Entrepreneur Spotlight: Brandon Dewitt

Dewitt on the cover of Software Executive Magazine

Dewitt on the cover of Software Executive Magazine

PEORIA -- If you missed this month's edition of Software Executive Magazine, that's Pekin native Brandon Dewitt on the cover.

As the co-founder of Utah-based MX Engineering where he serves as chief technology officer, Dewitt helps lead a fast-growing digital firm that provides online services to banks and credit unions across the country.

He doesn't know the exact number of people who take advantage of MX services through their own financial institution but estimated it at around 30 million.

MX keeps expanding in order to keep up, he said. "We're probably hiring 10 to 20 people just this week. There's been an incredible uptake in the market," said Dewitt of the company where 250 are presently employed, most of them software engineers making six-figure salaries.

"When you step back and look at it, it's pretty incredible," said Dewitt wh, a little over eight years ago, merged his Indianapolis-based personal finance company called MyJibe with Money Desktop, a startup founded by Ryan Caldwell and now MX's CEO.

The resulting MX business has flourished, an accomplishment that Dewitt feels is owed in part to his upbringing in central Illinois.

"Computing was something I got into early," said the 36-year-old Dewitt . "I owe a lot to Mr. Michael Hay who taught computer science and math at Pekin Community High School. In addition to the classes he taught, Mr. Hay--he passed away several years ago-- provided extracurricular work in computer programming," he said.

"During high school, it was computing and music, the two things that I spent almost all my time on," said the drum captain of Pekin High's marching band. "It was in marching band that I met Jake," he said, referring to Jake Hamann, founder of the Peoria Innovation Alliance. 

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Dewitt said his home life in Pekin was a little different from the norm. "The way I grew up was unique. I lived with my biological mother and father in a large foster home. There were sometimes 18 kids at one time at our place," he said, indicating that such a full house may have provided managerial talent he was able to put to use in the business world.

"With that many people in the house, how do you marshal a lot of people towards a singular goal?" he said with a smile, adding that leadership skills were also needed when it came to organizing drummers for the school's marching band.

But Dewitt has had to deal with more than business challenges in his adult life. "On my 33rd birthday, I was given a terminal diagnosis. I was told I had stage 4 cancer with tumors in my lungs, neck and head," he said, adding he was given less than a year to live.

"I went home to Pekin to meet with family and then I set off  around the world to find whatever therapy was available," said Dewitt.

Three years later, Dewitt found that therapy and has outlived the prognosis. He's still on chemotherapy five days a week but that doesn't stop him from running and working from 50 to 70 hours a week.

"I'm able to experience life and for that I'm grateful," he said."I do quite a bit of speaking these days--about launching startups and fighting cancer. Cancer is a central theme in my life," said Dewitt.

He also stays in touch with Anna Palmer, who promotes women-run startups with several companies in Boston. She's another Pekin grad and someone he's known for almost 25 years. "We both went on to build companies and found entrepreneurial success. And we both started in Pekin. I think that's cool," he said.