With new Silicon Valley funding, a just-completed software platform and a growing client list, it might seem like ndustrial CEO Jason Massey has the perfect formula to accomplish his mission of simplifying the industrial Internet of Things. But there’s one increasingly difficult challenge for ndustrial and many other young startups, even in the Triangle—finding the right talent.
Traditional methods of recruiting talent have been enough to get ndustrial to a staff of 10 in Durham. But even that was a struggle. How do you accurately explain the fun, excitement and impact of monitoring and making sense of millions of data points collected from software and sensors inside factories and the trucks and ships that transport goods to and from them?
Or what it’s like to stand arms-deep in squid in the Pacific Ocean to measure water temperature and help a client optimize the supply chain for the production of calamari? Or to determine the energy consumption of a factory full of vats of Chick-fil-A Polynesian sauce in Georgia?
The best way is hand-on, experiential and all about doing and seeing rather than talking and selling. So Massey is trying something new. He’s inviting 10 people from around the Triangle or the nation to join his team for three months in Durham. They’ll be paid as contractors or interns based on their skill sets. They’ll get desks and equipment and access to all of ndustrial’s APIs, data, software and knowledge. And they’ll be asked to contribute to various projects, or come up with their own.
At the end of the three months, some of those people might join the company. Others might start their own in the energy and sustainability space. And still others might license their creations to ndustrial clients and continue to contract.
Massey is calling it a “fake incubator” and a tongue-and-cheek press release on the ndustrial website explains it as such. But it’s actually a very real experiment. Can the best talent be found when given the chance to learn, innovate and prove themselves in a job?
“We’ve been doing recruiting recently and it’s just tired,” Massey says. “We want missionaries not mercenaries. We’re looking for people passionate about energy and sustainability.”
The company began four years ago with a focus on consulting and services. Massey, a serial entrepreneur, and team would enter an industrial facility and retrofit it with lighting and temperature controls to reduce energy consumption and cost. Some software was used to predict the cost savings of retrofits. But a big ‘Aha’ came when the CFOs of those companies wanted an ROI on the changes made.
There was just as big of a need to monitor energy efficiency projects to be sure they return money to the bottomline. His team of developers set to work building that platform and it’s already being used by Lineage Logistics, a California company with 113 factories around the U.S. (including the squid processing one and Chick-fil-A). It integrates the APIs and data from a dozen different warehouse management systems, Salesforce, SAP and other ERP systems, Weather Underground (for weather data) and 25 different hardware platforms.
It can track the number of pallets that go into a blast freezer and the amount of time it takes to freeze certain foods, compared to the energy usage. There are temperature sensors, and vibration sensors for motors. Massey’s new mission is to secure clients with 10 or more factories or facilities around the nation, and customize the measurements and analytics to each. (He shared more of the mission and the role of his Silicon Valley investor with WRAL TechWire earlier this month)
But his small team is only capable of so much. Massey envisions the fake incubator yielding modules, dashboards and other tools attractive to clients. A first project will be to create a dashboard for sample equipment Fullsteam has agreed to install in the office as a lab for industrial energy monitoring.
“If someone does a good job of building a module with AngularJS and they prove themselves, we grab them,” he says. “If they don’t want to work with us but still build a good module, we have customers that would probably license it. If they want to start their own business, I can help them down that path, or tell them not to do it.”
ndustrial recently changed its name from Sustainable Industrial Solutions and moved out of American Underground, where it was the first tenant. This weekend, it moves into a recently-renovated old laundromat on Geer Street in Durham. In the press release, ndustrial advertises its brightly-lit open spaces, fully functioning bathrooms, Nerf guns, happy hours for “very interesting people” and its training sessions on data and acronyms.
While all of that is likely true, the training is the serious piece. It’ll give the ndustrial team a chance to practice their explanations of what they do, helping potential employees learn the business and finetuning the way they talk and sell to clients. Massey also promises the collaborative environment he found at American Underground, helpful to both his team and the newbies.
He hopes his experiment is enough to counter the increased competition for talent in the region—a phenomenon likely only to increase as companies get priced out of other regions and look for capable employees elsewhere.
So how do you get in on the opportunity?
It’s pretty informal—actually, it’s entirely informal. Massey hasn’t published an email address or an application process. The right candidates, he says, will have the resourcefulness to figure it out, the same resourcefulness it ultimately takes to work at ndustrial.