Innovator of the Week
Andrew H. Jaccoma
Managing Partner – Sensible Spreader Technologies LLC
Please provide your 30-second pitch about your company.
Sensible Spreader Technologies (SST) is a company aimed at revolutionizing the winter road maintenance industry through the implementation of Coverage Indication Technology (CIT). CIT utilizes mobile devices, wireless sensors and cloud computing to indicate to operators where operations (such as plowing and deicing) have taken place over time durations. This helps the operator move more efficiently through infrastructure and results in safer roads, the conservation of resources and a reduction in the negative impacts of chlorides on the environment and on infrastructure.
Who or what was your best resource for starting your company?
I don’t think I can put my finger on one person or one thing as a best resource, but I can say the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem of NH has been very supportive of SST. The local business plan/funding competitions have been very helpful in assisting us in attaining small amounts of funding, which have helped out immensely in the earlier stages of the company. SST has been able to attain in-kind services and funding through: The Holloway Innovation to Market Competition at UNH (2012), TechOut Challenge (2012), Idea to Product Completion (2012) and The Social Venture Innovation Competition UNH (2014). In addition to funding competitions, Jamie Coughlin and Mark Kaplan have also been very helpful in supporting SST via the ABI Innovation Hub and the Alpha Loft. There is plenty of engineering talent in NH and it was just a matter of networking and finding the people with complimentary skills and abilities to assist in SST. The company is currently heavy in engineering talent and includes Chris Dundorf (Mechanical Engineering), Don Spencer (Electrical Systems Engineering) and Chris Rakowski (Software Engineering).
What was your biggest obstacle in starting your company and how did you overcome it?
Selling a new technology to municipalities in an industry that has seen very little innovation over the years has been challenging. In looking at potential customers, their notion of the “status quo” is a real obstacle for us to overcome and so we continue to collect data that will help us prove how effective our technology can be at reducing waste and increasing efficiency. In addition to direct sales efforts, our approach has been to seek out forward thinking DPW’s and offer demo equipment. We have seen that once we can get our technology into the hands of the operators, they quickly see that it isn’t “big brother” that we’re installing in their truck, but a real tool that can help make their lives easier. As time goes on, we expect that operator reliance on CIT will increase and that the early adopters will help to champion CIT as a necessary and useful technology that should be widely implemented throughout the Industry.
What’s the best advice you have received?
I remember mentioning SST to one of my mentors a while back and getting the advice “revolutionizing the winter road maintenance industry is going to require persistence with a capital P”, which seems to be proving itself true. Also, I recently connected with an entrepreneur who successfully made it through the process of developing a new technology and selling it to municipal customers and in addition to suggesting the underrated value of patience, it was suggested that we “continually work to prove the effectiveness of the technology”. Our systems collect data that we are using to prove the efficacy of our systems; the more data we collect, the more information we have to offer. We collect data during each winter event, so unlike most people I’m usually praying for more snow.
What about the NH lifestyle appeals to you?
I currently live in Portsmouth, NH and love the city and its location. I’m minutes from the ocean and not too far from the mountains. I love to fly-fish and there are a handful of really incredible trout fisheries that I can get to with just a short drive. When you work a lot, its nice when you can step away from the computer for an afternoon and have so many options where you can go appreciate the outdoors; I often forget that many of the cities/states around the country have a fraction of the environmental diversity that we have access to here in NH.
What does the future look like for your company?
In addition to winter road maintenance, we were able to successfully use our technology in street sweeping applications last summer and we are excited to continually identify additional applications for the technology. Recently, in addition to municipal customers, we have started working with commercial customers such as Outdoor Pride Landscaping, Inc. of Manchester, NH. We are excited to work with commercial customers because they seem to be very proactive in looking for ways to save money and operate more efficiently. Outdoor Pride is one of the larger commercial outfits in the state of NH and we are now working together to develop new coverage indication functionality for their fleet.
Connect with Andrew H. Jaccoma on LinkedIn!