It’s easy to see Site2020’s presence at Volta. Throughout the forest-painted back hallway of the seventh floor, residents are often greeted with at least a couple automated street lights, glowing red, yellow or green at any given time.
Site2020 is a traffic management network. The hardware startup’s vision is to increase safety and reduce the cost for construction companies through technology.
The system works by using an integrated network of smart, portable traffic lights. A single employee can manage traffic safely using Site2020’s technology, which eliminates the need to hire additional flaggers (the sign-holding highway workers that you see before entering a construction zone).
After placing third in Canada’s Business Model competition, founders Mitch Hollohan and Cole Campbell won $10, 000 to help fund their project. The funds from the prize money allowed Mitch and Cole to quit their part-time jobs as a tutor and personal trainer respectively. Both began a full-time commitment to prototype and reach out to potential investors.
Without a proper workspace, Cole and Mitch rented out rooms on the Dalhousie campus and moved their equipment from home to school in backpacks everyday. “We would scrounge for Breakout rooms, bringing all of our gear in backpacks full of stuff every day,” says Mitch. “Finally, we came to Volta down on Spring Garden.”
Site2020 focused on customers during the challenging first few years of balancing market penetration and funding. “You don’t have a business if you don’t have customers. You can do whatever you want in your own head, but if you can’t get somebody to give you money, why are you even in business?” explains Cole.
While Site2020 had a marketable idea for a product, they had to quickly build prototypes and find funding. Resources were tight, but with the funds from grants, competitions and programs, Site2020 was able to hire a developer to get their prototype off the ground.
“It’s important to give your idea legs,” says Cole. “We solved the specific problem of flagging, and now we want to put these units on every single roadway and highway in North America, or however far we can conquer.”
Together Cole and Mitch contacted every safety association in North America to find out how big the market was. With roughly 7,000 flaggers in Nova Scotia, Site2020 had to set their ambitions higher.
“We literally called every single Department of Transportation and safety association in North America to find out how many there is. From that we developed to match exactly how big the problem is,” says Mitch.
Site2020 is working on finessing their smart traffic system with a smart camera, which will track and analyze traffic data for commercial use with big data companies such as Google. Currently, Site2020 is building eight prototypes in preparation to enter their product into the market.