Altimeter Software

“My grandpa was a preacher and I grew up in the church.  I’ve been blessed to enjoy healthy church communities.  But I also know people who are struggling with how to get connected into the church and just need a little guidance and encouragement.  I’m excited that we can help people rise to new heights in the dimension of their life that should be most important to them.”

For the June 2016 issue of MinistryTech, I returned to the topic of a previous column and introduced the company that had emerged, Altimeter Software, and their co-founder, Austin McRay.

In this article series, we’ve defined a Christian entrepreneur as: a person, driven to glorify God in all he does, and ruled by the Word of God, who starts a new venture and is willing to risk a loss in order to achieve the success of the venture.  Each month I’ve been introducing you to specific Christian startups and entrepreneurs, some of which may be helpful to your church, ministry, business, or family, but my main intent is to encourage and inspire you to be entrepreneurial in your ministry and career.  

Six months ago, I introduced you to Summer Lashley and Oklahoma Christian University’s Ethos spiritual development program as an example of an established Christian organization with entrepreneurial spirit leveraging technology to introduce a new program that is core to the university’s mission.  Today I’m excited to share with you how that initial effort has been spun-out into a new stand-alone startup business to serve other universities, large churches, and high schools.

Introducing Altimeter

Last year, another Christian university approached OC about licensing the Ethos software, so when I arrived on campus in the Fall as the Entrepreneur in Residence, I was asked to look into this new business opportunity.  We formed a team of four students: one computer science major, a double-major in CS and electrical engineering, an accounting major, and a marketing major.  For the next several months, these four examined the product capabilities, the potential market fit, the competitive landscape, and built a relatively sophisticated financial model to test different scenarios.  

In January of this year, the team presented their recommendations to university leadership.  Altimeter Software, LLC was formed later that month and entered into an agreement with OC to license the intellectual property.  The university also agreed to incubate the business on-campus to minimize start-up costs.  Two of those students have continued with the business as it has launched, and Summer Lashley has stepped in as CEO.

What the team realized is that the software is good for more than just spiritual development.  In fact, it can work for any use where you should get credit for being in the right place at the right time.  The product has two components: a mobile app and a management dashboard.  The mobile app allows users to discover events, check into those events (via GPS, beacon, card-swipe, or manual entry), and track their progress towards a goal.  The web-based dashboard enables organizations to set goals, add events, track user progress, and run reports to identify opportunities for improvement.  For example, one report showed that students living in the on-campus apartments were falling behind their goal, so the Ethos team created more events convenient for them.  Another report showed that Engineering students were overly focused on formal worship events, so the Ethos team worked with faculty to create more small group opportunities.  Those capabilities have worked great for OC’s Ethos program, but can have much broader appeal in other types of organizations.

The team identified three reference “meters” that a broad array of potential customers might be able to use.  Obviously, the first is a meter for people to gauge how they’re doing in their spiritual development.  The second meter is for community service, for organizations that encourage or require their members to be active in serving the community.  The third meter measures fan loyalty, setting goals (with rewards) for attending a team’s sporting events.  Based on just these three uses, the target market broadens from Christian universities to churches, Christian high schools, secular colleges and high schools, and even recreational to professional sports teams.  But, in reality, a customer can create a meter to track just about anything.  Altimeter’s first customer, another Christian university, plans to introduce meters in the Fall to track attendance in large classes and for curfew check-in for Freshman dorms.

Introducing Austin

One of the founders of Altimeter is Austin McRay.  Austin graduated from Oklahoma Christian in April with a Marketing degree with an emphasis on Professional Sales.  Instead of getting a sales job with an existing company, Austin has chosen to start his career as the head of business development for this startup.  One area that he’s particularly excited about is helping large churches.

“As I’ve talked to large churches, it’s clear that two areas of challenge for them are accountability and engagement.  They have lots of programs and lots of people, but it’s pretty clear that not all the people are connecting with even some of the programs.  What’s not clear is the who and the what, which makes it impossible to figure out the why.”

Austin points to research by the Leadership Network and Hartford Institute that says that “having a high percentage of robust actively engaged members enhances many congregational dynamics” (including increased giving and healthier small group participation). And that “innovation and willingness to change are strongly correlated to growth and health.”  He hopes that the Altimeter software can provide an innovative solution for large churches to drive accountability and engagement.

“My grandpa was a preacher and I grew up in the church.  I’ve been blessed to enjoy healthy church communities.  But I also know people who are struggling with how to get connected into the church and just need a little guidance and encouragement.  I’m excited that we can help people rise to new heights in the dimension of their life that should be most important to them.”

I’m impressed with Austin’s maturity and his focus on creating value –  in terms of his customer’s objectives, but more importantly in terms of spiritual growth.  Colossians 3:23-24 tells us “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”  I look forward to seeing how Austin will be blessed through this entrepreneurial experience.

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