When Gavin Andrews, CEO of Sydney-based Tracker Inventory Systems, pitched at the Volta Cohort event last week, one thing that was overlooked was the fascinating story of how the company was formed.
Tracker Inventory, which has produced an Android app to help companies track their inventory, is just six months old. But it already has one customer and is moving into a new market with two more potential clients. And it’s done all this with just $5,000 in funding and a relationship with a laundry service.
That laundry service, Sydney-based Snow White Laundry, uses the product to track and verify the linen it accepts, cleans and returns to clients. Andrews and his partner Matt Pyne are now working on developing a similar product for seafood producers (who they decline to name) based in mainland Nova Scotia.
“I knew we could build a prototype for $5,000,” said Andrews in an interview this week. “Beyond that, we’ve put in our own money. It’s not a lot of money, but it was enough to do what we needed to do. And yes, I’m surprised it’s worked out to be honest with you, but we’re really happy with it.”
The company started in November when Andrews attended Innovacorp’s Intersect Challenge in Sydney. This new program lets an established company present startups or entrepreneurs with a problem it’s experiencing. The entrepreneurs pitch suggested solutions and the winner receives $5,000 to build the product and the aid of the established business in developing it.
Andrews won with a proposal to use radio frequency identification, or RFID, a form of wireless communication, to track the linen at Snow White’s commercial laundry facilities in Moncton and Sydney.
An Oxford University-educated microbiologist, Andrews has lived in the State of Georgia, in Taiwan and Australia. He spent four years as an assistant research manager for Sydney-based manufacturer Protocase (which gave him experience in inventory management) and then served as Project Manager at the Verschuren Centre at Cape Breton University.
After winning Intersect, he brought in Pyne to build the product. There was one more vital component to launching the company: the participation of Snow White Laundry owner Donnie Snow. Andrews said White is adept with technology and he was essential in providing feedback and helping to integrate the new app into the company’s operations.
After they launched the product for Snow White, Andrews and Pyne were approached by the two seafood companies for a product that used RFID to track live lobster and other shellfish. These companies need a product that can monitor environmental conditions in the tanks holding live animals, and track them as they are shipped.
Andrews is now a full-time employee of Tracker Inventory Systems and is working on the development and implementation of the seafood product. He said the company is not actively raising equity funds because it is too early, and will likely apply for some government programs in the coming months.
The company was not a winner in the tough field at Volta Cohort, which awarded $25,000 each to five startups. But what caught my eye was that the Intersect pilot program has already produced one company. Andrews said the big factor in launching the company wasn’t the money so much as working closely with an early adopter to develop the product.
“Having the buyer of the product was more important,” he said. “It’s always half the battle.”
Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.