CREATE-X alum Thomas Spencer talks about his startup WasteWizer, his experience with Startup Launch, and the progress he’s made since completing the program.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Thomas Spencer and I am a co-founder of WasteWizer Technologies. I graduated undergrad in Mechanical Engineering from GT in 2015 and I graduated with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from GT in 2020.

Can you tell us about your startup?

Short answer: We make dumb dumpsters smart using a SaaS based IoT solution for waste and recycling companies.

Long answer: Multiple industries use weight as a critical input to run efficiently and price their products – examples include waste management, recycling, farming, fisheries, airlines, mining, etc. Weighing products/assets remotely today is not possible because most scales use a bulky but fragile load cell component which is not portable and is expensive. 

In the waste and recycling industries, industrial roll-off container weights are unknown while onsite with the people filling the containers. As a result, containers are often picked up overloaded or overweight. Additionally, container users (i.e., general contractors) do not know the weight of the container as it is loaded. This creates cost uncertainty for the people paying for the hauling service.

Where did the idea for your startup come from?

I was chatting to someone on the sidelines at my sister's lacrosse game who owned a small waste company who was bragging about being able to increase his revenue by calling his customers every day to ask if their large waste containers were ready to be picked up. It was crazy to me that this industry relies so much on phone calls. I created a super simple sensor-Arduino MVP to showcase an idea of how to weigh these containers rather than rely on phone calls. I shared this with the waste business owner at the next week's lacrosse game. He was impressed and connected me to his friend Jay. Jay ran a family waste and scrap company that he brought from $30M to $120M in revenue and through exit. Independently, Jay had been looking for a solution to weigh his containers when they are in the field for years but was unable to find any solution. Together, Jay and I co-founded the company along with Patrick (also a GT alum) who brought some much-needed electrical engineering knowledge with him from his time at Microsoft.  

When did you participate in Startup Launch and how was your overall experience with the program?

Summer 2020. The program was excellent. Our mentors were fantastic, and we still keep in touch with them. Also, Rahul has been incredible even after the official program ended. He has met with us multiple times to offer advice and was critical in helping us secure our Angel round funding. 

What was your favorite part of Startup Launch?

The specific and actionable advice from the mentors.

What was your biggest challenge during the 12 weeks?

Setting up meetings we did not feel ready for then working hard to get ready for those meetings.

What progress have you made with your business since completing Startup Launch?

Customer Traction:

  • We have signed contracts with two Tier 1 companies (10M+ ARR potential) in our target industries.
  • Our products, the BinBar system, are continuing to be consistently deployed and generating revenue. 
  • We presented the BinBar at the largest international scrap convention hosted by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. Reception was overwhelmingly positive with multiple people stating, "this is the best product in the whole show!" 

Team:

  • In January, we onboarded a part-time Technical Project Manager with mechanical engineering and machine learning experience from Alphabet (Google) & Snap Inc.
  • In February, we onboarded a GT Electrical Engineering intern with 10+ years of experience in electrician work to increase our in-house BinBar fabrication abilities to 10 units per month.
  • In March, we hired a sales director with 20 years of experience selling tech solutions to technologically under-represented industries. 
  • Additionally, three GT MBA students are working on various aspects of our company as a part of the non-dilutive CDL accelerator program.
  • We have leveraged the generous mentorship and assistance of Kelly Gay and Dennis Hayes through the CDL program.

Product: 

  • Through Dennis' assistance, we secured access to a 50-ton hydraulic testing unit at Georgia Tech. We now have the capability to quality check each BinBar though its full operating range prior to deployment as well as obtain other needed test data.
  • We launched the next version of our online dashboard allowing for customers to edit container descriptions and see the locations of all their containers on one map.
  • We modified our internal sensing hardware to improve device accuracy and added stickers to improve installation.

Did you participate in any other CREATE-X programs during your time at Georgia Tech?

I was a TA/mentor for the Idea to Prototype (I2P) class during my final year of my PhD. In undergrad I took the Startup Lab course.

What would you tell students who are interested in Startup Launch or another CREATE-X program?

There's no time like the present to try your hand at the startup world. CREATE-X offers an incredible opportunity to understand what creating a company entails while providing an incredibly valuable support system.

What’s next for you and your startup?

  • At the ISRI Convention and in other potential customer conversations, we received feedback that some customers may prefer to pay using a CapX payment structure with a reduced monthly payment rather than our current all-inclusive recurring monthly payment structure. Receiving payment up front could also greatly help our cash-flow. We aim to define the pricing, ROI, and legal work required to achieve these types of deals and prove market acceptance by securing a sale with this new model.
  • We need tangible at-scale manufacturing timing and price estimates to properly plan for our company's projected growth and next fundraise. 
  • Given our current stage and level of traction, we are seeking 30-minute meetings to build relationships with Seed-stage investors in preparation for our next raise.

Learn more about WasteWizer online or on social media: YouTube and LinkedIn