Back in 2018, two college kids—who were supposed to be studying for finals—mapped out Shovel Solutions instead. Ben Street, chief of operations, and AJ Davidson, chief product officer, came up with the company idea when Street told Davidson stories of a dirt pit his family owns. A developer cheated Street’s family, taking the dirt “without paying a penny,” he said. Job sites they contacted insisted his family prove ownership—which they couldn’t do after the fact. The two students saw a hole in the industry that needed to be filled.
Both founders graduated from the University of Mississippi. Street brings the knowledge from the agricultural side of things while Davidson brings the technical know-how. By combining Street’s family experience with miners and Davidson’s interest in building products, they created a digital marketplace platform that handles accounting, logistics, and tracking which makes things easier for those who work with dirt.
“Everything that we live in, everything we work in or look at—if it’s on Earth, it requires a prerequisite process of laying a stable pad of mineral to make sure it doesn’t fall later,” said Davidson. They both explain that because minerals can’t be labeled, it’s difficult to prove ownership of those minerals if the process is not handled properly. This results in businesses and landowners losing money.
The company has already pivoted once in the way they offer their service. Initially, they discussed developing specific sensors that would help measure and manage mineral resources. But they discovered quickly that they could be just as efficient with a cloud-based product that uses GPS coordinates. The result is an app, called Shovel, which is available for iOS or Android.
The app is designed to simplify the ticket process of dirt work. It connects contractors, drivers, and pits so that they are able to perform at maximum capacity and efficiency. “The main goal is helping people. When you help people, good things happen,” said Street. So say goodbye to the hole-punch system and hello to the streamlined process of the Shovel app. Instead of dump trucks losing money to route and payment conflicts, they can operate efficiently through the app’s GPS capability and get paid electronically all in one place.
Although they have five competitors they keep an eye on, they explain that their competition is focused on mid-sized to heavy construction projects. In their opinion, smaller-scale projects offer a niche they can serve. “We feel we have the opportunity to give them something they’ve been needing for a while,” said Davidson.
Street’s neighbor referred him to Innovate Mississippi after learning about the startup. This month, they were awarded a $100,000 Mississippi Seed Fund “growth” award to help them expand product development and marketing efforts. They’re ready for the world to see all the work they’ve put in these past three years. “2022 is our make-it year. We have to execute, not do anything too radical, and adjust as the waves hit,” said Street.