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Dream Catcher

Engineering student embraces entrepreneurial mindset by starting up business

When you’re an Ohio Northern University Polar Bear, you don’t have to wait to begin your career. Just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you can’t start chasing your dreams. For Tyler Walter, BSCE ’17, one of those dreams was starting up his own business.

ONU is a place where many a young entrepreneur got their start, and the T.J. Smull College of Engineering especially promotes the entrepreneurial mindset through support from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). It’s only natural that these things rubbed off on Walter, a recent civil engineering graduate from Sugarcreek, Ohio. That’s why he and two partners decided to create and launch NOVO Tracker, a computer program and app designed to help construction companies boost efficiency.

Tyler Walter stops for a photo after winning second place in the 2017 Polar Elevator Pitch Competition.Inefficiency is one of the most counterproductive issues in business. Around 12 percent of every dollar invested in the construction industry is wasted due to inefficiency. While software does exist to combat this issue, only the largest companies can afford such programs. This leaves many smaller companies with no choice but to either create solutions from scratch, which is extremely time-consuming, or do nothing at all.

Walter saw this as a real problem, so just as his education encouraged, he did what he could to create a valuable solution in the form of a new product. His programming class had given him the knowledge base to understand the programming his partners were doing, so all that was left to figure out was a target market to pitch to, something his business-related classes had taught him well.

“My partners and I found a definite niche in the market that had not been attacked, and nobody’s tried to help smaller companies with this problem,” Walter says. “Many of their employees don’t know how to use computers, and intuitive programs like this can really benefit them. We’ve seen it firsthand already.”

NOVO Tracker targets small to mid-size construction companies and is simple to use. At the end of the day, the employee enters basic information about their daily tasks easily into their phone or tablet. The program then generates reports that tell the employee the efficiency of their work in specific metrics. The product is also customized to each company that uses it, streamlining its usability and maximizing effectiveness.

The app allows for updates in real time, which is pretty valuable, because if there’s a problem and the company is wasting money on a certain portion of a project, you don’t want to find that out at the end of the month,” Walter says. “With this program, you’re able to look every day, see where you’re inefficient and then fix it right away.

NOVO Tracker launched this spring, at which time Walter and his partners allowed a few interested companies to try out the program to see if it improved their efficiency. Since then, two companies have implemented the program into their daily operations on a trial basis, as Walter and his partners use their feedback to make updates and further customize the software. There has been success so far, as NOVO Tracker has already saved one of the companies 10 to 12 labor hours per week at the click of a button.

Then came another opportunity for Walter to further invest in his product. When he received an email about ONU’s annual elevator pitch competition, he knew just what to do, having already successfully pitched his existing product to potential customers.

In April, Walter participated in the 2017 Polar Elevator Pitch Competition in the Dicke College of Business Administration. After making it past the first round, he competed solo against several other groups, coming up with second place overall and $700 in prize money to put directly back into his business.

How did he learn to be so successful? ONU definitely had something to do with it.

It’s pretty cool how both the College of Engineering and the College of Business Administration really promote you to do your own thing, be creative and create something of value,” he says. “The only way to be successful in life is to add value to other people’s lives. If you’re just chasing a paycheck every day, it’s not going to add value to people’s lives, and ONU really pushes that.

Since graduating in May, Walter took a job at Strand Associates Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, where he does design work for the city of Columbus. It’s a promising start to a budding career, and having successfully launched a startup business – something many people don’t do until they’re more established – it’s safe to say he’s already well on his way to catching even more dreams.