Zenzzer founders, from left, Sánchez, Silvente and Cruz. Zenzzer founders, from left, Sánchez, Silvente and Cruz.

Device, smartphone app detect short liters

Meter in gas tank filler neck measures amount of fuel pumped

Randy Cruz had a bad feeling about the gasoline purchase he had made at a station in Mérida last year, thinking he had been ripped off and sold less fuel than he’d paid for.

When he shared his experience with friends Gustavo Sánchez and Pedro Silvente, asking them what might be done to determine whether a gas station was stealing from its customers, they laughed: they had already designed a prototype.

They said one of their school projects had been to design a device that measured how much gas was pumped into a tank.

Cruz persuaded them to return to the project.

Sánchez and Silvente, physical and mechatronics engineers, respectively, completed the design of a meter that is inserted in the filler neck of a gas tank and connected to a simple mobile app that measures the amount of fuel delivered.

“It was very basic and archaic, but it worked!” Cruz told the newspaper Milenio.

It was then that Zenzzer — a name derived from “sensors that give certainty” — was born, a mobile app that would help consumers detect in real time when gas pumps were selling them less than the displayed amount of fuel.

Cruz, who has a degree in marketing, recognized the project’s potential and decided to quit his job two months later, while Sánchez and Silvente continued their college studies.

The three Autonomous University of Yucatán alumni continued developing the Zenzzer project, working from their computers and, with an initial investment of 500 pesos, buying a gas tank from a junkyard to carry out testing.

Zenzzer got some initial exposure to investors through an entrepreneurs’ forum organized by the Finance Secretariat of Yucatán, which provided the project with some exhibition space.

“We attended with our super basic prototype, a video and an animation,” said Cruz.

As a result, the project garnered some attention and Cruz later travelled to Mexico City to meet with eight possible investors. But only one showed interest; others said the idea was impractical and unviable.

Undeterred, the team had its project valued by crowdfunding platform Play Business at 5.8 million pesos (US $314,000). The three young entrepreneurs gave up 12% of their business in order to get the opportunity to raise 700,000 pesos — with a 45-day deadline — through the crowdfunding site. Investors in the project would  get equity in return.

During a personal trip to Monterrey, Cruz met some people interested in the project, ending up finding a single backer to invest 320,000 pesos.

With that boost, the 700,000-peso goal was reached by day 33.

This major milestone gave the Zenzzer developers the opportunity to hire three more people and pay themselves. Five months later, inn May of this year, the beta phase of the project was ready.

During a second crowdfunding campaign, this time at Fondeadora, the team raised an additional 350,000 pesos. Backers who pledged 1,500 pesos or more — the cost of the device — will be the first to receive one upon its commercial release.

Zenzzer has also teamed up with mobile phone ride-hailing service Uber to test the device in real-world conditions, and with the Consumer Protection Agency (Profeco), which will receive reports of abuses by gas stations.

Cruz, Sánchez, and Silvente are now looking for more investors before entering the national production stage, and expect to release the device and the mobile app before the end of the year.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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