Contenido Ingles
Innovación y Emprendimiento
WIDETECH: Movie-Like Technology in Real Life

Load trucks with tracing devices hidden under merchandise and containers; tanker trucks with devices that detect any fuel volume variation; vans with refrigerated real-time monitored storage units to preserve products at exact temperatures; a platform that controls the location of technical staff, sales to cities, and manages cabs, ambulances and cranes; all these seem Hollywood movie technologies, but in fact they are some of the services that WideTech provides in over 20 countries around the world.

Seven years ago, the use of GPS in Colombia was obsolete, and it wasn’t useful for anything beyond locating stolen cars. At that time, Jaime Arbeláez was the Technology Director of the firm that dominated the market. In 2008, the company was liquidated, and Jaime was left unemployed, with a check of a few million pesos as a compensation for his 9 years running the firm.

At 38, he decided to take six sabbatical months and spend more than half of that money in a trip to Asia, hoping to reconsider his life and, in the meantime, go to fairs, events and meetings about the latest developments in the technology he was passionate about: global positioning devices and their various uses in different industries. After traveling through Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China and Hong Kong, he came back to Bogotá with his bags full of sophisticated devices and the idea of establishing his own business.

“Five years ago, all I wanted to be was self-employed, to invest my own time in creating new things and discovering other ways of applying my knowledge into this type of technology”, says Jaime, who never imagined the magnitude of the business he was about to discover. His first client was an oil company that needed to trace the trucks that carried drills for 10 to 12 hours throughout remote and dangerous roads across the country.

Jaime hired Johny Alfonso, a former colleague and currently his business partner, in order to develop a platform that allowed oil companies to know the location and real-time speed at which their trucks were driving. It was possible due to a portable tracker that drivers carried in their pockets, and it became a logistics control system that made oil operations more efficient and dynamic.

When Jaime attempted to charge his first service, he had no legal way of doing it, so in record time he established a company and organized administratively. WideTech was born to fulfill this need. By December 2008, the company had already sold nearly 300 devices to two clients, for almost 200 million pesos. When he became aware of this potential, he looked for a strategic investor, and he found Alberto Ruiz Llano, a well-known businessman that bought part of WideTech for a considerable amount.

Each product they develop is based on everyday needs of potential clients. In 2009, after closing many deals with oil and gas firms, Jaime traveled to an international security fair in Miami, where he met his first foreign client. The police of a Central American city was interested in buying WideTech’s technology to monitor patrol cars and police officers. By the end of 2009, WideTech had 15 employees, 2.000 active track units, and sales of over 1 billion pesos. “At first you feel scared of reaching out to clients outside Colombia, but the opportunities are huge”, Jaime explains.

In a Proexport mission to Mexico, Jaime met companies from diverse sectors that were interested in adapting WideTech’s platform to their particular needs. Multinationals such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola wanted to monitor their distribution trucks to improve operational efficiency while decreasing costs. TIGO and Movistar needed the technology to locate employee and user mobile telephones, and security companies such as ADT/Tyco and G4S wanted to provide asset-tracking services to their clients. They found all these logistic solutions at WideTech, which led Jaime to travel to Mexico and Argentina looking for commercial allies.

This experience proved to him that the best business model for his company was franchises. Many technology distributors were interested in selling WideTech’s services to their clients. Nowadays, the company has 150 franchises in 18 Latin American countries, and the platform has been adapted into English and Portuguese in order to satisfy customers from Brazil, the U.S. and Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago. As an employee, Jaime constantly disagreed with his bosses because they didn’t let him go any further: “I’m a nonconformist. I want to go two steps ahead of what life is giving me”, he says. That accumulated frustration could finally be channeled for the benefit of his own company, which reported sales over 2 billion pesos and 8.000 active tracking devices in 2010, three times as much as the previous year.

In 2011, WideTech reached a landmark when it expanded its service portfolio and created the four brands that are currently offered. CargoShield monitors cargo trucks, containers and merchandise through padlock (and other objects) camouflaged satellite devices. One of their most important clients is the Government of Buenos Aires, Argentina, which uses WideTech’s platform to protect thousands of containers shipped daily.

EyeControl locates field staff, sales and technical service employees in cities, and verifies that they perform their duties. One by One is the people counting system to measure passenger volume of a massive transportation system, and TaxiFinder allowed more than 7.000 cab drivers in Colombia to give up radiotelephones and pick up passengers through a more efficient satellite system. For this product, WideTech won the Innova 2011 award handed by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MINCIT), giving the company more visibility and significant investment resources for research and devopment.

This award allowed them to compete and be pre-selected as “Endeavor Global Entrepreneurs” by this international organization that supports high impact entrepreneurship from developing countries such as Colombia, providing mentoring and acceleration. In December 2012, at the Selection Committee hosted in Miami, WideTech was chosen along with other 39 firms as part of a select group of businesses with the potential to revolutionize their industries on a world scale, a privilege that gives them access to an exclusive network, capital funds and consultants.

During WideTech’s expansion process, Jaime constantly travelled to technology fairs in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the U.S., and he realized that many of the devices he was still conceiving did not exist yet. He decided to use Innova’s money to create a business unit and produce the hardware that would solve issues that oil and gas clients have when monitoring fuel levels while loading their tank trucks, as well as preventing theft, and issues that dairy product companies have when controlling real-time temperature and moisture of refrigerated trucks.

WideTech’s history is still not even halfway through. Unimaginable goals have been achieved. Last year, the company sold more than 5 million dollars worth of products and services. Jaime Arbeláez just moved with his family to New York, on one hand, to start operating in the U.S., and on the other, to take advantage of Endeavor Global’s network and find a high-level managerial investor who would like to acquire 30% of the company.

 

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info@innpulsacolombia.com