A Slice on Scott Murdoch, Co-Founder of TrafficGenius
Meet Scott Murdoch, he wants to help you spend more time with your family or doing things you love, instead of being caught up in a traffic snarl. For Murdoch, multi-tasking is the name of the game. He works as a full-time Data Scientist, shoulders equal responsibility at home, is a hands-on dad to his kids and is the Co-Founder of TrafficGenius.
His moment of epiphany happened when he was still a Grad Student. The genesis of TrafficGenius happened at 11pm in Morgantown, West Virginia (where he studied), when, despite an empty road, he had to wait for the light to change. Already very interested in AI (he was using it in his dissertation), he thought of blending both to change the way things worked. He filed away the idea for later use because his focus at that time was on earning a Ph.D. in Economics and building his career.
After getting his Doctorate from West Virginia University, he went on to work in data analytics, where he is now a senior-level Methodologist and Analytical professional, specializing in Big Data. Several years into his career, that very early moment of epiphany took shape, and TrafficGenius was born. The credit of this goes very largely to the birth of Murdoch’s first child. Murdoch says, “After having my first child, I felt like I needed to do as much as possible to make an impact for my family, so I started the company.”
So, what does TrafficGenius do? To put it simplistically, it uses big data and analytics to minimize traffic congestion. There is a lot of heart that has gone into the creation of TrafficGenius; not only did Murdoch take this on for his family, but he is also looking at reducing the carbon footprint from cars idling in traffic congestions. This will enhance the future quality of air and life for not only his children but everywhere this system is used.
It has not been all smooth sailing, however. Like most other founders and entrepreneurs, sales have been a challenge for him too. The key reason is that this is a new and untested solution without a proof of concept. Also, the fact that he must primarily deal with city councils and other similar organizations and bodies where there is a lot of back-and-forth. To mitigate this, he is partnering with data providers. His rationale here is, “They have relationships with the city, so you can start with a proof of concept with a data provider and they can help open doors for you.” He is also open to adapting to city requirements. For him, it means using a multi-modal approach. For example, taking bikers’ needs of optimized biking lanes into account weaving it into his solution.
Finances, an aspect of concern for most boot-strapping startups, hasn’t been one for Murdoch, so far. Since he has a full-time day job, he is not dependent on TrafficGenius yet. He is, however, looking at funding because the company is still a cost center. He goes on to share that when approaching investors, it makes sense to understand their investment specialization areas ruling out mismatch possibilities. He also suggests keeping the pitch short, sweet and to the point. Keeping it crisp and succinct makes for good practice. He further adds that including long and short-term goals and the general direction the business is going to take help.
Skepticism, coming to terms with the opportunity cost (with Murdoch being an economist first, this was bound to be a part of the equation), long hours and remaining motivated are more challenges he is working on.
He has two pieces of valuable advice for new entrepreneurs. Sharing the first one, he says, “When I started, I was very shy, but I was concerned about somebody taking my idea and running with it. I would caution founders to not do that. Talk with people, get your idea out there, get an MVP or a minimal viable product. Open as many doors as you can.” He also recommends on-boarding like-minded co-founders and team members as it makes for a smooth working environment and accelerated growth.
Keeping it all about helping people, making a positive impact on the environment, building something of his own and wanting the best for his children are what keep him going. This is his journey alright, green lights et al…
Scott Murdoch received his B.A. in Economics and Business Management from Hope College and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Economics from West Virginia University. Previously, he worked at Ford Motor Credit Company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, HealthJoy and Power Advocate. He is currently the Director of Data Science for the American Cancer Society and founded TrafficGenius and YuckyData. Connect with Murdoch on LinkedIn.