Newton Insight Brings Transparency to Busy Logistics Field

Imagine a loved one is in intensive care and needs an immediate organ transplant. Unarguably, a time for serious concern. Now consider that many logistics and transportation companies track these items with an old spreadsheet system, or even on good old-fashioned paper. Now are you scared? That’s the kind of scenario that prompted Gerard Ibarra to find a better way. In July 2011, he and co-founder John Zurawski founded Newton Insight to bring more transparency to the tracking and logistics involved in specimen transport. This will enable care-givers (among others) to make better near-real-time decisions, should a change in delivery status prompt a change from the original, or latest, decision.

Ibarra and Zurawski met at UPS about 20 years ago. They tinkered with the idea of building a system that allowed consumers to shop for a car from the comfort of their home. They tested the waters a bit, and indeed received the market validation later, but ultimately decided to focus on what they were being paid to do. When Ibarra left UPS back in 2000, he joined a courier/logistics company, one that focused primarily on the transport of specimens. It was at this time that he noticed many others in the industry using somewhat archaic methods of tracking the specimens.

But the time for Newton Insight hadn’t yet come. In late 2007, John called Gerard to see if he wanted to start a software company. It was a chance to start something again, but this time it was to see it through to the end. The timing was great as Gerard just received his PhD from SMU and was starting to look for a career. Instead, John and Gerard joined forces and in 2008 co-founded Buildwave Technologies, a log management and analysis company. They sold it in the fall of 2009.

So fast forward to 2011, and Gerard and John decided it was Newton Insight’s time for the spotlight. Their solution is designed to provide supply chain and logistics transparency, but offer the service at a fraction of the costs charged by UPS and FedEx by utilizing cloud computing and mobile technology. And Newton Insight isn’t merely handling the logistics, but it’s also serving as a conduit between all parties affected by the order, transport, and testing of the specimen.

This means not only the lab, hospital, or blood bank as the primary tier, but also the doctors, lab technicians, and of course, couriers. All would be able to view the delivery status and chain-of-custody of the specimen. Another uncommon service Newton provides is a predictive alert system, which can send a notice if it appears that a specimen will be late on arrival, not merely if it already is late. This forewarning enables the user to make better decisions and adjust accordingly based on the late arrival status. Newton’s advisers like the business model so much, that Newton is branching out of specimen transport into broader logistics fields.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Ibarra and Zurawski encounter in running the business is managing the cash burn. The sales cycle has turned out to take longer than expected. Many of the parties along this logistics chain-of-custody have old and established systems and processes and are part of large organizations. And, as many working in the corporate world know, it can be quite difficult to change the course of a ship in a short amount of time. There is a monthly service charge for their business depending on a variety of factors, like size, revenue, customer base, etc. In addition there is a fee for each transaction.

So now Newton Insight moves on to graduating from the Tech Wildcatters fall accelerator program. Based on advice on the TW mentors, Newton has expanded their target market, which shows the confidence they have in the market size, and the likelihood of being funded as they leave the program. They already have a courier as a paying beta customer, Jaguar Logistics. But Newton is still seeking a major lab, hospital, or blood bank as a beta tester. This will establish more market credibility in the logistics and transportation SaaS arena. It may seem a tough market. But I think the odds are stacked in Newton’s favor, considering the background experience they both have in logistics and supply chain. If they can establish key relationships, like they’ve done with the TW mentors throughout the program, their future looks very bright.

Be sure to check out Newton Insight as they give their final presentation of the TW program at “Pitch Day” next Tuesday. As of this writing, there are still spots available. You can register here. If you can’t make it in person, it will be live-streamed on the Tech Wildcatters site. It will also be on the Ustream homepage.

Brad Anderson
beanderson@juno.com