what I'm making everyone

who Dave is now. So some people might not know.

Dave, at the time, was a CEO at a company called m spoke, how many books sold to LinkedIn. Right. And they were working on some pretty wild stuff that would do feed management and would do parsing of English text and feed you the news that you like, you know, looking back on that maybe that wasn't such a good idea. But that's what they were building. And that got bought by LinkedIn. Dave was the CEO at the time. And he had left and then had joined CMU and managed his entrepreneurship program at CMU, Sean emeraude. He works closely with him, Sean Mr. Adi took over as CEO of M spoke, but then joined birch mirror ventures as a VC. And it was Shawn approached me after I quote unquote, retired in 2012. And told me about the resonator and Don Charlton. And they had built a product and they were working to scale up their engineering team. So there's a pattern here. When I joined four systems, they had a real small engineering team. And I came in and with what little about a management training I had from HP helped grow the team. And similarly at both, snap retail and co manage it was starting with a small team and then growing that team building and scaling out the product, as well as all the processes and things that go along with it. And, you know, I think anybody on the call probably knows software development in the 1980s and 1990s compared to what software development looks like right now. It's it's night and day the processes are you know, you hear waterfall, I was pre waterfall, and now everything is agile and beyond. So not only have the computers changed incredibly so has the way we think about and deliver software.

Well, so there you weren't resume to rich, everyone might need to be reminded is called Jaz HR right now. Yes,


And so you stayed there until

2015. Right. This time, I really meant to retire. And I hate to use that word retire.

I know what is that? It doesn't seem like you use that word correctly.

No, no, i i i don't i when i quote unquote, retired, I spent a couple years building a house for my son, and my one son, and then I've been involved in all sorts of different stuff, including there's a place called Bethany house in North view heights. And I helped build out a computer lab there. And we're setting up programs at Bethany house that's evolved quite a lot. And it's going through a new ground up right now.

What is Bethany house?

Well, it's a it's kind of a go to location for kids in North view heights. And it provides after school programs, mentoring, and the thing I was focusing on was really the tech, you know, just exposing them. Kind of like you know, I had access to that computer when I was eight to nine years old. Actually, not that one that Kim was when I was eight or nine years old, just getting the kids exposed. So we had about a dozen IMAX in this lab that we had built out and we were just letting the kids play and seeing you know, and if some of them would respond, we'd go deeper. And like oh, here's how some of this works. Like this is JavaScript. This is HTML, that kind of stuff. So I was working on that more recently. The last three years from 2018. Till now I've been working with an organization called Mr. Living Water. And I know you said that you're not allowed to sell in the EU are not strict, and I sell

a one.

Alright, I am Audrey's permission I can sell. Let me let me let me give you a quote unquote, the elevator pitch. We basically, there's an estimate out there that there's about $20 billion worth of water projects to be completed to get everybody in the planet clean water. So when you look at 20 billion, and the fact that in the United States, we spend about 400 billion on Christmas presents every year or holiday gifts every year, that kind of paints out a picture of what it would take. You know, there's many individuals on the planet that could write one check that would be done with it. But we collect water to, or money to do water projects. And we have partners to get us anywhere around the world. So we're in Peru, we're in Haiti, we're in India, we're in South Sudan, we're all over. And that's through a partner network. So we don't actually drill the wells. But we work with partner companies that basically have drillers in country and all these different countries, okay. And what we found out was about two years ago, we had a very specific village that we featured that needed water, they had to walk five miles, you get pictures and everything, we had one person walk up and said, I will solve that problem. And then we showed another picture. Because we had all these projects that we were trying to get funded. And another person said, I will solve that one. And we've evolved into how we handle things. And now what we do is basically, we sell wells, and so it starts at 1500 bucks, it's hard to believe but in depending on where you are in the world, betting on density 115 $100 well can serve about 15 to 1600 people. So I mean, the impact that you can have for 1500 bucks, we don't have to think about it, you know, you get the latest version of this, you can be spending 1500 bucks, or you can like help 1600 people, of which you know, you're getting half a percent to 1% of their population dying from diseases related to so probably don't have to sell too much. But I will say anybody on this feed, please go to ingomar i n g. Put it on. Thank you very much. sangomar living warning org. And I mean, if anybody is compelled, we we have shifted our model, so we don't just collect money and do general fundraise. We're project by project. And if you are a group of people at a company at a church, we'd love to Thunder Well, I'd love to hear from you.


1000 bucks, 4500 bucks, 6000 bucks, 12,000 bucks. We can we we hit them all? It depends. The price depends on the complexity usually of accessing water sometimes.

Anyone? Let me do one thing. Would anyone be interested out there to commit to this today? If so, look at this kit Mueller. who's who's? Who's with me? So if anyone else look Jeremiah Lancaster in. Okay, so anyone else, just keep putting that feed out there. The guy and being allowed to sell on the show for an amazing, amazing intent. And look, Brian Kennedy, he's in Jonathan cursing. He's in Greg camp. He's in all right. We're gonna keep this as I begin to ask some more questions. Thank you for leadership on that. So what do you think for Pittsburgh, Andy? Andy, I want you to be a little bit of a commentator, a tech geek, Guru commentator.

I mean, I love that, sir. It's my home. Okay, so transplant. But what I love about Pittsburgh is we have all of the resources of a Boston with MIT where I came from, or Northern California with Stanford and we have all of that. I'm just going to share my screen here earlier. I don't know if I can still no, you got me blocked. But you know, one of the stories I think Dave, my co founder of CO Matt is going to share an upcoming t Q is we're out mountain bike riding. And we're one minute drive away from the heart of the city. And you're like in the middle of nowhere in these woods that you wouldn't think there was a city within 50 miles. Or you pop out around the edge of this curve. And you're looking at the point and it's stunning, right? We have all that we have amazing tech people I kind of joked with my brother about CMU earlier and I'm from MIT and all that but I mean CMU is a pretty kick butt Tech University. And you know, a lot of the tech that's happening now robotics automation. learning stuff. Look at CMU position all I look at Google Pittsburgh and why they are here. We have something very, very special. And in all this, you can drive downtown and see the pens and 15 minute drive. I used to have to drive two hours to get into the heart of the bay to watch the sharks. So you remain bullish,

you remain bullish.

I love Pittsburgh, I will always be bullish I, I think we should try to be who we are and not who we aren't. You know, we look at Boston and Austin and the bay and we say, Oh, we want to be like them. I think that's a mistake. I think we should accentuate what we are like look at I was amazed this whole thing with Dave Nelson, he's gonna write an article on upcoming T. I back to this whole How am I doing the pandemic and everything. I play soccer, I play tennis, I made a decision at the beginning of the year, I should say, you know, March that Well, I'm not going to do those things anymore. And but I I had a bike I bought in 1990. It was a mountain bike. I had a kid and shortly after that, and I tried my I didn't write it very much. And honestly, back then, maybe a dozen rides, and I put it in my basement, set my basement until 2000 over 2020 right. So I pulled my bike out. It's a Gary Fisher who cuckoo for those who are into bikes, it's Gary Fisher got bumped by Trek. I could even put a picture of it up. But so I you know, I got this bike and pulled it out of my basement. There's my bike, look at the shocks on that thing. You know, the rear shocks and the front shocks. There are no shocks in 1990. And I take this thing out in the woods. And I said this is amazing. I went to North Park. I didn't know at the time, but there's 65 miles of trails in North Park. I called Dave, my old buddy and I said Dave, you know, what are you doing for exercise during the pandemic? Would you be interested in joining me on a bike ride? And we planned out how we could do this with tech. You know, like, I have earbuds in my ears he is in his I say Hey Google call Dave Nelson. We have a map you can see there's a mount right in my handlebars where I put my phone and we're running a map and a GPS base. So it tells me you know, turn right turn left in the trails, you know, you're deep in these trails, far away from anything. It took us eight sessions to ride all the trails in North Park, there's you know, 65 miles of trails. And then when we finished my Park it's like is there anything else like this around and then we go to settlers cabin and we go to I mean babbington we got a we're all over the place. We have not finished Allegheny County in a year. So it's amazing what the resources that we've got. That's just one example. You know, I'm out there on my bike, you know, here we are at the point. You know, that's a classic, you know, but on mountain bikes, you don't want to be riding flat trails around the point. That's settlers cabin there. That's called table rocket settlers. Kevin, that's Dave. Oh, there's Dave. And this is you're literally riding up Mount Washington on this trail, it pops out. There's a part where this is massive Cliff above you and about a three foot path. And if you lean to the downward side of a three foot flat for about a 20 foot rod, you're dead. We didn't like that. I was a chicken I walked across that part. But we love all the other trails. And you see the view here. I mean, I am clearly you know what the rest of you looks like. It's beautiful. And that's unique. That's Pittsburgh. So I would ask the question back to you, you know, what are the other things that are unique to Pittsburgh? play those up? Don't try to be the other guys. Yeah, we have something better?

Well, that's actually what we believe in at the tech Council. We don't believe in saying that, you know, we're going to be Silicon Valley cetera. And Jonathan, who is as you know, a expert, maniacal cyclist of all kinds. We have always said that the secret sauce is that round. You know what, what you just conveyed in terms of our amenities and the differentiators? Yes, well, we hope to continue to talk about this. I am so glad where do we follow up to for these donations though? I need to know that Should I just take their names and then

yeah, if you get a contract, oh, we'll take care of it. Okay, I gotta say, I mean I'm close to tears here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you guys are all doing. I mean, that is amazing. We'll see if we can get you a well or two or whatever you guys.

It looks like we already have at least a well man we're doing well funded so far if we will make sure you also are an angel investor. I know that you are a mentor. Compete Reach out to you, just directly.

I mean, I'm happy to answer informal questions, spend an hour on the phone here and there with people that have any questions I don't. You know, I don't consider myself a full time investor entrepreneur anymore except to say that we are building infrastructure, adding them, I want more living waters to connect donors with their wells and all the communication stuff. So I, again, I still get to work on software isn't that great. But I'm happy to I'm happy to have a call with anybody who has questions, and I only share what I can share. I've gotten lucky at different points in my career. And I've made plenty of mistakes, I can tell a lot of people what not to do, which is great. That's, though, I'm happy to share those things. Sure, you can reach out to me directly, I'm happy to talk to people.

Okay, so we're gonna follow up on the donations today. I'm glad we got a chance to hear about that. I'm glad we had a chance to hear about a little bit about your own personal journey. And I'm glad to tell you the truth that you're here and that you're making Pittsburgh even better. So, you know, look what Brian said, Who knew we would dig a well on today's show, right? And important, so we're gonna follow up with you, Andy, we also have a story, I believe, Jonathan, that's going to be coming up. And q we should probably do some more stuff around cycling, and the outdoors. So we're going to take that as it's do. And, Andy, I'm glad you're staying safe. I'm glad you're staying connected and loved hearing. I love hearing just the beginnings of all of your work. And and we're you know, to us, you're you're better than Bill Gates. So really, really appreciate that story as well. So I want to thank everyone. I want to thank Andy for joining us. He's the bomb. And we will follow up on the contributions to the organization. And what else is going on Jonathan? I know Monday is we have

Superintendent roundtable we got six superintendents from across school districts here to talk about equity in education should be a really good conversation and we're taking tomorrow off to gear up from Monday so it should be really

good show. We have and we have the Jeep pie next week. The FCC, he is bookending his career with us because he started his first opening speech and presence was in Pittsburgh. He has a lot of love for Pittsburgh. He himself is a Midwest guy, and his wife is from Youngstown. And he is going to bookend his career with us next week. So it's always so want to thank everyone. Thank Andy for being so terrific. time with us and we will see everyone on Monday. Andy, thank you so much.

Transcribed by