David Kovar of URSA

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with David Kovar, the founder and CEO of URSA, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of URSA – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

About five years ago, I was working for EY in Illinois and was taking some time off for the month of January. So, I bought a Phantom II drone because I enjoyed flying and the weather was good. Well, then, of course, the weather turned to typical Illinois winter weather and I still had three and a half weeks of vacation to get through. Given my background in incident response and cyber security, I started thinking: “How can I extract data from this drone and who would want to use it?”.

I realized that people would use drones inappropriately and law enforcement would need to be able to analyze them, which led to me doing many presentations over the next two years on UAV forensics. Eventually, I started building tools to support this type of forensics.

I started talking with my network about it and someone suggested applying to Techstars as a way to build the business. I knew we could help law enforcement, but I also believed that we could do much more and contribute to more than just investigations. The Techstars/AFWERX program taught us how to grow and run a company and also introduced us to the DoD and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which is a competitive program that encourages small business to do federal R&D that has the potential to be commercialized.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

We were so far ahead of the curve – lots of people attended the presentations because it was so forward thinking, but there was no demand for products and services. We are still out in front, building capabilities and waiting for the market to catch up. We used the opportunity to develop brand recognition for URSA and to build up our capabilities and our team. We now have a solid foundation – over a dozen employees plus several co-op students and contractors who are building a powerful platform for making sense of unmanned systems’ telemetry data. We are also participating in events and opportunities to educate various communities of users on what we could do for them.

What does the future hold for URSA?

We are going to build on our well-established foundation in the DoD space to start serving a commercial market. The DoD provided valuable funding that prepared us to serve the commercial market that will start finally expanding as the regulatory environment becomes more flexible and less restrictive

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Manchester?

The tech startup scene in Manchester is young and very vibrant. When Dean Kamen bought up all the old mill buildings to grow his businesses, he created the seed for tech growth. Manchester offers access to talent and funding in a city with a great quality of life at a cost of living much lower than Boston. The building where the URSA main office is located is owned by a New Hampshire venture capitalist and another VC firm is on the same block. UNH and SNHU have campuses in town and Dartmouth is just a few hours away. There are great local restaurants all around as well. We have access to capital, great talent, good quality of life, and a low cost of living. These are all things which create a successful business environment, and a growing tech economy, and we are so glad to be a part of this community.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

My mentor from Techstars is Warren Katz and at the end of the program, he told us to remember three things: “Survive, survive, survive.” You have to do whatever you need to do to stay in the game so that you are viable when the opportunities you have been creating come to fruition. Don’t get bogged down in all the entrepreneur blogs and people shouting at you to do this startup-y thing or that one – just focus on surviving.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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