Getting a business off the ground is hard work. Just ask anyone who’s put in long hours while wearing many hats, learned from mistakes made along the way, and constantly worried about raising capital – sometimes while still holding down a full-time job. That’s why it’s critical for entrepreneurs to have access to local professionals, companies, organizations, and other entrepreneurs willing to offer their expertise, time, money, and experiences to help them build their business
In an article posted to the Upstart NY website last summer, writer Bill Irvine shined the spotlight on several Buffalo-area tech startups worth watching – and helping. Here’s a recap of how three of these companies are doing six months later, here in the City of Good Neighbors.
First responders can benefit from a life-saving camera in a ball that gives them a 360-degree view when tossed into potentially high-risk situations, thanks to the innovators at Bounce Imaging.
Since being spotlighted in the Upstart NY article, Bounce Imaging’s CEO Francisco Aguilar has expanded his company considerably: approximately 250 camera ball units are now being used by as many as 80 police departments across the country and throughout the world.
“Our products are being used by police departments in Amherst, Cheektowaga, North Tonawanda, and Orchard Park, as well as the New York State Police, the U.S. Marshals, and SWAT teams around the country,” said Aguilar. “We’ve greatly increased our footprint not only locally, but across the U.S., and even to such countries as Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Netherlands. Sales have increased to the point that we’ve hired additional salespeople,” said Aguilar, adding that his company is also now working with the Buffalo Fire Department to fine-tune the camera-in-a-ball product, “putting it through the ringer” to improve it and make the units more versatile for other first responder groups, such as fire and rescue.
“We’re also looking at adapting this concept for use in new markets outside of law enforcement and fire and rescue, such as oil field services, facility safety, and chemical or other industrial accidents,” said Aguilar.
Bounce Imaging has received a lot of positive interest and feedback from investors, law enforcement, and others in Western New York, and Aguilar is glad he made the decision to keep his company based here, even after he met the 43North requirement of locating in Buffalo for a minimum of 12 months. The company has a manufacturing plant in Massachusetts and a sales office in Buffalo as it continues to raise capital.
Aguilar is also excited about Bounce Imaging’s new partnership with Verizon.
“Our units will utilize a 4G modem through the Verizon network that will allow first responders to communicate in real time, even if a commander is a thousand miles away,” he said. He’s also recently released a mount for K-9 use and will be rolling out software-based motion detection for all Bounce cameras. The product has also gained momentum through appearances on several television shows, such as CSI and Innovation Nation.
“For 2018, we’re looking at continuing to expand sales, of course, but also moving into new markets, developing more partnerships, and increasing our footprint around the world,” said Aguilar.
Field Nimble is a service management mobile app that helps small contractors in the heating, plumbing, carpentry, and electrical fields provide better customer service, streamline billing and payments, and be more efficient and profitable. The brainchild and main product offering of Pointman, a SaaS company based in downtown Buffalo, Field Nimble can assist with every aspect of the business, from scheduling and dispatching to on-site estimating, accounting, troubleshooting, and much more.
“Field Nimble scales very well for small to large shops of up to 50 techs, which was our goal,” said Steve Kiernan II, Pointman co-founder and CEO. “It helps contractors utilize technology to serve their customers more efficiently while putting them more on par with their larger competitors. It’s an easy-to-use native app that is simple and intuitive, works on any platform, and is supported by both Android and IOS devices.”
Since the Upstart NY article appeared, Pointman has grown to 32 employees and, according to Kiernan, will grow even more in 2018. “We want to scale up the company considerably,” he said. “Our focus for this year is on national growth, and we are looking to have sales reps all across the country. We are also working on developing multicultural versions of Field Nimble for easy use by a multitude of audiences.”
Pointman – which Kiernan refers to as “one of the largest startups in Buffalo nobody’s ever heard of” – actually has a long history of helping local small businesses grow, compete, and succeed against national competitors. Its employees understand the commitment, drive, and challenges of running a small business and the need to succeed.
“We created Field Nimble to give small contractors the same opportunities as the larger companies, yet make it affordable for them and without the features they don’t need and, therefore, don’t have to pay for.
“We knew the ‘pain points’ for companies in the home services industry in terms of utilizing automation and technology,” said Kiernan. “We created Field Nimble after accumulating years of data while working with contractors so that it makes virtually every aspect of their business run more smoothly.”
Currently, approximately 8,000 end users in roughly 600 companies across the U.S. are using Pointman products.
According to the Peeva website, one in three dogs and cats in the United States go missing every year; 80 percent are never found. Michael Hamilton, founder and CEO of Peeva, knows firsthand the sadness of having a beloved pet go missing, never to be found. He started Peeva, a universal scanner and central pet registry, after discovering that the popular microchips embedded in pets can’t be read by all pet microchip scanners, making it more difficult to locate missing pets.
To help solve this problem and increase the chances of locating lost or stolen beloved pets, Peeva has developed a universal scanner and cloud-based central registry that can read all brands of microchips--regardless of their frequency or encryption--and pull up a pet’s complete medical history simply by scanning a microchip. When their pet’s microchip is scanned, the owner is instantly notified with the exact location, address, and telephone number where the scan took place, anywhere in the world.
Since appearing in the Upstart NY article, Hamilton has hired additional employees, created more prototypes, and received certification from the International Committee for Animal Recording. “This certification is critical, as it allowed us to begin beta testing hardware with animal hospitals throughout Western New York,” said Hamilton. “Their feedback has been invaluable in designing our product to be most effective.”
The company has also doubled its employee base, now employing 16, including more seasoned and experienced consultants and engineers. “We are constantly testing out different aspects of the product,” said Hamilton. “We’re looking into adding such innovations as thermo microchips that aren’t affected by body temperature, and we’re experimenting with facial recognition software and GPS.” And he said he’s heard from venture capitalists and angel groups who are very interested in helping him.
Hamilton has also received a lot of positive and helpful feedback and input from a variety of marketers, tax experts, web designers, and more since the article appeared. “One of the cool things about being based in Buffalo is that there are so many startups, and everyone is more than willing to help out each other. There’s mutual respect and the desire to see as many startups succeed as possible.”
Hamilton said he hopes to officially launch his product by fourth quarter 2018.