Published June 7, 2017
A company in the START UP-NY program that makes a telemetry device to monitor trucks on the road has secured $18 million in its second round of funding and plans to beef up its Buffalo-area engineering operations.
KeepTruckin is a Silicon Valley company with its hardware development division in Amherst. It makes an embedded monitor that records and transmits information about the truck and how it is being driven. The device also transmits vehicle data to the driver’s cellphone that satisfies the new federal requirement for electronic driver logs.
But its greater value may be in the information it sends to the manager of the truck fleet. Things like location, speed, mileage and engine diagnostics are just some of the data the device monitors.
“It makes it easy for them to manage their operation,” says Shoaib Makani, co-founder and CEO of Keep Truckin. “To pre-emptively diagnose the engine and detect how your driver is driving… We are building a broader platform for fleet management.”
Makani says UB helped the company get situated in the START UP-NY program and continues to assist with engineering graduates. The Amherst division has 10 employees and plans to add more.
Among the investors in KeepTruckin is Google Ventures, the venture division of Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google. Makani says having that kind of backing is helpful to a startup.
“It’s been a great benefit for us for improving our operations around design and research. We’ve gotten out to truck stops with Google’s user experience researchers and observed drivers,” he says. “The support from Google is great validation.”
The company makes its app that records driver hours free to drivers, and about 400,000 are using it. The company then approaches the trucking companies to sell the embedded monitoring device. Rates are $20 a month per vehicle.
Dan Fuglewicz, director of embedded systems at KeepTruckin, is a UB graduate with a BS and MS in electrical engineering. He runs the Amherst office and is responsible for the company locating in Amherst.
“I was willing to be a consultant and work from here, but they wanted me to start their design and fulfillment operations here,” Fuglewicz explains. “At that time, START UP-NY was advertising on TV, so I called and spoke with Karen Utz [director of program administration in UB's Office of Economic Development] and found out we were a perfect fit for the program.”
Being in START UP-NY means the company and its employees do not pay New York State income taxes for 10 years. “That’s a big help in recruiting,” he says.
As a lifelong Western New Yorker, Fuglewicz says he enjoys working with a Silicon Valley company. “They move so fast. It’s very different.”
For Makani, discovering Buffalo has been a happy surprise.
“It’s been great to us,” he says. “We found that the engineering and the operational talent is world class. We’re not doing anyone a favor by locating there. We found there are great people we can build our operation around.”