About 10 years ago, Andrew Levi was approaching his 40th birthday when he and his wife decided to take a long wished-for trip to Australia. “I just didn’t want to be around for people painting my office black and doing the whole ‘You’re old now’ thing,” he says. “I wanted to be out of the country and doing something I would never forget.”
The founder and CEO of Blue Calypso, a Richardson-based mobile-shopper engagement and software company, had dreamed of moving to Australia after graduating from Florida State University, but he couldn’t secure a work visa.
The self-proclaimed “water person” grew up surfing and working as a lifeguard. His dad was in the Navy, so the family lived in coastal locations such as Florida, Maryland, and even Japan. But despite Levi’s love for the ocean, he had never ventured into scuba diving.
He corrected that on the birthday trip. “If I went all the way to Australia and had the opportunity to dive the Great Barrier Reef and didn’t do it, that would be just wrong,” he says. Levi took his first scuba class three weeks before the big event and 14 days later had become certified as an open-water diver.
He admits his first scuba experience was “mass produced,” with 100 other participants (mainly snorkelers). But it was enough to hook the diving rookie. “Even on what was probably the least exotic dive that I could have done in Australia, I still saw stingrays and clownfish and anemones and a shark and turtles,” he says.
Since then, Levi has been on more than 400 dives. “If you do the math, that’s 40 a year, and most people don’t get to 40 in a lifetime,” he says. Frequent destinations include the Florida Keys, Hawaii, Mexico, Belize, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, and other parts of the Caribbean. Of course, with 400 dives under his flippers, not every experience has been an exotic one. In Texas, he has gone diving in the Gulf of Mexico off of Corpus Christi, where he dove around oil rigs: “They attract a lot of life within the legs [of the platforms].”
Levi also has done dives in Texas lakes, where he says a lot of training takes place. “You don’t get the visibility, and obviously you’re not going to see sharks, but I’ve found if people really get the bug and get hooked on diving, they’ll dive anywhere,” he says. For him, that includes his family pool. Levi will sometimes suit up, put on all his gear, and take a dip in the pool when it has been a long time in between trips. He has also trained some family members and friends’ kids in his pool.
Now a “dive master,” Levi is certified to do early-level training through what’s called a “Discover Scuba” class. He can’t complete certification for trainees—that would require him to get his own instructor’s certification. “Seeing people close to me … learn how to breathe under water for the first time is really cool,” he says.
Even with more than 400 dives under his belt, Levi still has a few “bucket list” dives to complete. At the time of this interview, he was preparing to go cage-diving with great white sharks for the first time. He’d also like to dive Malaysia at some point. “There are sunken Japanese Zeros and airplanes from the wars that I think would be cool to see,” he says.
Living life in extremes comes naturally to Levi. The serial entrepreneur also has his pilot’s license and his skydiving license. He has launched and sold a number of technology companies over time and holds 11 U.S. patents. In 1993, he founded Dallas-based Aztec Systems Inc. He founded his current venture, Blue Calypso, in 2009.
“I think to achieve success in life, you have to take risks,” he says. “That’s kind of a tired statement, and you see it written a lot, but you have to live that. It has to be more than something you’re regurgitating from some self-help book.”
Indulging his love of extremes isn’t the only thing that keeps Levi diving into the depths. He also uses diving to escape, refocus, and clear his mind. “It’s the one time I can tune the rest of the world out,” he says. “It’s difficult to be distracted when you’re under the water, and you end up in a state of sensory overload when you’re down there. The moment I gear up, I’m not thinking about all the things I didn’t get done this week that I need to get done next week. Understanding the science and the biology of a completely foreign ecosystem, seeing all different types of creatures, will really move your soul.”