Meet Edward McGovern, Founder of CERA – Critical Event Response Applications.
He’s a 22-Year Career Law Enforcement Executive & Commander (Retired), Change Agent in Public Safety Sector, and Project Lead & Executive Management. He is also a Member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Mass Violence Advisory Initiative, a public safety peer response team to mass attacks.
Since responding to multiple mass shootings, including the Marjory Stoneman Douglas attack in 2018, his mission has been to drive Disruptive Innovation into Public Safety Communications. CERA Technology is bridging the gap between Communications and First Responders during Critical Events, Targeted School Violence, and Mass Casualty Incidents.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET FEATURED?
All interviews are 100% FREE OF CHARGE
Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Edward McGovern: I am the Founder and CEO of CERA Software, Inc., headquartered in the Alan B. Levan | NSU Broward Center of Innovation. We are right in the heart of Nova Southeastern University’s Campus in Davie, Florida. Before this adventure, I spent 22 years in Law Enforcement. I retired at the rank Major, and was a former SWAT/Sniper and Trainer. During my career, I responded to multiple mass shootings, including the attacks at Fort Lauderdale Airport (2017) and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (2018).
It was these two event that became the catalyst for CERA-Critical Response Applications. Our communications failures on the ground wreaked havoc in our response. During the MSD attack, communications failures,which included a complete collapse of radio comms, caused delays that cost lives. I began creating CERA to fill the void and leverage technology in our favor. That has now turned into
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Edward McGovern: The Covid pandemic taught us a lot of difficult but valuable lessons. My company was in process of lining up Police Departments and Schools as our beta clients when it hit. In a split second, school safety, police communications went right to the “back burner” and just surviving day-to-day was the sole priority. Many people folded up tents and quit. The best lessons I learned was maintaining resiliency, which meant constant pivots.
Motivational Speaker Eric Thomas best said it, “If something throws you off, find something that throws you back on.” Find advantage amidst the chaos. I learned quickly that I had the advantage of being a small start-up, I was used to running lean. I could pitch all day without leaving my house. I could create from anywhere, and run an entire business from my laptop.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Edward McGovern: Resiliency and Sustainability are number one. If you want business continuity through crisis, you have to be focused on Plan B, C, and D. Those are the redirects you have to keep momentum. Covid will not be the last crisis. It can come from any angle: technology or or infrastructure attack, natural disaster, etc. As a leader, you have to get ingenious, think outside-the-box. That includes taking hard looks from top-down. You need to self-assess and improve before you demand it of your team.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Edward McGovern: As far as technology in general, business is booming. When you look at Google Meet, eCommerce, UberEats, they’ve gone through the roof. The pandemic helped my company in an indirect way. Everyone during Covid has been immersed in technology, so penetrating the Public Safety market with tech is less alien to everyone.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Edward McGovern: Don’t get down when things get tough. I spent more than one moment, thinking this isn’t going to work, maybe I should go back to police work. Every time I did that, it set me back with work and in my mental state. It took awhile to see that every roadblock isn’t really a block, it’s a fork in the road. Getting back to the “pivot-pivot” thought process. You will never move in a straight line, but you need to keep moving forward. A good example is with our business sales pipeline theory, which was Police, Fire, Schools, Religious facilities, and private sector being last. Then suddenly the possibility emerged as a request to use CERA in pre-planned events like concerts or sporting events. This was something we had scheduled to build in the spring or summer, but we realized we could use our existing platform to manage police and fire in their command center right now, and be given free exposure to all these Public Safety Agencies. Suddenly, Private Sector went from last to up front as we started getting requests.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Edward McGovern: Technology’s pace is furious, especially as the workforce sees the increasing number of digital natives come in. Pre-Covid, there was still a resistance to using tech for eCommerce, virtual Doctors appointments and such. Covid forced everyone into the digital space, and for such a long period of time that it became habit. Even as things open up and we have the same physical access to business, I still think the landscape has forever changed. I think so many companies have seen this trend. From first-release movies on streaming apps, telehealth appointments or even how banking is moving away from brick-and-mortar in favor of online services, it’s an enormous change. Many of my neighboring offices at the Levan Center of Innovation are traditional brick and mortar businesses, like TD Bank and City Furniture. Why are they in a tech innovation center? They are staying ahead of the curve, that’s why.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Edward McGovern: My entire life is now on a screen with about 20 tabs open! Seriously, the minimum is 12 hours a day, plus weekends. Being a startup CEO means there is no such thing as real free time, unless I schedule it way in advance. Even then I need to be able to switch gears at a moment’s notice. We are in a pre-seed fundraising round right now, so there is no sending to voicemail or turning down a meeting. That’s my life now. It is a lot of stress, but mostly good stress like excitement and challenge.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Edward McGovern: Storytelling is part of every aspect, whether team motivation or selling, you need buy-in. I have an advantage because my story across the board is a compelling one. We are primarily building mission-critical software to save lives. I bring a very human element to it because I’ve stood in the aftermath of tragedies where things didn’t go right, and innocent lives were taken or destroyed. You can’ help but be empathetic. And we are very purpose-driven as a company. I require everyone to understand that saving lives is the measure of our success, before revenue. Many times I have our MSD families or those on our team who survived the attack tell their stories to the team. When it’s over, there isn’t a dry eye in the room and everyone leaves in a mission to succeed with this. I love it.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Edward McGovern: My biggest challenge right now, like many startup CEOs, is THE RACE. I’m constantly racing toward success and failure at the same time. Next month we may hit the jackpot, or go under. We need clients to get funding, and funding to get clients. There’s always only a fine line between success and failure. It’s also daunting when you are facing companies in the same space with billions of dollars. That’s where my cop-survival mode kicks in, like going through that door on an armed suspect, nothing is going to take me down, I impose my will not not let that happen. I look at the faces of MSD victims and know I can’t let them down. I have the vision of the hockey stick growth in my head, and push forward.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Edward McGovern: This list surprises me when it comes out of my mouth, because I still think of myself as a cop and not a tech CEO. The list: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, machine learning, 3D modeling and the Z-axis of mapping, mesh networks.
I can apply all of them to public safety. Getting back to digital natives of the new generation workforce, this is second nature to them. We’ve already seen it in Public Safety; all the First Responders flying drones over a scene are the gamers in the group. It clicks with them, just hand them the controls. Being at the Levan Center of Innovation has been such a blessing. I’m exposed to technology I didn’t even know existed, now set for implementation in 3-6 months.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Edward McGovern: 100% Leaders need to change. The ones that are the worst never think it’s them, and the best ones are always most self critical. A good leader has to understand that the job comes with no personal wins. Any success is because of your team, the only time you stand in the spotlight is when things go wrong. Then it’s you, no matter who on your team screwed up. You have to know that if they failed, it’s because you didn’t deliver as their leader. I am a big proponent of 360 degree evaluations, where the workers evaluate their supervisors. I tried to push it in law enforcement and would never go. Most bosses don’t want to hear criticism, or feel their people are too far below them to be critiquing THE BOSS. A leader knows how much there is to gain from hearing that intel. Number one, you give your people a voice. Number two, whether you agree with the critique or not, their perception is their reality and you better fix it if you want to keep your people. Number three (and most important), failure is where you learn. It’s where you become better. I love hearing the things I’m not doing right. I grow from it.
You also have to appreciate your team. You can’t exist without them. Give them all the credit, they earned it. Get to know them, walk the floor, bring them coffee. I used to walk around my department and send people home a little early, or work their shift on a holiday if they had kids. Totally random, just “Hey you’ve been busting your butt all week, take the last 2 hours on me.” Little things that make them feel appreciated goes such a long way.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Edward McGovern: Give me the superpower to put a Mark Cuban, a Barbara Corcoran or a Gary Vaynerchuk on my team! One of those men or women that have run this gauntlet so many times it’s a reflex. Someone I can just turn to and go “What’s next?” Going from blue-collar cop to Tech CEO, that learning curve is steep and unforgiving. I wouldn’t mind having a sidebar once in awhile to get some cheat notes.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Edward McGovern: Unicorn, go big or go home! We want to see CERA Software go from 3 to 100 to 1000 clients. We want to build so much innovative technology for Public Safety it forever changes the landscape. That’s a bold statement, but we have the vision and the roadmap to get there. Emergency Response in the next year will look like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s all happening right now at this moment in time.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Edward McGovern for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Edward McGovern or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.