How Mile Two uses technological expertise to make partners smarter and more efficient
Researching, developing and implementing a new technology, especially for a company that isn’t full of tech experts, can be an expensive and challenging process. To help organizations navigate that long and winding road, Dayton’s Mile Two serves as a trusted tech partner that guides, supports and even creates for their clients. Mile Two works with partners to help them assess how and when to adopt new technology by evaluating the work they do. They’re experts in cognitive systems engineering, user experience design, software engineering and quality assurance and can build early prototypes that aim to reduce cost or improve productivity.
“At the core, we’re a human-machine teaming company,” said co-founder and president Jeff Graley. “The world keeps growing technology and people are the glue that makes that go. Often, technology is tripped up by poor design, which leads to more work for people. So we help design and develop systems that are more balanced in a human-machine teaming way so that companies and people can take advantage of the most advanced technology without accepting a lot of risk.”
In the mid-2010s, Graley was working with the Air Force Research Lab in Dayton. The organization wanted to use commercialization and entrepreneurship to bring their technology to a wider audience and to implement outside tech into their operation. They assigned Graley to visit startup communities, talk to entrepreneurs and understand how to make that happen. In 2015, after growing fond of the startup scene, Graley founded Mile Two around a simple philosophy: “We want to do cool stuff with cool people.”
“We don’t have all the answers, but we’ll jump in and try to figure it out,” Graley said. “That’s hugely valuable in the current technology space because everything just keeps increasing in complexity and there are no clear answers, just trade-offs and conflicts. We help navigate those and help people implement solutions, usually through software. Think of a horizon line — below the line is technology like a new algorithm, database or tool; above the line is the work and the people who are trying to use those tools. In the middle, the horizon line, are the interfaces and how you adapt the technology. We have designers and engineers that work above and below the line to help people be successful.”
Since Mile Two’s founding, the company has worked the State of Ohio in a variety of ways to help them reach their goals. They’ve taken advantage of the Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship Program for some cost-friendly, bright, diverse talent and have used the TechCred training program to help cut costs in earning technology-focused credentials. They now employ about 115 people, and credit Ohio with helping boost their start.
“Support from the state and organizations like JobsOhio has been fantastic,” Graley said. “Starting a new company, you’re too new or too small for a lot of programs. But people around Ohio have worked hard to make things work for us, and we really appreciate that. Getting everyone educated and trained on technology that’s moving so fast is really challenging. So a program like TechCred jumpstarts you when you’re a small company that doesn’t have the money to invest in those trainings. The State’s programs have allowed us to grow and get better at the same time.”
Mile Two’s biggest news in 2021 has been signing on for a $15 million defense contract with the AFRL. Graley said he’s excited at the way his team is growing, and credits Mile Two’s focus on customer satisfaction with the team’s ability to expand existing projects and partnerships.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to build on existing work; this new contract is with a customer we’ve worked with previously for years,” he said. “I think that’s a testament to our team and the value we bring that a customer wants to continue that relationship and seek the solutions we bring to the table. We really value being creative about things. With one of our partners, we have a prototype agreement that gives us a very collaborative relationship where they bring us ideas and we build them prototypes. The ones that are great live on and the ones that don’t pan out get put on the shelf for use on something else.”
And while growing the business is important, Graley spends a lot of his time focusing on growing Mile Two’s culture. He said building teams is his favorite part of the job, and one of the main reasons Mile Two calls Dayton home. Between putting his diverse team together and establishing a community of forward-thinking Dayton businesses, he’s excited about where the city is headed.
“Being in Dayton has been a conscious choice since early on,” he said. “I love the walkability — one of the things I love to do is one-on-ones with my team while taking a walk. I also love a challenge and building something from the ground up. We’ve been able to build a technology corridor down Third Street that goes from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to the base of the STRATACACHE Tower. Five years ago, there was nothing between them. Now, there are companies like Mile Two, Tangram Flex, JJR Solutions and Battle Sight all in that area. It’s a really cool time to be here.”