Students bring big business operations savvy to small service businesses with FoundOPS
Who they are
Smaller service businesses run on QuickBooks and Excel spreadsheets. High-end operations software with sophisticated functionality like optimizing the routing of drivers and business analytics to identify where money can be saved or made in an operation is the stuff of large companies.
Not anymore. Jon Perl and Oren Shatken, who met as Purdue fraternity brothers, are changing this with the power of cloud computing and operations management software that works — and can be customized — for many different field service businesses. The 20-somethings are creating such a system with a West Lafayette startup company called FoundOPS.
What they're doing
FoundOPS customers can easily customize the system for their business by working from a variety of industry-specific templates being created by Perl, Shatken and their team. FoundOPS also integrates employee, customer and vehicle information with spatial information on routes and locations, GPS data, and drag-and-drop dispatching —
all from an interface designed to be simple and intuitive.
The heavy computational lifting takes place behind the scenes on cloud servers, relieving FoundOPS customers of the need for hardware as well as providing them with a system they don’t have to administer and update. Moreover, information can be accessed and updated in the field on Android smartphones and tablets.
They’re already working with small companies doing home medication delivery and liquid waste management for restaurants and other food servers while continuing to refine the FoundOPS feature set.
How they got there
Perl, from Virginia, came to Purdue to study computer science and nanotechnology and Shatken, from New Jersey, started out in industrial design and ended up in political science. They might as well have listed their majors as "entrepreneurship" from the start, however. In fact, both took core courses in Purdue’s Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, which they say grounded them in market research and startup basics.
Perl had been writing custom programs for small businesses since high school, fodder for the entrepreneurial ideas the two kicked around in brainstorming sessions at Purdue’s Alpha Epsilon Pi house, which eventually yielded FoundOPS. They started the company in a spare room at the fraternity, one so small they knocked knees every time they turned their office chairs. With a growing staff, including its two founders, FoundOPS is now located in commercial office space at the Purdue Research Park. Perl says the staff represents another key resource Purdue offers: talent. All but one of their employees, including their senior software engineer, are current or former Purdue students.
They self funded their company initially then, with a proof of concept and market in place, began working with angel investors, whom they located through Verge, TechPoint and VentureClub of Indiana, Indianapolis-based entrepreneurial networking organizations. Shatken says those groups also can help with finding startup-oriented attorneys willing to work on a contingency basis for issues like copyrights and trademarks. The FoundOPS founders are helping build a similar resource closer to home by active participation in Lafayette Tech, a local group working to bring together student and nonstudent entrepreneurs, Purdue faculty and other potential mentors, and possible investors for networking, tip sharing and more.
"You have to be making a product that you yourself would want to use," Shatken says.