Road-Aid Founder & CEO James Bridgers discusses his startup and it’s progress: Transforming the way road infrastructure is maintained, one pothole at a time.
Product / Service Offering: Road (Pothole) Data Products
Cofounder Interviewed: James Bridgers
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
I like data; however, my role has been in the collection and reporting of data. I have over 15 years of experience leading businesses and organizations to identify, test, and rapidly implement data and technology based innovations to improve capabilities, transform processes, and exponentially increase the delivered value. Technology focus includes remote sensing, sensors (video, radar), Geospatial Information System (GIS), mobile technologies, and big data collection and analysis. I have used this on efforts for the Department of Defense to generate meaningful intelligence from their troves of collected data and on Fantasy Football leagues, building and selling Android apps on the Play store for Fantasy Football players to manage their data on draft day.
I am motivated by the volume and velocity of data available today and the opportunity to turn that data into information to improve decision making and optimize processes. I believe most decisions are made with less than 50% of the available data and most processes can find over 500% in optimization gains. Ultimately, the ability to include more data into your decision making process in less time allows you to make better decisions.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
Road-Aid, a pothole data analytic company, was founded in September 2015 with the goal to collect, analyze, and inventory every pothole around the world and provide this information to drivers, governments, and other interested parties. The idea originated from the pothole blitzes many cities have as the winter weather ends in March/April. We placed cameras on vehicles to manually identify and record pothole locations and grew from there to provide comprehensive, over 95%, and frequent, weekly, road coverage.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
With the government serving as the primary customer, our data provides the information that allows City Departments of Public Works and State Departments of Transportation the information to efficiently maintain safe road infrastructure. Currently, the majority of pothole mediation programs are reactive by asking citizens and drivers to report pothole locations for the government to address. Through our automated, comprehensive, and frequent collection, we provide a weekly report, pothole work orders, and the data to justify road infrastructure funding for governments to address the problem. Our data provides the mechanism to satisfy the goal of Departments of Transportation to increase safety for drivers and road construction crews.
Government Matters Video Describing the Road-Aid Solution
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Our viewpoint on what we define as our target market is our differentiating factor. This understanding then drives our technical requirements, our go to market strategy, and the relationships we create.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was to define a viable business model to support the idea. Many potential models and customers were explored before settling on this current approach. This was overcome by the hard work of going out, meeting with the customers, and listening to them explain how they could benefit from this information. We also learned what they feared from the availability of this data and their readiness and ability (due to priorities) to integrate it into their daily workflow, following strategies outlined in Lean Start Up and Nail It Then Scale It.
Are there resources that you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
UpTech is our accelerator. We have also utilized many of the local small business and startup resources in the Dayton, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, and Columbus region. The Dayton SBDC, Startup Grind (Dayton and Columbus), Dayton Human Relations Council, Rev1 Ventures, and AngelHack Cincy are local resources that have all been beneficial. The repetitive pitches and guidance received from each have refined and focused the problem, solution, and approach.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
The company has been self-funded to date. The only thing I would do differently is start up faster and get out in the market earlier.
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Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particular hard time finding the answers to?
Placing a value on what we offer potential customers has been a hurdle. We have undergone pricing exercises with users across both government and commercial industries to determine a guide; however, because what we offer is novel, it has yet to be validated.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
We only had typical startup challenges. It all comes with the territory. The only question is how fast you can solve the challenges.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Get out there and meet people such as customers, advisers, really anyone! Talk about your idea and what you are trying to accomplish. You cannot be afraid someone is going to steal or walk away with your idea. The hard part is not the idea, but the execution. Talking with everyone gives you the feedback to continually refine and shape your idea into something viable for the masses.
The first thing readers should know is that we want to be your partner in solving this problem which includes government organizations. We understand that chronic under funding is the largest contributor, which is chronicled in numerous government reports. One of the biggest hurdles Road-Aid has faced is in educating both the government customer and the public at large. We understand the concern of risk and liability. We also understand most governments are given just a small fraction (in some cases 20%) of the budgeted resources just to maintain, not improve, the road infrastructure for which they are responsible. Road-Aid provides the data and tools for a wider range of users to safely interact with this data responsibly and ultimately aid in providing safer roadways.
Finally, the most positive question I have been fielding is, “What happens when there are no more potholes?” To which I say, “That will be a great time and signify Road-Aid’s ability to affect the change we sought from the beginning.” We will then fall back on what we are, which is a data-focused group that can use any technology, including computer vision, sensor systems, and/or machine learning, to streamline workflows and convert data to actionable intelligence across any industry, large or small, to make better, informed decisions.
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