Ann Arbor’s Shepherd Intelligent Systems Hopes to Move to the Front of the Bus in GPS Fleet-Tracking Biz

12/16/10

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engine development program for the Ford Escape.

“That was something that prepared me, that gave me the confidence to say, ‘Yeah, I can do this. I can manage a number of different things, a number of different people, a number of different personalities.’”

All the time he was there, though, he knew that being a small part of a large machine like Ricardo was not for him. Fortino began the MBA program at the University of Michigan in 2005 and caught the entrepreneur bug big-time. “By the end of my time there, I was either going to start a company or join a startup,” Fortino says.

So, in 2008, he jumped ship from Ricardo and joined a startup out of downtown Ann Arbor called Boomdash, founded by Silicon Valley startup veteran Cesar Nerys. The company did search-engine marketing for local lawyers and doctors. It went well for a while, but at the end of 2008, it hit the wall, like the rest of the economy, Fortino says.

After that, he was back to square one. He knew he did not want to go back to Ricardo. So, in early 2009, he launched Novitas Advisors, which provides business consulting services to manufacturers looking to enter the alternative energy sector. He works a great deal with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and NextEnergy in Detroit to see if his clients are candidates for alternative energy diversification grants.

But it was in late 2009 that Fortino at last found the opportunity he was looking for. A friend of his at RPM Ventures, a VC firm based in Ann Arbor, told him about this startup out of U-M that needs a CEO. Fortino jumped, and what he got in the bargain was a few years worth of research by bright engineers into real-time bus monitoring.

A year later, the Magic Bus software has transformed into something much more sophisticated, he says. It takes into account many more environmental conditions, including weather, historical traffic … Next Page »

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