A 152 year old transportation icon may seem the unlikely patriarch of an innovative, new tech startup. Then again, Union Pacific is about nothing if not forward progress.
Cue James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
Valvora, a solution-focused software company, sprang naturally from existing infrastructure at UP, a company that staffs its own expansive IT department – 1400 employees producing software for in-house use.
“UP’s CIO recognized – if this is the way we’re going to do business, let’s do something like Valvora to release some of that software to the broader market,” said Luke Christiansen, a nine year veteran of UP’s IT department when he and Manish Gupta, a 12 year UP employee, were tapped to co-found Valvora.
Its first product, Valvora App Station, is gearing up for full-scale launch this fall. Billed as a private app store, App Station is designed to “get the right apps to the right people” quickly and efficiently. An administrator selects and uploads to one convenient location the public and private in-house apps employees need to be productive. Users download the apps on their mobile devices.
Christiansen said App Station solves a few problems:
• “People choose apps that don’t fit within your organizational standards. App Station lets you define specific apps for specific users. It takes the guesswork out of app selection and testing.
• People purchase apps at face value and waste time with expense reports or reimbursement. App Station lets you bulk purchase license keys and manage the key distribution.
• You develop apps for private internal use and have to muddle through the public stores’ approval processes. App Station lets you distribute in-house developed apps through your own app store.
• You have beta apps that need to be tested, but have no way to distribute the apps to a small, defined group of users. App Station lets you distribute beta apps to specific users for testing.”
Next in the product pipeline is Valvora’s Innovation Station, a social platform for sharing, improving and rapidly executing worthy ideas; and Valvora Recruit Station, a place to promote one’s company and its open jobs.
“We are very excited for our future,” Gupta remarked.
While Union Pacific offers the startup a wide variety of resources, Christiansen said the Omaha community, including organizations such as Straight Shot and Interface Code School, have also been a great source of advice, connections, professional services and encouragement. Valvora contracted with a local designer/developer for its website. It worked with a local video production company for a 90 second App Station explainer video. Its first trial partner for App Station is a local non-profit organization.
Christiansen said the rewards of the Valvora endeavor are many, including the challenge of building something new with out-of-the-box thinking, the opportunity to share UP’s technology expertise with a broader audience and the ability to create a fresh, innovative value stream for the 152 year old company.
“Our vision is for Valvora to become a trusted eCommerce marketplace with many solutions for everyday business challenges,” Christiansen said.