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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data, time of day, and day of the week. Now, a student can send a text message directly to a bus stop and find out when, exactly, that bus will arrive.

His target market is small- and mid-sized bus and limousine fleets. He says there is a great opportunity here because most municipalities and university campuses are driving with more-expensive, proprietary, and “unnecessary” hardware that had been cobbled together by local contractors. Shepherd can do it all cheaper and more flexibly.

“If you already have a GPS system? Great. We’ll integrate with what you have and make it work,” he says. “If you don’t have one, great. No problem. We will specify the most appropriate GPS hardware for your budget.”

What also differentiates the system is that it is user-centric, as opposed to simply a tracker for the bus companies. University communities are an early target for Shepherd because, in general, they do not have firmly entrenched vendors with firmly entrenched political relationships. This system might not work in Chicago, New York or San Francisco, he says, but would be perfect for, say, the University of Toledo. In fact, he says, the company just had a conversation with the University of Toledo and found out that a competing bid came in several times more expensive. “It was a great confirmation of what we’re saying, a confirmation of our business model. Nobody else is doing this right now,” Fortino says.

So, the company is gearing up for a national sales push next month and Fortino believes he’s been training all his career for this moment—from his years at Ricardo on.

“We’re out there, we have validated customers, we have a validated product and we’re out there trying to build revenue,” he says, adding that the company will likely seek funding early next year.

But no matter how big the company gets, Shepherd will not become just another company that begins in Ann Arbor and moves elsewhere. Fortino says he is thankful for the “incredible support” the company has received through Ann Arbor SPARK and would not think of abandoning the city. So, for the record, here’s Fortino’s statement on whether he will add to the Michigan brain drain.

“I am from Michigan. I grew up in Alma, MI, I have been in Ann Arbor since I got here in undergrad. I am staying here. We will not move under any circumstances.”

If he does, well, we can always use GPS to track him down.

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