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February 06, 2019 | Tom Ballard

CTS Software focused on a “really hot industry with a lot of moving parts”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yesterday, we spotlighted 2019 plans at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center {KEC}. One of the participants in KEC’s new year-long, growth-focused program is CTS Software.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

It’s providing a service that many might consider somewhat staid and fairly stable, but one of the Co-Owners of this virtual software company describes the sector it serves as a “really hot industry with a lot of moving parts.”

You are probably asking yourself, “What might the industry be?” Perhaps the best way to quickly describe it is with another question: “How often do you see the small buses and vans driving around Knoxville that are branded as Knox County CAC Transit?”

The service, provided by the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC), is targeted at those who need accessible, on demand public transportation and are not served by other providers like Knoxville Area Transit.

Ironically, Knox County CAC Transit is one of the oldest customers of CTS Software, a company founded in Wilmington, NC three decades ago to serve organizations that provide transportation for persons with disabilities and the elderly. At the start of 2017, the company changed hands with two employees – Adam Fox and Bryan Foster – buying it from Founder Huck Venters. Foster is a recent addition to the Knoxville community, moving here shortly before the acquisition.

“We’re a virtual company with nearly 20 employees,” he told us in a recent interview. “Five of those, including me, live in Knoxville.”

Over lunch, Foster described an industry that is rapidly evolving, driven in no small part by the rapid rise in on demand transportation spearheaded by the rapid emergence of Uber and Lyft as well as an emerging interest on the part of healthcare providers.

“The healthcare industry has started looking at transportation as a part of healthcare,” Foster says. “You can’t provide services if you can’t get them (the patients) there.”

The history of CTS Software is interesting. Venters owned what Foster described as “a handful of what were then called sheltered workshops that were residential properties for people with disabilities.” He bought vans to help with their transportation and needed a way to schedule the trips.

“He hired a programmer to write a scheduling program in DOS,” Foster said. Later, Venters divested of the transportation venture but kept the software business and slowly grew it. For the first 12 years, it was only Venters and his sister before Fox joined in 2006.

Foster was added a few years later when the company’s software developer died unexpectedly and Fox, a person he knew through a mutual friend, handed him a laptop and said, “Help me out!”

The two formed Foxster Solutions Inc. as a holding company when they bought CTS Software. It’s a play on their last names – Fox and the last four letters of Foster. “Adam has always been the on the front line with the customers; I’m the guy in the trenches and have written a huge majority of the code,” Foster says.

The company has about 300 customers using its product that goes under the brand name of TripMaster by CTS Software. It is a full-service transit suite, including modules for automated scheduling and dispatching, custom billing and reporting, integrated voice response, mobile solutions, and an automated vehicle locator.

“We hope to have an app for riders early in 2019,” Foster adds. That sort of enhancement, as well as much of the “behind the screen” improvements in TripMaster, are clearly designed in response to the emergence of on demand services like Uber and Lyft.

“Our customers are staying alert and watching the industry,” he says. They anticipate expansion by the two companies and others into the disability and non-emergency medical transportation.

CTS Software is also positioning itself in another way. Rather than marketing just to the direct transportation provider, the company is also focused on brokers – enterprises that manage transportation services for large healthcare providers, for example, but rely on individual companies to provide the actual transit service.

“We’re still an underdog in the industry,” Foster says, adding, “We’re in a growth stage. The market is there. We have a great, more mature product than the competition.”

And, as on demand services grow more and more, CTS Software is positioned to capitalize on that opportunity.

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