For Digital Fly, winging it pays off

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Digital Fly is apparently taking off.

Since officially launching in September, the real-time social media monitoring and alert service – designed to safeguard school districts from threats big and small – has rapidly expanded its customer base and even started developing some new vertical markets, according to founder Derek Peterson.

Spun out of Hauppauge-based tech manufacturer Intelligent Product Solutions, where Peterson is vice president of business development, Digital Fly uses geolocation technologies and keyword searches to track social media accounts within a 10-mile radius of a school campus, and directly alerts officials when preprogrammed search terms such as “guns” or “drugs” are detected.

The general idea is to prevent large-scale disasters like school shootings and mitigate smaller-scale problems such as bullying and other potential criminality. But the startup, which is already attracting a multistate client base of security-minded school officials, is tinkering with its formula to provide additional services.

Digital Fly founder Derek Peterson.

Digital Fly founder Derek Peterson.

“Customers are asking if we’re able to gather the sentiment of the community when there’s a budget vote or a referendum vote,” Peterson said. “They want to know what the community is saying about that. So we’re pivoting into that, working on creating new filter tools that allow the end user to monitor for certain designations.”

The new filters should be ready for customers before the end of the year, Peterson added, a nice bow tied on a 4Q 2015 that saw the startup bring numerous Long Island school districts and New York City schools into the fold.

That includes John Adams High School in South Ozone Park, which beta-tested Digital Fly for months after what Peterson described as a two-year development track managed by a team of marketing experts and software engineers, including himself.

It also includes Nassau BOCES, which signed on in late September and is now basically “a reseller to its school districts,” Peterson noted.

“They are now allowed to offer it to all the school districts in their system, so those schools get the discounted service and training and support from Nassau BOCES,” Peterson said, adding the deal represents Digital Fly’s biggest close to date.

Another big deal: Landing Sal Iannuzzi, the former Symbol Technologies and Monster Worldwide boss, as the startup’s CEO.

More contracts are in the works, including ongoing negotiations with school districts in Texas and Georgia, as well as talks with a number of Long Island districts. Digital Fly is also talking to a number of potential new resellers, including a potential deal with Hewlett-Packard, which Peterson hopes to announce before year’s end.

“That would be national,” he noted. “That would be huge.”

Until then, Peterson intends to keep listening to the customer.

“This is still new ground, still a nascent product,” he said. “Nobody knows what’s good or bad about it. But we’ve already gained a number of customers, and we’re happy with the great feedback we’ve been receiving. We’re very pleased so far.”