Dustin recently graduated from CU with his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He was initially drawn to Boulder by the strong engineering and entrepreneurship programs. During his time at CU Boulder, Dustin pursued multiple entrepreneurial ventures, from phone screen repairs to time management apps. Dustin also participated in Catalyze CU and the CU New Venture Challenge. These events played a large role in determining his future as an entrepreneur and becoming a co-founder of Sarus Lifting, a construction company focused on developing cutting-edge site evaluation, crane selection, and lift planning technology.
About Sarus Lifting
Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, Sarus Lifting launched in January 2021 and focuses on developing cutting-edge construction site evaluation, crane selection, and lift planning technology. By evaluating crucial factors such as weather, soil composition, crane type, and load size, Sarus Lifting is able to create the most efficient lift plan to save workers time and money, as well as guaranteed safety.
The Sarus Lifting team consists of Dustin Ramsay and Linda Palacios, both electrical and computer engineers, as well as Satyam Shukla who is a mechanical engineer. The trio met in a senior design class while working on an automated fire truck ladder. They realized that the market potential for this product wasn’t as large as they had anticipated, so they set out to find a new idea.
The team conducted consumer discovery interviews that lead them to the construction industry. From there, they quickly identified that there was an issue regarding safety and efficiency for workers on construction sites and sought out to solve it.
It’s widely known that construction can be a dangerous profession. Today, many construction sites and contractors are using outdated methods to develop lift plans. Through processes such as eyeballing and pacing off distances, there is plenty of room for error that can lead to horrific accidents and project setbacks. Dustin and his team identified these risks and the opportunity for growth within the underserved construction industry. As a team, they came up with the slogan “safety should be easy” and set off on their Sarus Lifting journey.
Experience with Catalyze CU and CU New Venture Challenge
Over the past year, the Sarus Lifting team participated in CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge and Catalyze CU. Both programs challenged them to break apart their value proposition and reframe the problem they were focused on solving through a rigorous and scientific approach. Through Catalyze CU, Dustin and his team met one of their mentors, Chris Gustavson, the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at CU Boulder, who has also consulted many Fortune 100 companies. The team’s other mentor, Jim McGibney, is a Board Chair for the Estes Park Economic Development Corporation and was connected through Innosphere Ventures' SAGE Mentoring Program. Together, Chris and Jim play a crucial role in assisting the Sarus team’s journey.
Dustin comments on his mentor experience,
“With the guidance of mentors, we quantified our value proposition and built a defensible pricing model. Catalyze and NVC, alongside the network these programs provided, were instrumental in our team’s development and growth process.”
When asked about advice students interested in participating in the CU New Venture Challenge or Catalyze CU, Dustin shared
"Practice breaking down the startup, project, or whatever daunting task you have into small, concrete steps and focus on doing those one at a time. It forces you to understand what you are doing at a deep level and reduces anxiety when you feel overwhelmed."
Satyam also added that it is imperative to find people you trust to work with during the process. Linda stated,
"The road will have ups and downs, but resilience will help you keep moving forward."
Dustin reflects on the challenges he faced while pursuing Sarus Lifting,
“Covid-19 had a large impact on Sarus. It’s hard to do something when you feel like the world is falling apart. However, it allowed us to connect with people that we otherwise would have never been able to access.”
Dustin believes that although Covid-19 presented many challenges, Zoom and other online conference platforms allowed their team to meet with construction professionals across the country and gain valuable insight.
Upcoming Projects/ Events
Sarus Lifting is finalizing their MVP software design through user trials where they are producing lift plans for local crane companies. Sarus Lifting allows users to access all lift plans on their website and across different platforms such as phones and tablets. They are also experimenting with drones and GIS data in an attempt to generate an accurate three-dimensional model of different spaces.
Advice for Current Students
Dustin expresses gratitude and thanks for the entire Sarus Lifting team through this journey. He provides the following advice for current students:
“Lean into what’s uncomfortable, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. It’s also important to understand people’s problems and know that your first idea or solution is not always going to be the one that comes to life.”