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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Lineberger

Trailblazers: Meet Cory Hohs, CEO of HAAS Alert

We partner with Trailblazers, founders whose innovative ideas are reimagining their industries. This series aims to highlight disruptive companies and the leaders who built them.


 


How did you get started with HAAS Alert?


I was working at NAVTEQ/HERE Maps, a provider of navigable maps for the automotive industry, and was nearly struck and killed by an ambulance while on a motorcycle in Chicago. Leveraging my experience at NAVTEQ/HERE Maps, my two co-founders and I discussed how we can get emergency vehicles to talk to cars by creating a mobile app using information found on national federal databases. Once we started to dig in we discovered that there was no national database as all municipalities worked independently of each other. If there was a way to consolidate this data, we would have a company. 


We formed HAAS Alert in 2016 as an acoustics company that would listen for sirens. We quickly learned that this wouldn’t work and we needed to pivot to a safety cloud solution to solve the problem of safety on the roads. 


How were you introduced to Blu? How was your experience working with Blu?


Bob Struble, a Blu partner, introduced us to Blu Ventures.  He had a deep understanding of the automotive industry through his company iBiquity, and helped HAAS develop the two-sided supply model.


You mentioned the board’s role in developing HAAS. Can you expand on that?


As we were building out our board, we recognized that we needed a board for our investors and other industry leaders as well as an advisory board with direct experience and knowledge of the industry we are in. From our perspective, we needed members of the advisory board to understand how emergency services worked and how we could protect those at risk, understand how the FCC and the government operated for vehicle communications, as well as have deep automotive experience and research trends in the market on our behalf. In the early days, the advisory board was critical to the success of HAAS. 


Regarding the investor board, we’ve benefited from members from the investor side with tech experience who will push us from a financial perspective and challenge us when necessary. Our board also includes former Congresswoman Cheri Bustos who is a big proponent of first responder safety.  She brings a different perspective than our investors and will fight for safety, which ultimately benefits HAAS Alert. It’s a balancing act because we want to be neutral so we stay away from auto and fleet companies on our board. We believe that this would send the wrong message. Ultimately, a board with varying viewpoints will be more effective for the company in the long run than a board that doesn’t question the leadership.


What has been your experience on Capitol Hill?


I met a DC transportation advocate  named Daniella Landau through my connection at Tusk Ventures. She is passionate about USDOT policy and safety and encouraged me to tell our story all over the hill year after year on behalf of our customers. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to push through policies on behalf of roadway safety. Due to all of that work and the continuing work we do legislatively, we’ve been able to be a part of new safety federal grants on behalf of first responders.


Can you talk about landing your first automotive deal with Stellantis?


Stellantis was a labor of love! It took us seven years to create a technology that is frictionless for automakers where they don’t need to write any code or dedicate a portion of their staff to onboard the technology. 


At the same time, we had to change the narrative from a small startup that provides the latest safety technology to automotive companies to a tier-one safety auto supplier that's transforming how vehicles communicate through our message gateway - Safety Cloud. We focus solely on safety and the customers we are trying to protect. Through the easy-to-install tech (through the cloud) and the narrative as a safety company, we’ve been able to transform HAAS and the automotive partners we have such as Stellantis, and a pre-announcement we did in the market publicly with VW in January.


Any advice for other fledgling founders


Staying focused and clear on the Northstar of the endgame you want to build, everything else will fall into place. You’ll make mistakes along the way - everyone does! Don’t let the fear of failing stop you from what you want to do. Also, don’t believe the hype! As your company grows and begins to get attention, you still need to focus on the work at hand. Our Northstar is getting safety alerts into cars. We are solely focused on that and are reminded of it after every meeting at HAAS. Surround yourself with co-founders that you trust implicitly with the business. My co-founders and I have gone through trials and tribulations, and things have gotten heated at times. However, the foundation of our relationship is trust; trust in each other and trust that we are all in it for the same reasons. 


What is up next for HAAS Alert?


We have a few exciting things at HAAS. First, since automakers sell cars in Europe we needed to solve the connectivity challenge due to a different technology that is not in US cars. We were able to prove it out with safety cloud, which is really exciting. Second, we are leveraging our experience with Stellantis to sign more automakers that are rallying behind not just HAAS Alert - but overall roadway safety. Third, we are working towards scaling our fleet solutions so that more first responders and roadway workers in all corners of the country and around the globe can have access to critical safety messaging. We were unable to focus on this side of the business due to a lack of funding previously. Volition Capital provided these much-needed funds to help us hire more people and find a way to invest in how to bring our safety solution to more folks in need. This is exciting as it has opened up new solutions and new markets for HAAS. We look forward to continuing to bring our life saving V2X messaging solutions to anyone looking for roadway safety! 

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