If trees are illegally removed from the forest, who would hear it and take notice? Illegal loggers clear-cut over 32,000 square miles each year and stolen timber is worth $52-$152 billion annually. How can park rangers and forest monitors know when timber is being stolen? Enter Outland Analytics: a startup that detects illegal logging in real time and alerts authorities.
Ithaca, NY natives Elliot Richards and Edward Buckler are the co-founders of Outland Analytics, an instant notification platform that detects illegal logging using an acoustic monitoring system. The pair came up with the idea while taking an engineering design and development class at Ithaca High School (IHS). Next, they were accepted into the Rev: Ithaca Startup Works Hardware Accelerator and took advantage of personalized mentoring and access to a state of the art prototyping lab for hardware products.
“The Hardware Accelerator was an awesome program for us,” said Richards. “It really helped us dive deep into customer discovery. We did dozens of interviews with federal employees and state land managers which helped us form an understanding of how the United States and the world regulates and detects illegal logging.”
Over the past year, the team has been working to refine their prototype while earning their bachelor degrees. They are continuing to develop a minimum viable product and plan to launch a test this December in the Finger Lakes National Forest. Richards attends Drexel University and studies mechanical engineering while Buckler is enrolled at Stony Brook University majoring in computer science, economics, and philosophy.
Outland Analytics recently won the Drexel Startup Fest Pitch Competition and received $12,500 in funding to deploy a test in the Finger Lakes with the U.S. Forest Service and demo their product for federal, state, and international agencies.
The duo credits their early-stage success to the Rev Hardware Accelerator. They believe the mentors they connected with during the program continue to be an invaluable asset for them as the company grows.
“Customer discovery got us on our feet and continues to help us when we compete in pitch competitions like the Drexel Startup Fest Pitch Competition,” Buckler stated. “But a very close second was all of the connections we made. Without the hardware accelerator program, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make many of the connections that have directly helped us grow.”
The duo plans to expand their company by running more pilot programs with departments within the federal government and increasing their reach throughout the United States and possibly the world.
One piece of advice Richards and Buckler would offer to anyone with a business idea is to speak with current and potential customers frequently and take their feedback seriously.
“My advice is to embrace the customer discovery process,” Richards said. “Go talk to people and listen to their problems, this gives you a better understanding of the market before you dive into the design process and start developing your product.”