Startup NovoNav is solving last leg logistics problems

Thanks to startup NovoNav, you may no longer have to stand outside your apartment waving the pizza delivery man down. The company aims to provide a personal navigation platform that solves the issue of “last segment” navigation.

“Think about a company like FedEx or UPS. They have different segments in the delivery chain – truck to the airplane to the last courier vehicle who is facing the final segment of the navigation, from the parking lot to the door of the customer,” explained Michael Frenkel, NovoNav founder.
Google has sufficiently mapped the world in order to get that package through the sky and down the street, but what about those last steps to your front door? That’s the problem he hopes to solve.

“We are developing a navigation system for this last piece,” he said.

There are three layers in this sector, he explains. First, you have geographic information system (GIS) suppliers – those who actually measure latitude and longitude and build maps. Then the second layer are companies who take many maps and lay them over one another to create fuller navigation -- think Google Maps. And then there is the third layer, companies who use those maps to create consumable products. Pokemon Go is a timely example.

NovoNav is a company working in that second layer, looking to innovate and fill navigation holes in areas or buildings that are not mapped. "99 percent are on the third layer. We are in the second layer, consuming the raw data and building meaningful maps and services. The third layer will be companies offering mass delivery," he said.

Frenkel, who is a systems engineer from Israel, is working on this project in Memphis to take advantage of the EPIcenter Logistics Innovation Accelerator, a unique local program created to help startups bring innovative logistics products and technologies to market. Now in its second year, the program is sponsored by FedEx and leverages the region’s extraordinary logistics infrastructure and expertise, making it the ideal place to launch new logistics- and transportation-based innovations.

He has been working on the idea for awhile, and needed the support of a logistics focused accelerator, positioned in a city that is home to giants like FedEx, to move towards launch.

"I had this idea for two years, and we actually haven’t launched the company officially," he said. "Two years of investigating and learning stuff in order to show proof of concept for the idea. I am participating in the accelerator to try to evaluate all the businesses that could use this kind of solution." 

He is now evaluating a business model, and the direct contact with logistics companies has been invaluable.

"Memphis' logistics sector is the reason why I searched for this kind of program. It is tailored for this kind of product. I am a foreigner here, and the main reason I came was because of the sponsorship of large corporations like FedEx. It gave us an opportunity to see how the big industry works, how the large customers in the sector are thinking," he said.
He projects that, if things go well throughout the summer, he'll be able to launch the company and secure some customers who are ready to use the systems. He will focus on businesses offering shipments – from takeout food to packages.
"Getting feedback from FedEx would have be impossible for me without this accelerator. These opportunities are very unique."

Read more articles by Anna Mullins.

Anna is a local writer, editor and non-profit administrator. She serves as Managing Editor for High Ground and as the Director of Communications and Marketing for the New Memphis Institute. Share feedback and story ideas with her here.
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