“Win or fail, at least I took the risk."

My favorite quote is: "Do or do not. There is no try." – Yoda My favorite city is: San Francisco

Colby Harvey

Giving the aviation industry a much-needed boost

TACKLING A PROBLEM WITH GLOBAL CONSEQUENCES. Colby Harvey's startup may have humble beginnings, but its potential impact is monumental. He founded his company Rizse while at university, self-funded in its early stages while studying for his computer science and aviation degree. Now, Rizse is reshaping an aviation industry that is currently heading toward a potentially devastating problem.

With Rizse, Colby and his co-founders have developed autonomous drone technology to streamline aircraft inspections. Where current methods involve approximately four technicians working in shifts over several days costing roughly half a million dollars, Rizse's technology achieves the same result in less than an hour and at a fraction of the cost.

Although the technology is innovative and readily available on the market, Colby explains it has yet to be applied specifically to the aviation industry because "the aviation industry can be pretty difficult to work with. There are a lot of regulations, and it's a much older environment, so it can often be hostile to innovation. That didn't scare me all that much because I saw the industry’s need to innovate looming and becoming a bigger problem. If something wasn't done, it could be detrimental to the industry and our ability to travel."

Colby came up with the concept for Rizse while working at an aircraft repair station during his engineering studies. During his time there, he gained a deep understanding of the day-to-day maintenance side of the aviation industry. "I saw a lot of glaring red flags that left a big impression on me; from safety concerns to the general running of operations. I also noticed a significant lack of suitably qualified mechanics going into the field."

TAKING A CONCEPT TO THE NEXT LEVEL. While fearless in his mission to take on an innovation-stagnant industry, Colby knew he couldn't do it alone. He co-founded Rizse with two peers at university but quickly realized building a network of influential industry experts was vital in getting Rizse off the ground. But being a queer, black man raised in a low-income family in Detroit, connections to VCs and influential people weren't worlds he had previously operated in.

"My advice for other minority entrepreneurs is to build your network. Go to different startup events, get plugged in with your local communities, and don't be scared to reach out to people. Cold call or email and tell them your story; you might be surprised how some people are very open to helping you." After impressing industry leaders with the technology at a recent event, Colby now counts a former VP of Regulatory Affairs at Southwest Airlines and a VP at Delta Airlines among his mentors.

Colby's future goal for Rizse is to gain a stronger foothold in the defense market, working with the US military on their aircraft systems' maintenance and sustainability operations. He'd like to see Rizse focus on the space industry, working on spacecraft inspections pre and post-flight and, eventually, during their mission flight. "What motivates me as a founder is the impact me and my team are having on an industry that has otherwise been forgotten. I'm proud that we're taking the risk and putting us on a path where I can look back and say I did this. I didn't just think about it; I actually did it. Win or fail, at least I took the risk."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.