COVID beeps propel Norwalk firm to ranks of fastest growing in U.S.
Robert Costantini is among the select group of CEOs who have known only pandemic life for the large majority of their tenures in the corner office.
Layer in the subset of CEOs whose companies made this year’s Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in the country, and that list is smaller yet — but with the COVID-19 outbreak a major driver for the trajectory of Triax Technologies during Costantini’s tenure.
Triax landed just outside the top 100 companies nationally for growth on the latest installment of the Inc. 5000, at nearly 40-fold over four years. The Norwalk company trailed only Shelton-based Budderfly and Eastern Asset Funding of Greenwich for growth among Connecticut companies on the list.
The California temp worker firm Human Bees led the nation for growth, with the Fitchburg, Mass.-based marijuana dispensary chain Revolutionary Clinics fourth overall to top the Northeast.
Under founders Chad and Dale Hollingsworth, Triax developed a system to ping alerts to industrial site managers or construction foremen if a worker suffers a fall. Upon arriving for their shifts, workers clip devices to their belts, shirts or hard hats, with sensors detecting mishaps and pinpointing their precise location for assistance. The Spot-r system is used by large numbers of contractors, including concrete and asphalt producer O&G Industries based in Torrington and Gilbane in Providence, R.I.
Last year, the chief information officer of Gilbane described on a podcast of the trade publication Construction Executive his company’s decision to work with Triax to adapt the system for COVID-19 prevention.
“Six-foot distancing requirements were coming out everywhere — how are we going to assist people in understanding what six feet really is?” said Gilbane CIO Jason Pelkey on the publication’s podcast. “Prior to COVID, you could tell people to stand six feet away from each other and most would not get it correct . ... Most [workers] are very satisfied with the solution — they like the reminder.”
As COVID-19 leaped across borders in early 2020, Triax realized it had a readymade system that could help companies remind employees to maintain six feet of distance on the job — and log any violations for virus contact tracing to trigger quarantines. Costantini said it took just weeks for the company to rejigger the system to offer Proximity Trace to deal with the pandemic.
“If you’re not going to have a safe work environment, it’s going to get shut down — that was the question a lot of our clients were facing,” Costantini said. “We were able to build this product and get it into the market and really help our clients stay operational.”
Triax staff reprogrammed the devices to beep and light an LED as people near six feet of distance, and emit louder alerts as they get closer. The devices can be muted to allow for scenarios in which people must work side by side for short stretches.
“We saw, within a couple of weeks, the number of close interactions reduced by 50 percent [and] we saw the duration of those interactions decrease,” Costantini said. “People would not linger — if they needed to work with somebody, they took care of what they had to do and then they corrected their distance.”
The system keeps a running log for any future contact tracing needs, with Gilbane’s Pelkey saying the company has used it for that purpose and to deduce where to focus extra cleansing efforts.
While a multitude of mobile phone apps emerged in the weeks after the pandemic with contact tracing capabilities, they rely on individuals downloading them and keeping their phone on them at all times. Using the Triax system, workers must clip on the TagTrace device upon entering the workplace and carry it for the duration of their shifts or visits.
Triax has about 50 employees, with its main office in the Lock Building on Marshall Street in South Norwalk adjacent to The Maritime Aquarium.
Costantini is among the newer employees, having joined Triax on the doorstep of the pandemic in November 2019 to replace former CEO Pete Schermerhorn who went on to launch a startup consultancy in Greenwich. Costantini spent a dozen years previously leading finance for Orbcomm, a New Jersey company that runs a satellite system to track trucks, trailers, shipping containers and other assets on the move.
Triax reported in June it had secured $12.5 million in fresh funding, with investors including the Connecticut Innovations venture fund.
At its own office in South Norwalk, Triax has a hybrid policy in place allowing for both remote and on-site work as needed for employees, with strict protocols for masks, sanitizing, temperature checks and other measures.
“In the early stages of the pandemic we managed to stay safe — we really lost no time at all in terms of people getting sick,” Costantini said. “I think the delta variant now is a different story . ... This is a very challenging year for all companies, obviously.”