This year, Dexis is celebrating our 20th anniversary. In recognition, founder and CEO Mihir Desai shares his thoughts about the organization’s path ahead.
Q: It’s been two decades since you founded Dexis. How has the company evolved since its launch?
A: Dexis was formed around the time of some major global moments such as the attacks on U.S. soil that triggered (what are often referred to as) ‘the Forever Wars.’ It was also the time of the formation of Big Tech that now both perpetuates and combats global disinformation.
This new era has shaped how we operate as a company. Dexis has evolved to provide services in conflict and stabilization and focus heavily on the role of technology. In many ways, it is a no-brainer. We reflect what is all around us. That pragmatism keeps us grounded.
On a company level, our progression has no doubt included increases in staff size, client base, and assignments. But that is something nearly all firms can claim. The real evolution is how we have blended an adaptive culture with scalable systems. A firm of ten folks can more easily have an entrepreneurial culture. It takes a sense of purpose and focus for a firm of hundreds of staff to have that.
Q. How has Dexis maintained its culture and values?
A: We aggressively hold on to our deeply held values of ingenuity, integrity, and investing in people. We have found it best to hire folks whose values align with ours from the start. We also are intentional on what we will not do. We will not engage in anything that destabilizes people or communities through any means, or that violates the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We are often called a for-profit company with a non-profit soul. Doing good is what our stakeholders expect and doing well is what our shareholders expect. Our employee stock ownership program creates staff-stakeholders, which helps us maintain that virtuous balance.
Q. Where is Dexis headed in the future?
A: Dexis embraces being a social-solutions platform, and we’re always looking to shake things up by asking, “How can we do this better?” We work on pressing issues of the day, both at home and abroad. The underlying capabilities for working domestically and internationally are often similar, if approached with the same core values. From the pandemic to the global economy, we’ve seen that a one-world, unified approach is needed.
We are forever digital. Although we were formed by chance around the same time as Google and the iPhone, these icons remind us to continually innovate to scale or risk certain demise. It is hard to believe we are 20 years old. But as someone once said, “don’t be afraid of getting old, be afraid of getting boring.”
For example, we are piloting a machine learning technology that we will deploy overseas in multiple languages to gauge societal instability expressed online. It analyzes social media content to help activists and others identify spikes in problematic speech. We tested it right here in the U.S. The same constraints will apply overseas, apart from language. A modern global development firm must re-imagine itself as a social-change agent that is location-agnostic. I know many that are; we sure are.
Dexis is looking to expand into new spaces or deepen our experience where we’ve already made inroads. This includes expanding our stabilization and security assistance work overseas and growing our work with the Department of Health and Human services in the U.S. and abroad.
Mihir Desai founded and leads Dexis Consulting Group. A second-generation entrepreneur who grew up among apparel workers at his family-owned business, Mihir believes in the ability of passionate, motivated people to solve the world’s most difficult challenges.