What do a soldier patrolling the streets of Baghdad and a fast-food vendor on American soil have in common?
More than you may initially think, as a matter of fact.
Both require a level situational awareness and keen emotional intelligence – whether strategizing with a fellow soldier, responding to an enemy combatant or providing service to a gluten-free vegan. Deep understanding of who people are and a genuine sense of empathy are critical calculations both in war and business.
Such were the careful equations that HyprLoco’s co-founders Nic Gray and Damon Baker considered upon the build-out of a new kind of smart environment software. The two men, both military veterans, drew from their experiences and pivoted into technology, developing a platform that could help everyday businesses improve their situational awareness upon interacting with customers.
“We started with a simple idea,” says Gray. “Things are better when you understand who is standing in front of you, on the other side of a door or at the other end of a customer order.”
To achieve that immediate interpersonal communication effectively, HyprLoco uses custom software to crunch data about patrons and their preferences, delivering real-time intelligence to businesses that can help capture and maintain customers. In turn, businesses that utilize the HyprLoco platform and analytics can deliver better customer contact by accurately identifying what brings individuals in and how to provide beyond-satisfactory experiences to keep them coming back.
To get HyprLoco off the ground, Gray appeared to jump out of fatigues and into the startup uniform of jeans and a t-shirt seamlessly – raising money, managing investors and growing a cohesive team with ease. But looks can be deceiving. When he exited the military in late 2007 years ago, his road toward becoming a tech entrepreneur was shaky. Gray launched an effort to help other veterans build businesses and make successful transitions. While he poured himself into that goal, he was blind to his own struggles leftover from the field of battle and his PTSD got the better of him. One night in Colorado Springs, in a fit of semi-conscious alarm, Gray tore through a quiet neighborhood, clearing houses, only to be arrested despite his irrefutable determination to make his environment safe. Thankfully, a veterans’ organization came to his aid following the episode. Though it took time, a few hiccups along the way, and relocating to Denver, Gray forged a community and a new mission into which he could redirect his energy. HyprLoco was the final ingredient in the recipe that resulted in recovery and transition to civilian life.
Describing his forecast for the business, he asks customers to: “Imagine walking into a restaurant and being greeted by name, [having] your order ready, and being assured that your pesky nut allergy is accommodated, no questions asked. That’s what this technology enables restaurants to do.”
Gray, Baker and their dedicated team have been building NORM, an intelligent native SDK that interfaces into HyprLoco’s API’s, which integrates seamlessly into existing mobile applications, point-of-sale systems, loyalty programs, and any third-party data store. Its mobile order and mobile-order pickup technology is designed to help customer-facing employees better interact with clientele. Gray and his team are committed to revolutionize drive-thrus, curbside and in-store pickup for restaurants around the world by understanding where guests are, what they ordered and when they arrive. With this intel, retail and restaurant environments can provide the best product and guest experience.
“I got a call from a friend who worked at Galvanize [a tech-ed and coworking program headquartered in Denver] telling me this was the coolest company he’d ever seen come through. I knew I needed to meet them,” recalls Chris Bissonnette, a Vancouver-based venture investor who helped HyprLoco open and close their initial $1.25M seed round. “The team is extraordinary. Nic is a tremendous leader, and Damon built an amazing product. When we started to go out and solicit outside investment, I realized that having this team out fundraising was not the best use of their time. They needed to keep building the product. So we decided to close out the round ourselves.”
Bissonnette, and his firm Pallasite Ventures carried the round of investment independently, setting HyprLoco up to build out their product unfettered. This is Bissonnette’s first investment in a Colorado-based company, and he sees it as a launching off pad for bigger projects in the local market.
“Denver has a ton of great potential, similar to Vancouver in that there is a lot of talent, a lot of room to grow, and limited capital. So we are in a great spot to build a great company.”