Austin’s Nuve Uses Sensors, Smart Locks to Combat Theft

Nuve started out trying to solve a simple, yet important, problem for one of the world’s largest energy producers.

The Austin, TX-based startup was working with Pemex to prevent fuel theft, and Nuve developed a series of smart locks and sensors that it says saved the Mexican state oil company millions of dollars each year.

“We physically prevented someone from accessing the valves to siphon off the fuel,” says Antonio Arocha, Nuve’s founder and CEO. “You can tell when and where your fuel is being stolen, at your own place of business, during delivery of a package to a client.”

Arocha says he realized that his company’s system could be an “asset protection solution package” that could also guard against cargo theft. The sensors would be placed on containers used in global shipping and can create “smart perimeters” around them.

In addition to Pemex, Nuve’s other customers include Femsa, a bottling company based in Mexico City; Cemex, the giant Mexican cement company based in Monterrey; and AHMSA, the largest steel plant in Mexico. Now, the startup is branching out beyond the U.S.’s southern neighbor with, for example, a partnership with Cummins de los Andes in Colombia, which will also help Nuve expand into Peru and Chile. “Latin America is an amazing market,” Arocha says.

Nuve has also found a toe-hold in Asia: It will soon start a pilot with oil giant Shell in the Philippines.

To fuel this expansion, the startup has landed investors such as Alta Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Monterrey, Mexico; and Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups which, seven months ago, invested $5.5 million into the startup.

Globally, cargo theft is estimated to cost about $23 billion, according to BSI Supply Chain Solutions, a British consultancy with offices in the U.S. and Hong Kong. Traditionally, Arocha says, companies have used measures such as zip ties with serial numbers or magnetic locks. And even while they have begun to implement more modern technologies like GPS to track shipments, cargo theft remains a top problem, Arocha says.

Looking forward, Arocha says the company’s biggest challenge is continuing to find the right partners for physical installation of its devices at each new global hub. “We are now working on making the hardware component an easy tool to install—think Ikea—so our customers can install and activate the system on their own,” he says.



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