Making Tracks

Daniel Turner and Stephen Carter are planning to make tracks in rural America. Their company, TRAXyL, is developing a new way of distributing optical fiber for digital connections. Their optical fiber goes directly on the surface of the road rather than being buried underground or hung from telephone poles. The fiber is faster to install and much less expensive than traditional optical fiber installation methods. As Carter puts it, “We are helping to bring down the cost to connect rural and underserved areas to the internet.”

The optical fiber solution, known as FiberTRAX, is currently in the research and development stage. TRAXyL has faced some technical hurdles, particularly in finding the right resin to use in developing the fiber and in coming up with a machine to automate the process.

As they’ve been working on technical processes, they’ve also been attending to their business. TRAXyL has four employees, including founders Turner and Carter. When they needed business advice, they turned to Senior Business Counselor Bernard Ferret at the Mason SBDC. Turner found Ferret to be someone who is “great to bounce ideas off of and who brings expertise to the company we otherwise couldn’t afford.”

Turner and Carter participated in the SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), which benefited them a great deal. “They put us in touch with a plethora of contacts to help us out and point us in the right direction,” says Turner. Those contacts, including several subject matter experts – one of whom was himself an ICAP participant in a previous year, have helped the duo as they move forward in their plans to bring connectivity to those who might not normally have it. It also helped them land a fair amount of funding.

Having overcome most of the technical hurdles, TRAXyL is now focusing on customer acquisition. “The core of our company is bringing digital services to the rural customer, schools that need to close the digital divide, businesses, and even those working for disaster relief,” says Carter. As Turner explains, “The most rewarding part of the job is being able to provide service to people who really don’t have any other choices for internet access.”

Virginia SBDC