July 22, 2013 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Bringing to market the First Smart Rifle with an Embedded WiFi Server for Streaming Video to a Mobile Device using Apps, TrackingPoint has Revolutionized the Long-Range Precision Guided Firearm System for Accuracy and Extended Range
Before that, Jason served as
the senior civilian operations officer for US Marine Corps Forces Special
Operations Command (MARSOC) and was a founding member charged with building
the Marines’ special operations capability from 2006-2008. Jason also served
in the Marine Corps as an active duty infantry officer and infantry non
commissioned officer for nine years. His last tour was with the elite Force
Recon community as a task force commander in Iraq. Jason was medically
retired in 2006 due to wounds sustained in combat. He is a recipient of the
Silver Star, the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device, and the
TrackingPoint is an Austin, Texas based applied technology company that created the first smart rifle, a revolutionary new long-range precision guided firearm system that puts jet fighter lock-and-launch technology in a rifle, enabling anyone to accurately hit targets at extended ranges.
Precision Guided Firearms/Smart Rifles
Austin TX 78758
conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – July
Mr. Schauble: The concept when the company started was our founder went on safari and he took some shots on his last day on a trophy animal known as a Thompson’s gazelle at about 300 yards off shooting sticks in the wind and he was not able to make those shots, so on his flight back he decided how technology could improve the shooting experience. He thought about tracking technologies, he thought about automatic ballistic calculators and even thought about how to record or share that experience. He worked with a company called Evermore which had a proto typing engineering capability to build a proof of concept in 2010. He started TrackingPoint in 2011 and our first products launched in the beginning of 2013. We started shipping product in May of 2013. The product itself is known as a “precision guided firearm” or “smart rifle”. The system is a closed loop system - which is a firearm, ammunition, a network tracking scope, and a guided trigger all working in concert in order to attain first round shots at extreme distance. It can track and hit moving targets up to ten miles per hour and it has a VGA heads-up display to give the user important information from sensor arrays in the scope that he needs to make the shot. The fire control or trigger is hard-lined into the scope. We studied why people missed shots at extreme ranges and we figured out how to model the ballistics and how to take into account temperature and pressure and even Coriolis effect which is the earth moving under the bullet as the bullet is in flight. We took out the downrange and the environmental factors and we also took out human jitter which is the error associated with trigger squeeze. It took us two years from proof of concept to there point where we have a consumer product in the marketplace for hunters and long-range shooters that vastly improves their shooting experience.
the shooting community by and large embrace technology and does it somehow
take the purity out of the experience?
CEOCFO: What gave you the confidence that your innovation would be embraced?
Mr. Schauble: The largest piece of confidence was every industry receives disruption at some point or another. The firearms industry has been very traditional and has not been disrupted in decades. The glass scope was invented in the 1830s and it has not progressed all that much since then. The glass has gotten cleaner and the reticles have changed but these are all minor adjustments. The idea that you can magnify your view was really the concept. We also felt comfortable that there was room for an integrated digital product to grow a market that has transitioned from wood stocks to synthetic stocks, from bolt action rifles to semiautomatic rifles, and from traditional mildots to red dots in the last few years. We also saw a trend that people record and post videos of all of their outdoor sporting experiences; look at the proliferation of GoPro cameras, Contour cameras and the like that exist today. Finally, we thought that if we gave the shooter the ability to have a video recording of what he has shot that is something that he will want to share on social media and tweet and post to his Facebook page or send to his buddy who is at work while he is out hunting and say “Hey look check out what I just shot and check out how hard that shot was.”
CEOCFO: What has been the rollout plan and how has it been received?
Mr. Schauble: We launched the product in January at a number of outdoor sporting goods shows including the Shot Show in Las Vegas, Consumer Electronics Show (CES), as well as different safari shows so people from around the world such as outfitters and hunters who come to these kinds of shows to see the newest products and services could get hands on our smart rifles. We were received very positively and more positively than even I thought we would be given the political climate at the time. Show season started two weeks after Sandy Hook so obviously there were some people at the consumer electronics show who were concerned because in their minds consumer electronics are only supposed to be for benign devices and not for smart weapons. We asked them to look past their politics and to agree that what we have created is pretty amazing technology using LINUX software and an inertial measurement unit and all of this sensor and processing technology in one integrated product. That has pretty much been the reaction. People who do not like firearms are not necessarily going to decide to like them at any point in time. There is enough demand and there is enough positive response by our consumer base and by government organizations that have been interested in doing development work with us that I think this concept is here to stay.
CEOCFO: Do you have a number of different products?
Mr. Schauble: Right now we have three different precision guided firearm products based on the same core concept: the network tracking scope, guided trigger and bolt action rifle. We then have a fourth product, which is a smart scope only product that we sell to a distribution partner - Remington – who is the largest firearm manufacturer in the US. They are going to distribute some integrated products to a number of stores by this fall. While we are selling $20 to $30 thousand dollar high-end extreme distance out to 1200 yards smart rifles, which are firearms that can effectively engage out to twelve football fields, Remington will be coming out with a product that they will put on three of their rifles that will be accurate out to 500 yards. We intend to continue to come out with more firearms products but we will also explore how our technology can be applied to other tools that fire a projectile and even technology applications that have nothing to do with shooting. There are many different areas that we could go into and a lot of runway to apply this technology.
CEOCFO: Would you give us an example?
Mr. Schauble: You could apply PGF technology to shotguns or pistols or crossbows or any small arms in the current military inventory. There are also partners that have already approached us about using the small form factor tracking engine that exists in the network tracking scope or to use our sensor arrays for precise measurement. There are many potential applications of this smart technology that we have come up with to be used in other ways.
CEOCFO: How do you stay focused when you have good traction and a number of products and potential?
Mr. Schauble: The biggest challenge that we have on a daily basis is not what to do but what we to do next. We get many people that call us to say “Hey can you develop this?” and then we have to decipher how it fits into our plan and whether it is a better idea than what we already have a vision for. We reprioritize on a regular basis based upon commercial customer input and what the government wants to talk about. We evaluate each project’s progress on a regular basis. One of the biggest decisions that we have made internally is we wanted to go to consumer first and make a business that establishes a recurring revenue stream and then look at each of the follow on R&D opportunities on its own merit and ask ourselves how does each fits into our strategy. Our strategy is not just to be the smart weapons company but to be a larger applied technology company. I think that from a macro level perspective we are better off long term diversified across several types of applied technology and several markets. I think TrackingPoint has the potential to be that company.
CEOCFO: Do you have the funding to pursue the plans you want at this point in time?
Mr. Schauble: Yes. This is our founder John McHale’s fifth startup. He also invented DSL internet among other things and he is very passionate about this project as are different board members and investors. It is all private investors and everybody is on board with building this market and exploring the different development avenues and they are all on board with the vision. That has been great for me coming into a startup. Most of my experience before this was in government, military or in larger companies and being able to come into a funded startup with huge disruption potential that makes a compelling product is a very good position and it’s an honor to serve in this kind of a role. We also have many of the smartest people I’ve ever met under one roof – engineers of every type and many interesting backgrounds and I’m delighted to learn something new every day.
CEOCFO: What have you learned in your past experience that has been most helpful here?
Mr. Schauble: The biggest experience that one takes away from working in the modern US military is how to work with all sorts of different types of people. I am not a degreed engineer and I lead an applied technology company. Over two thirds of our staff are engineers of different stripes whether it is mechanical electrical apps, software or optical. We have a ton of different levels of expertise here. Everybody wants to understand the vision and wants to understand where they fit in and they want to be continually challenged. Every time I look at a project I look at it in the context of what is smart for us to do business wise and I look at the project from the perspective of what is going to keep these really smart people challenged, galvanized, and focused on where we need to go. I learned a great deal in the past about working with people with all different backgrounds and all different levels of competency. What I would say is everybody has something to offer and it is a leadership challenge to go and figure out what people are best at and put them on the tasks that they will have the greatest probability of success with. Finding ways that each person on the team can add value to what we are trying to do as an organization is my job.
CEOCFO: Why should the business and investment community pay attention to TrackingPoint?
We were able to in less than three years basically come up with technology
that even the US military admits they did not think was going to be
available until about 2020. It just shows you what private industry can do
when they focus on a goal. Obviously there are risks as you mentioned
earlier that this is a controversial application of technology but we are
solving a problem that exists and we did not just create a flying toaster
and say “hey check it out isn’t this cool?” We went and said people cannot
hit what they shoot well at ranges longer than 200 or 300 yards, at least
most people. How do we make that different and solve the problem with
technology? How do we take shooting into the 21st century and
integrate technologies like WiFi and streaming video and recording and the
ability to share on social media using apps? I think what makes
TrackingPoint even more compelling is that if we can do this, imagine what
other things we can do. We look at things like how do you call wind using
technology? When you shoot a bullet one of the hardest things to do is
understand the wind effects on that bullet in flight. So if you are taking a
1000 yard shot you might have multiple effects over that thousand yards in
multiple directions and you have to come up with an aggregate effect to
manually enter into the ballistic calculator. There is a technological
solution that we can probably find that would not only apply for shooting
but for sailing, golf and all the other occasions where it might be useful
to understand what the aggregate wind effect is over a certain distance.
These are the kinds of things I think of when I think that if I can build a
precision guided firearm or smart rifle I can probably come up with a wind
solution for that rifle that can be applied in a lot of other areas. Those
are the kinds of projects that excite my team and that gets them up in the
morning and those are the kinds of projects we feel with be our core over
the next several years. I feel that when I come into work every day that I
have a group of people that can make dreams a reality and can make simple UI
and can cover the spectrum of applied technology experiences and that is
what excites me and that is what I think is exciting about this company.
“Every time I look at a project I look at it in the context of what is smart for us to do business wise and I look at the project from the perspective of what is going to keep these really smart people challenged, galvanized, and focused on where we need to go.”- Jason Schauble
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