Entrepreneur Spotlight: Elliot Richards, Co-Founder of Outland Analytics
November 7, 2019
It’s not a stretch to say that Elliot Richards, co-founder of Outland Analytics - an AI system designed to stop forestry crimes, was destined to launch a career in wilderness protection. Elliot grew up in rural upstate New York, has a grandfather that was a professor at New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry and spent his childhood roaming his grandfather’s land in Maine. His background allowed him to learn about forest protection at a young age - and how few safeguards are in place for public land.
Forest protection agencies are understaffed for the amount of land they cover, so widespread forestry crimes are unfortunately common. According to the U.S. Forest Service, for every 300,000 acres of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service, an area equivalent to nearly 500 square miles, there’s only one law enforcement officer patrolling for illicit activity, such as illegal logging, drug trafficking and trespassing.
Additionally, deforestation and illegal logging are large-scale contributors to climate change. According to the Congressional Research Group, deforestation is responsible for 17 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
After learning the dangers of illegal logging, bonding over a shared love of nature with his co-founder Edward Buckler and developing the idea to stop environmental crimes during a high school project, Outland Analytics was born.
Since then, Elliot and Edward have built a device that is equipped with a microphone capable of monitoring over 90 acres and can detect a chainsaw or unauthorized vehicles. The device alerts officials through an email or text message, which allows authorities to follow the coordinates and stop potential environmental crimes in progress.
Image from outlandanalytics.com.
At Drexel University’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship’s annual entrepreneurship event, Startup Fest, Outland Analytics won first prize during its Incubator Competition in 2018. Richards and Buckler were awarded $12,500 in cash for their startup, one year of free residency space in the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship, SEO auditing services from Wanashaker, legal services from Morgan Lewis up to $2,500 and three hours of pro-bono accounting consulting services from GMS Surgent.
It’s been a year since this win. In that time, Outland Analytics have accomplished a lot.
With the funding from the competition and a full team of six, they worked on software and hardware development in NextFab Accelerator Labs, wrapped up product development in spring 2019, completed in-house testing on a U.S. national forest, tested their product in the Catskill Mountains and became official IBM business partners. They also recently obtained their first paying client in the federal government, the Bureau of Land Management.
The demand for sustainable and environmentally conscious businesses are increasing, and Outland understands the need to stay informed to keep ahead of the game.
“Entrepreneurs should be focused on the problems to understand what’s going on. Sustainability and environmental causes are huge, so you have to understand a broad range of topics,” says Elliot. “I stay on list serves from the United Nations, subscribe to reports and newsletters about environmental justice and protection.”
Elliot also emphasized the importance of connecting with people. “We interviewed 150-200 rangers and participated in ride-alongs and site visits. We spoke with them to learn how our product could benefit their efforts.”
With this young company’s solid start and core principles of creating a great product, understanding the product’s draw and building relationships with its target market, we’re sure to continue to hear more exciting things about them in the future. To support Outland Analytics on its journey, follow on Twitter and LinkedIn! If you’re interested in learning more about entrepreneurship at Drexel University, register for Startup Fest 2019 here.
Sarah Temple, Communications, Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship