According to the international police organization INTERPOL, timber theft around the world is rampant, amounting to $152 billion in annual losses. But Edward Buckler’21 may have found a way to stop the bleeding.
With his high school friend, Elliot Richards, he developed technology for forest protection and monitoring that could help combat ecological crime worldwide. Their startup firm, Outland Analytics, offers real-time, wide-area, ground-level environmental monitoring that can guide foresters to the scene of the crime.
Edward and Elliot met through their high school’s robotics team. As high school seniors, they formed the company as an engineering class project. They sought assistance from the Rev:Ithaca Startup Works hardware accelerator, which allowed them to fine-tune their ideas. Today, Outland Analytics has expanded to a five-person team, which now includes Mahdy Shuaib, Alex Padilla, and Jack Greenberg, as well as an advisory board member, Brad Treat.
How does a high school sophomore co-run a business and attend college at the same time? It requires 80-hour work weeks combining business and academia, complicated by the fact that Elliot attends Drexel University in Philadelphia.
The company gained traction when Edward arrived at Stony Brook, where the pair finished in second place in the Stony Brook Wolfie Tank competition.
“The Wolfie Tank competition helped us sharpen our pitch and get more funding. During the market research phase, we learned that being college students increased the number of successful interviews dramatically, as people are much more willing to talk to a college student than a business person,” Edward said.
“Receiving a scholarship definitely contributed to my decision to attend Stony Brook. It freed up resources so that I could just focus on working on my startup,” he said. “In general, it has made life easier so I can concentrate on what I love doing.”
Outland also benefited from Stony Brook’s iCreate, under the mentorship of David Ecker, and hired two sophomore students from SBU’s Computer Science program.
In order to realize their ambitions, Edward and Elliot interviewed more than 50 private and public, national and international land managers to ascertain exactly what the market needed. Because of that background work, Outland Analytics was able to develop a relationship with the U.S. Forest Service, which has allowed them to start trials with their device in the Finger Lakes National Forest.
Partnering with other companies was a critical growth component for Outland Analytics. Making a pitch at the Rev Ithaca Startup Works hardware accelerator got the ball rolling by starting their relationship with Arrow Electronics. Outland then was able to add Renesas Electronics as another principle partner through the Arrow connection.
Outland Analytics is also partnered with IBM. “You know those popup windows that say, ‘Do you want help?’,” Edward said. “I clicked on the link and started chatting with a bot, then a sales rep came online, then a platform strategist. As a result, they wound up giving us $12,000 in infrastructure credit.”
“We found that having emails with our company URL was very helpful,” he added. “Often when we buy things from certain companies, the next day they will contact us and ask how they can help. Particle was one of those companies. The day after we bought their devices we had a meeting with a representative.”
Other funding sources included money from a high school pitch competition, funding from New York State through Rev, as well as the Wolfie Tank Competition, and the Drexel Startup Fest competition (cash and in-kind services). Additionally, Edward and Elliot used money from summer full-time jobs to augment their funding.
Edward is helped by the fact that he is a multidisciplinary major. “I rely on computer science for the tech side, economics for the business side, and philosophy for how to run the business — and my life — in a more ethical way,” he said.
How does Edward measure the success of the company?
“For our test to be successful we would like to see our device instantly notify the U.S. Forest Service of motorized vehicles consistently over an extended period of time,” he said. “If this works, then we open up a worldwide, $152 billion market.”
— Glenn Jochum