The next time you see a sign alerting you of an emergency ahead while driving, it may be because of GovComm.
A maker of quality weatherproof cameras and microwave sensors, GovComm’s equipment and software enables real-time communication from the roads to transportation management centers. States regulate the use of such equipment by local transportation departments by certifying which equipment may be used. GovComm is one of a few qualified intelligent transportation system manufacturers certified in Florida.
Getting into a market with few competitors was a shrewd business decision by GovComm founder Craig Waltzer, a certified public accountant by trade who says he “got bit by the technology bug” after working with a former client.
Well versed in the difficulties of growing a business even before he launched GovComm in 2012, Waltzer already had taken a previous technology business public before exiting it.
Despite the experience, the road has not been smooth. The competition, he says, includes large companies that like to squeeze the smaller businesses out of the market.
“What we’re up against is companies that use their size as a deterrent for [clients] using us,” said Waltzer, who works with business partner and chief technology officer Svet Veltchev.
Always interested in learning, he attended a growth strategies course offered by the Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center at Florida International University’s College of Business. The center provides no-cost consulting to entrepreneurs and business owners to help them grow.
“They opened my eyes to different marketing methods and thoughts,” said Waltzer.
In particular, he sought guidance from the SBDC at FIU on how to deal with competitors who bad-mouth his business, a challenge faced by many companies.
To combat negative comments, GovComm offered a free camera to each transportation district in the state so they could try their product and judge for themselves. Another time, the company challenged competitors to put up $10,000 each and pay for a ‘best camera contest,’ which would entail putting the cameras on a pole and hiring a laboratory to test them. No competitor took him up on the challenge.
“There’s a lot of negativity in the marketing by our competitors,” he said. “We’ve chosen to take the high road.”
In addition to the marketing and public relations assistance, he says the Florida SBDC at FIU also has assisted with access to capital, helping obtain a U.S. Small Business Administration-backed credit line.
“That was our initial way of getting out into the credit market,” Waltzer said.
Since then, the company has expanded and purchased a larger facility. Its equipment now is certified by the State of Georgia, as well as Florida, he said. GovComm has active applications and plans to expand into other states. It also is selling in the Caribbean, Central and South America. In addition, the number of full time employees has grown from the two founders to a bustling facility housing administrative, technical, research and development employees and freelance developers who support and write code for GovComm’s customers.
Waltzer encourages business owners to “take advantage” of the business consulting services offered by the Florida SBDC at FIU: “It’s not just for somebody thinking about opening a lemonade stand, it’s also for companies at an advanced stage, which is where I felt we were,” he said. “A lot of our expansion has been because of our assistance we got through the SBDC.”