Startup Story: AssetDoppler

“It’s easy to create a product. It’s hard to distribute it.”

BE PREPARED: AssetDoppler provides severe weather alerts. [PHOTO: Erik Kellar]

FOUNDERS: Clifford “Chip” Olson and Kevin Casey, both of Naples; Obie Walli of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

YEAR FOUNDED: 2018

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 3 (the founders)

Description of Business: Southwest Florida-based Special Tech Systems, LLC, was created to launch the new severe-weather alert system AssetDoppler. It provides alerts to subscribers across the United States whose properties are within a designated radius of damaging weather events. The goal is to help absentee property managers, as well as owners of vacation homes, to catch storm damage early so that insurance claims can be processed in a timely manner.

The Background: Olson says property owners and managers don’t want to waste time with traditional weather forecasts that predict events that many not actually impact their structure’s location. With AssetDoppler, they receive a notification within minutes of the severe event touching down near or on their property, detailing the time and GPS coordinates.

The Idea: While Olson was consulting for real estate firms specializing in property management, a discussion about ways to make asset managers more efficient led to a discussion about the weather—which led to the creation of Special Tech Systems and AssetDoppler. Using data from the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the system cross-references GPS coordinates of weather events and subscribers’ properties, then sends email and text notifications to the property managers.

Olson says there are many practical uses for AssetDoppler, such as inventory control. If a storm knocks out the power to a grocery store, the owner could suffer subsequent losses if the security system or freezers shut down. An immediate notification lets the property manager know that quick action may be needed to dispatch security to the property or send generators to protect inventory. Another example is liability reduction. A heavy snowfall notification could trigger a shopping center’s property manager to hire snowplows to clear the parking lot. “It’s protecting your hard assets, protecting your client base and building relationships,” Olson says. 

The Money: To launch the company, Olson said each founder pitched in one-third of the $50,000 software development cost. “It’s sweat equity. Nobody is taking a paycheck.”

The Results: AssetDoppler is on its third round of beta testing with 80 properties in more than a dozen states. About 15 have started paying the annual contract’s $120 fee (per commercial or residential property) after receiving the first two months free. Olson says the goal was to make the services and data affordable to everyone. “It’s about enhancing services. Most commercial properties are going to pass the cost back through the common area maintenance [fee] the tenants pay.”

What’s Next: They are in the process of hiring a salesperson to sell bulk contracts to asset managers. “It’s easy to create a product. It’s hard to distribute it.” Olson says. “You’ve got to have a good sales team.” He says they are also looking for opportunities to expand services as the use of automation in commercial buildings increases.

Lessons Learned: During testing, they realized they needed to create a customized radius for each type of storm event so subscribers wouldn’t be inundated with unnecessary notifications. They also adjusted how they create the GPS coordinates for large agricultural parcels. “Kevin did a fantastic job writing the program,” Olson says. “You’re always checking it and testing it. It has worked very well for us over the last year and a half.”