First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Stuart Gavurin: Thanks for the thought. We’re doing well. However, one of my daughters became infected, but she had mild symptoms and has fully recovered. My wife is a nurse and on the front-lines and has provided first-hand insights on the need for effective testing, protocols, and treatment. She’s a big fan of the digital solutions at her disposal for things like contact tracing and monitoring.
From a personal perspective, every day feels like Tuesday. I’m fine with that. We just need to let science help us move to the next era.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded OpSense.
Stuart Gavurin: For about 20-plus years, I worked in the world of Bigcos. First, as an engineer and then as a management consultant. I learned a lot from that environment, but in many ways, the roles I had were too far away from the actual work getting done. In 2007, I became the CEO of a boutique custom software development services company called Mission Data. That was eye-opening as it.
Mission Data creates digital products focused on the B2E world, and many clients are in food services businesses. Becoming deep within that domain led us to realize that food safety and compliance were at the heart of either making or losing the small margins those businesses had. As software-oriented technologists, we realized we could help improve those margins and reduce a lot of worries. From there, OpSense was created.
How does OpSense innovate?
Stuart Gavurin: Our innovations are derived directly from the needs of our customers. OpSense serves operational professionals in the food services space. They have a lot of responsibility to ensure that the food or medicines (groceries have pharmacies) are safe. Their focus is on “are things okay or not okay, and if they’re not okay what do we need to do?” They need those answers immediately, and they normally want to spend less than a minute looking at screens.
With this in mind, we observe their use of the platform and solicit them frequently on what would make their lives easier. You should read it with less anxiety. These interactions have led us to innovations in the IoT infrastructures that OpSense supports and how IoT data is interpreted, processed, and presented to gain efficiencies.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Stuart Gavurin: From March to May, our clients were busy shoring up their supply chains and figuring out how to protect their employees and customers. Since that time, we have seen an acceleration in the adoption of the platform. The main drivers have been that OpSense allows necessary onsite personnel to focus on their primary jobs. Only people can do those jobs, such as order, stock, fulfill orders, move inventory, and interact with customers (if in a retail environment).
What felt like a slow evolution to using IoT and digital methods onsite has accelerated. Allowing digital means making better use of a distributed workforce.
With COVID in mind, there is a pressing need to ensure the approved vaccines are handled and stored safely. The vaccines will require very specific environmental conditions, and we’re readying OpSense to ensure not an ounce is lost.
Besides monitoring conditions in the locations, we have also found a growing need for digital tasking and quality control via mobile checklists. Think of it as eliminating clipboards and three-ring binders with checklists and task assignments on mobile devices. However, the tasks and checklists are done as conditions warrant.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Stuart Gavurin: The start-up world is chock full of difficult choices. Our most difficult choice was the decision to focus initially on the midmarket for grocery and food processing/distribution. We had some early inroads in the giants of the food services industry, but we realized that starting with the biggest players would result in a platform that shut out the needs of a critical part of the market.
We walked away from our biggest opportunity, but it allowed us to build a platform that is pragmatic and now scalable from small to large. It was a scary decision and certainly slowed our revenue growth.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and OpSense in the future?
Stuart Gavurin: I use exercise and cooking as a way to destress. Nothing like getting the endorphins going. Truly, I make sure exercise is at the end of my workday, even if it’s at 10 pm.
With respect to the company, our core values are related to the world’s need for food, safe food. So besides creating a purpose-built platform for the safety of perishables, we support entities such as Feeding America, the Clean Cooking Alliance, and Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen.
In the future, I see OpSense as a central part of a coalition of solutions and products that ensure food safety while making life a bit easier for a hardworking distributed workforce.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Stuart Gavurin: We really have two types of competitors. In the start-up space, we see a large number of IoT device manufacturers. They broadly make proprietary hardware and gain recurring revenues from a cloud-based platform. Similarly, large industrials such as Emerson and Danfoss have “smart equipment” to support remote monitoring. However, both these competitors are “hardware-based” and have strong software on analytics and weaker in supporting the business process.
Our strength as a software-based platform is our ability to allow our customers to have the solution fit like a glove to their business processes and their specific user base. We’re not beholden to specific hardware and can integrate across a wide range of sensors and equipment. Finally, our reporting and analytics cater to the business’s operational needs rather than focusing on pure analysis.
Your final thoughts?
Stuart Gavurin: I am happy and grateful to have the opportunity to work on making innovative concepts practical for people who have such a critical role in our lives. I am also thankful to be working with a team that has embraced this mission and really cares more about what we produce.
The current turbulence from nature and humans creates amazing insights and, therefore, opportunities to offer solutions that will improve everyone’s futures.
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