In 2008, Alberta engineer and entrepreneur Paul Buller had a toddler son and a wife with some serious health challenges that limited her ability to lift heavy objects. More than 10 years later, Buller and his team are rolling out RazerLift – an automated cargo management system – to North American markets.
“We learned if you give an engineer a technical challenge and have a disgruntled wife, that’s a potent combination,” Buller joked from his Calgary office.
Back in 2008, around the time his three-year-old son was learning to ride a bike, Buller’s wife was having issues with her heart that would eventually require a transplant. He knew that one day his son would want to cycle further than around the block. Unfortunately, putting his son’s bike on the vehicle roof rack wasn’t an option for his wife.
From that inspiration, RazerLift was born. Powered by an electric motor, RazerLift lowers rooftop cargo – like ladders and Thule racks – to vehicle mirror height; with the push of a button from a person on the ground. The patented system fits any commercial van and has 150 lb lifting capacity per side.
While envisioning a way to solve his family’s recreational challenge, Buller also noticed the gap in the industrial cargo management market.
“Given the industry drive for increased safety, push-button access provides an ergonomically superior solution that will reduce shoulder and back strain, resulting in fewer soft-tissue injuries,” said Buller. “For the industrial worker, this means fewer lost days. For the adventurer, this means a lower likelihood of injuring yourself loading your equipment after a day of kayaking, skiing or biking.”
Prior to taking on any investment capital, Buller personally funded the early development of his project working out of his garage. He incorporated in 2015 and continues to be Calgary based.
One of the challenges the company faces is that many established industries are bound by “tradition” and a little slow to incorporate new technologies.
“This potentially keeps a lot of good innovations away from the workers that could benefit the most from them,” said Buller.
Looking back at his experience, Buller sees opportunities for improvement for government programs aimed at supporting Canadian start-ups. Presently, many options for government funding are missed due to strict criteria demanding certain revenue levels- meaning companies like RazerLift don’t qualify.
“If the government were to implement a superior system for rewarding investment in early stage companies, then the private sector could take care of what the government might not be able to,” he said.
Buller is optimistic about RazerLift’s future. The company recently shipped units to its first customers in Boston and several large American fleet customers signed up for demonstration units to test on their fleet vehicles.
“Our first sales are going to large utility companies in the United States,” said Buller. “The strongest interest we’ve been getting has been from very large fleets with a very strong culture of safety. That’s a solid foundation from which to build a company.”
RazerLift will continue to sell units in North America but is anticipating the opportunity to expand further into markets in Europe and Asia as well the recreational market.
“We enjoy a broad, global patent, and we intend to capitalize on it in every possible manner,” said Buller.