We had the good fortune of connecting with Yukon Palmer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yukon, what do you want your legacy to be?
I am far from the typical startup tech founder because of my background, yet I’ve been able to start and grow a successful company in an exciting young industry. I believe that my legacy will be the fact that I originated from a humble background, yet overcame many obstacles because of my determination and hard work. I would like to be a model for others who strive to achieve more in life when they come from origins that put them at a significant disadvantage.
I grew up in an economically depressed area and had a far from normal childhood. Being from this environment forced me to fight in order to excel in life. Despite the challenges, I constantly fought hard in order to rise up from that situation. I had my first job as a paperboy at age 7 and worked various part-time jobs throughout my youth. Initially, I didn’t have much enthusiasm for school and it resulted in fights, suspensions, and poor grades. I decided that I needed to turn things around during my junior year in high school and was determined to attend a four-year college. To catch up, I had to take two year’s worth of college prep classes during my senior year and was eventually accepted into San Diego State University. While at SDSU, I joined Theta Chi Fraternity to gain leadership experience and eventually became the fraternity’s President. I also served in various other leadership roles and maintained a 3.75 GPA, while also working part-time and putting myself through college.
After college, I went to work in sales for a large corporation and didn’t like the attitudes of my co-workers and management. I also felt that the job had limited potential. At one training session, we were told that the best that we could hope for at the company was a plant manager role and I wanted to do better. The one benefit of this job was that it taught me how to be successful in business to business sales through hard work.
I also started my first business in 1998 while still employed at the large corporation. It was a website that would promote local events and sell sponsorships to local businesses that served SDSU students. The sponsors, typically fast food restaurants, would post coupons on the website and readers could print and redeem them. However, in 1998 most people literally viewed the internet as the “world wide web”, thus believing that there was no benefit for small local businesses. Also, many of the businesses took advantage of my “freemium” strategy. I would offer them 2 months of free listings and would then charge them for the sponsorships after they noticed the uptick in coupon redemption. I would track the number of times that visitors downloaded and printed the coupons and would then go to the businesses with the metrics, only to have them tell me that no one ever brought the coupons in. At one point, I printed coupons for all of the sponsors, organized them in a box by business type, and dropped them off at my fraternity for the members to redeem. Even though many members said they redeemed them, the businesses were adamant that no one came in with the coupons. I then decided that it was time to move on.
I then started working as a sales person at Teletrac, which was one of the first companies in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry. I became the top sales person in the company within a few months of starting there. Unfortunately, I eventually became bored and felt trapped in the role. There weren’t many advancement opportunities at the company due to its slow growth.
I then decided to go back to school for my MBA and enrolled at SDSU. While in the MBA program, my passion for business was reignited. I learned a lot about various business strategies, but most importantly, I was exposed to successful entrepreneurs and realized that they were really just normal people like everyone else. It gave me the confidence to believe that I could start and build a successful company too. During one semester, I took a class on business plan development, which was taught by Professor Alex DeNoble. For the class, we had to create a business plan. There was another student in the class who was also involved in the Internet of Things industry as a product developer and we formed the basis of the team to create a plan for starting an IoT company. We found 3 other students, wrote the plan and turned it in for a grade, thinking that would be the end of this seemingly typical class project.
About 3 months after finishing the class, professor DeNoble reached out to us asking if we wanted to present the plan during several upcoming national business plan competitions. I was very excited by the prospect and attempted to recruit the other members of the team to join us. Unfortunately, out of the four other members, only one wanted to be involved. We then presented the plan at 3 national business plan competitions, but only made it to the finals at the SDSU competition. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the competition, but we were approached by one of the judges who invested in one of Teletrac’s direct competitors. He encouraged us to keep pushing on with the business and offered to be an advisor to the company. I then brought up the idea of actually starting the company with my remaining team member who decided that he couldn’t join me because he had “golden handcuffs” at his employer and had a family to support. Of the original five members, I was the lone remaining founder of this company and was attempting to start it during the “dot-com-bust”. I approached several potential investors for a $650,000 seed investment and they all declined because I was a one-man show and they were too focused on keeping their existing businesses alive. Therefore, I was the only founder of a technology company, with no technical background or co-founder, no team, and no financing.
I eventually came up with the idea of reselling someone else’s product to get the company off the ground. I found two companies with great products that were similar enough to what I already sold and they were excited to make me a Value Added Reseller for them. I now had the technology to sell and was able to start the company with just $3,500 to pay for a computer, a website, and basic marketing materials.
For the next six months, I saved nearly all of my commissions checks and pared down my personal expenses to prepare for the launch of the company, which was then named Field Technologies. My wife and I were married just a few months before and we had also just bought a condo. We eventually had $30,000 in savings and her teaching income to be used for our living expenses until revenue came in. We agreed that we would give it six to nine months and I would get another job if things didn’t work out. I then quit my job at Teletrac and focused on getting Field Technologies off the ground while still finishing the MBA program. Unfortunately, I didn’t close a single sell for the first six months of business. Those first six months were extremely stressful. I was used to selling three to four new accounts per month at Teletrac and it was difficult to adjust to this humbling new reality. I felt that I worked three times harder than I ever did at Teletrac, but I was not even seeing a fraction of the results. I literally had nightmares that I dropped Field Technologies and went back to work at Teletrac. However, I eventually stumbled upon a car rental company that just lost a vehicle because it wasn’t returned after a cash-only rental. They decided to purchase six vehicle tracking devices from me on the spot and the profits from this very small deal were equivalent to three months of income at Teletrac. Almost immediately thereafter, many of the prospects that I approached over the prior six months started making purchases.
Today, we are approaching 18 years in business. The company has grown to several millions of dollars in revenues despite not taking on significant outside investments. We have hundreds of happy customers, an awesome product, 13 employees, and a beautiful office in Sorrento Valley. We’ve fought through 3 recessions, several unreliable partners, disappointing hires, cash flow crises, COVID-19, and many other challenges. Through it all, we continued to fight on and overcome these challenges. One of the keys to being able to continue on with the fight is the stability and support that my wife of nearly 19 years has given me. We also have two wonderful kids who constantly drive me to ensure that they learn the same lessons that I did, but without the limitations that I faced. FieldLogix, as the company is now named, is now embarking on a new chapter by offering multiple IoT solutions to businesses within one platform. We are currently the only company in our industry taking this approach. Making this transition hasn’t been easy, but just like everything else, we’ve kept fighting to realize our vision. We will undoubtedly face other significant challenges, but we will continue to fight on and will look back one day and add those challenges to the pile of things that didn’t stop us.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
FieldLogix provides a Field Resource Management solution for organizations world-wide. Our solution helps them increase revenue by more efficiently planing their mobile employees’ workday, reduce operating costs by reducing fuel consumption and overtime costs, improve safety by improving driver behavior, and reduce vehicle maintenance costs by monitoring vehicle health. We are the only company in our industry that combines all of this functionality into one easy-to-use platform. We have won several awards for innovation and company growth. This includes recognition as one of the 10 Most Innovative Fleet Management Providers by Insights Success Magazine, receiving the A-List in IoT Award by Compass Intelligence, the IoT Breakthrough Award, the San Diego’s Best & Brightest Companies to Work For Award, and recognition as one of the 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies in San Diego.
After years of experience I learned that success in technology comes down to two things, being innovative and providing users with the best experience possible. We strive to ensure that we are on the leading edge with our technology by constantly launching new functionality that makes our user’s jobs easier. We also back it up by ensuring that every touchpoint that our customers have with us is as frictionless as possible. The focus on user experience encompasses our product’s usability, sales process, customer support process, and billing processes. It was definitely challenging to get to where we are today. We had to overcome many obstacles along the way. Some challenges were due to mistakes under our control and others were introduced by third parties. We’ve constantly strived to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes twice. We also try to ensure that we always have multiple options when we are dependent on others. As for the FieldLogix brand, we want the world to know that we are an innovative technology company that goes above and beyond to ensure that our customers have the best possible experience with us. We are also just like our customers in the fact that we deal with similar issues as they do. Just like them, we encounter great experiences and poor experiences with employees, vendors, etc. We try our best to incorporate the great experiences into our offering for our customers’ benefit and avoid the issues that lead to poor experiences.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Here are some of the places that I would take them:
Powerhouse Beach in Del Mar – Great family-friendly beach.
Disneyland – You can’t visit So. Cal without going to Disneyland!
Jake’s Del Mar – Great restaurant right on the beach with an awesome patio.
Lolita’s – One of the best Mexican food restaurants in San Diego.
Ballast Point – Miramar – One of the best breweries in San Diego.
AleSmith Brewery – Miramar – Another great San Diego brewery!
The Piazza in Little Italy – Great place to walk around and try lots of great Italian food and desserts
La Jolla Cove – Great scenic area to walk around!
Coasterra – Great restaurant on the water with an incredible view of the San Diego skyline.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Cathy Palmer – My wife, partner and advisor; Steven Settlemayer – Investor and Advisor; Professor Alex DeNoble – Professor that helped me formulate the business plan; San Diego State University – Foundation for much of my business knowledge; Theta Chi Fraternity – Foundation for my leadership experience