By Alicia Cunningham | Aug 20, 2016
Established: January 2010
Employees: 48 full-time, 12 contractors
Some people play golf as a hobby. Brad Walters, owner and founder of Monnit, builds companies.
“This is my 11th start-up,” he says. “It’s kind of like a virus. I worked for IBM and liked that experience, but I have found that large companies are skimpy on their compensation, even for people who hit it out of the ballpark. I went to a start-up and liked the culture.” He’s been hooked ever since.
Walters’ last start-up, MaxStream, was purchased in 2006. “The acquisition was a great success and everyone did well. My goals were met financially, but it was not fun to have hobbies be my day-to-day life. So I jumped back in. I felt like the technology bus was leaving me behind, so I got back in the game and tried to be more relevant.”
Walters started by going back to old clients and asking, “What didn’t our last product do?” Clients reported back that MaxStream provided wireless links for electricity and gas meters but did not provide any type of accompanying sensor. Walters built Monnit based on these conversations.
“We built wireless sensors to monitor heat-related issues. We also remotely monitor assets, infrastructure and processes to make sure the owner is aware of an issue before it becomes costly. We had customers within six months of generating our idea,” Walters says. Because the invention met an unmet need, over 39 offers to buy Monnit have come in to Walters since 2010.
“If people want to buy us, that’s validation,” Walters says. “We’re doing something right.”
A target customer for Monnit is any business on main street America. “If it’s a business with an entrance or a retail location, they have something that can go wrong and cost them money,” Walters says. “Our pitch to them is simple: you’ll receive a return on your investment very quickly. There was a Botox company chain who had a batch spoiled because it got too hot. $15,000 lost. They contacted us. That is what we are seeing throughout our customer base.”
Monnit manufactures nearly exclusively in the state of Utah. “It’s the right thing to do for our country and our culture,” Walters says. The wireless sensors are built around one platform which can be adjusted, through a software change, to work anywhere in the world. This simple manufacturing design helps keep costs down. “We just build one sensor and tweak it,” Walters says.
Challenges: Real estate. As Monnit continues to grow, it is forced to pay more for needed space. “It’s a really good economy, and real estate has become very expensive.” But do not look for Walters to move out of Salt Lake County. His location allows him to draw on talent from Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties. “Salt Lake Valley proper has a wonderful manufacturing pool,” Walters says.
Opportunities: A new platform. Monnit has utilized the same technology since 2010 and is investing in a new platform which will be operational in a matter of days. Monnit sensors will have to ability to be read 20-30 miles away. “It will broaden our sales markets. We can move into farming and energy industries.”
Needs: Money. Other businesses owned by Walters have been venture-backed, and so he recognizes the value of having access to funding. “We’ve begun the process of evaluating investment partners. I would love a large war chest. I would love to be able to compete for top talent. That will happen in its own due time. We want to acquire a few companies and fold them into our culture. I am looking forward to that, but it takes time, and it takes money. But Utah needs this. Utah needs more large tech companies anchored here in the state and the entire Intermountain West.”