(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a periodic series spotlighting entrepreneurs who are participating in the inaugural cohort of the Bunker Labs Knoxville Chapter’s “Veterans in Residence” program.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
David Watts has always felt at home in Tennessee so he is thrilled to have found a home for his family here in the Knoxville area. When he retired from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) as a Lieutenant Colonel after 20 years of service, he was in Boston, MA.
“We did not have a family or work situation pulling us to a particular spot,” he said. “We wanted to find a home and never move again but we quickly discovered we had too many choices of where to settle down. My wife was teaching a class on the base, and one of her students suggested Knoxville. We made the move about a year ago and haven’t looked back.”
Now, as he stands up his company named Security Effects Inc. (SEI), Watts is also participating in the inaugural “22 Alpha” cohort of the Bunker Labs Knoxville “Veterans in Residence” (ViR) program hosted at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. (See teknovation.biz article on the program here.)
Like many entrepreneurs starting a new venture, he says, “I started out with a list of things I did NOT want to do and found consulting to be a good interim job.” Watts launched SEI to explore how advanced and emerging technologies can improve critical infrastructure protection. With the help of some highly skilled people, he pulled together a collection of niche specialty services and is building SEI to offer independent research, development, test, and evaluation services.
“We specialize in security technologies; anything that is related to risk management and the protection of people, assets or operations is in our wheelhouse,” Watts explains. “Our aim is to help find, shape and implement innovative security solutions across the 16 sectors of national critical infrastructure.”
The company’s website lists the diversity of services offered, including: (1) consulting and advisory; (2) technical support; and (3) the previously referenced area of research, development, test and evaluation.
Much of SEI’s current focus is on drone and counter-drone technologies which Watts sees as helping develop, operate and maintain Tennessee’s infrastructure. He adds that drones can also pose a threat to infrastructure, so counter-drone technologies can be used to identify, track and mitigate those risks. Additionally, as the use of robotics and autonomous vehicles becomes more common, Watts wants SEI to contribute to the safe, secure, and responsible development of the supporting infrastructure that will be needed.
So far, Watts has bootstrapped everything. “I’m busy in ‘start-up mode’ with too many irons in the fire, but I love the work I’m getting to do,” he says. “Knoxville has a fantastic business community and Bunker Labs’ ViR program has been a tremendous help in shaping my business plans.”