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Business Spotlight: Narwhal Systems

>> Software developers Greg Shear and Joseph Shearer of Narwhal Systems partner with the Rochester Public Market to create an app that benefits the customers, the vendors, and the greater market infrastructure.

It doesn’t get more local than this: developers Greg Shear and Joseph Shearer post up regularly at Café Sasso on Park Avenue to passionately discuss and create the next app for the Greater Rochester community. With an eye towards “social good” projects, the team at Narwhal Systems is focused on pushing out its latest creation to the public: an application that provides accurate, real-time information for customers, vendors, and employees of the Rochester Public Market.

The app, called Roc Public Market Shopper, is a Google Maps-style offering that tells shoppers who is at the market, at what times, on which days, and what they are selling. Customers can search by vendor or by product. Helpful stall locations (such as “D15”) comfort even the most navigationally-challenged consumer, especially at, say, 10:00am on a Saturday when seemingly the whole city is populating the market.

A companion app for vendors allows them to track inventory and sales as well as “check in” to the market and list their products, schedule, and stall location. Furthermore, the app should alleviate the inundation of questions launched upon the dedicated and happy-to-help but under-staffed market employees, providing them with more time to focus on making improvements to the experience.

Shear and Shearer are alarmingly brilliant innovators; they are also warm, down to earth, and committed to a service mindset. The pair came together in 2014 after some prodding by their families, whom were connected through the Springwater Retreat Center in their small Livingston County town. “It was immediately clear that we should have been involved right from the beginning,” reflects Shear, expressing that he was sincerely impressed by Shearer’s intellect and potential, despite their 12-year age difference (Shearer had not yet begun college).

At this point, Shear had been working steadily and independently with clients, mostly in the biology conservation field, to replace arduous pen-and-paper data collection with streamlined, efficient software. With a degree in physics from Ithaca College and a graduate degree in media arts and technology from UC Santa Barbara, Shear was first scooped up by Disney Imagineering in Los Angeles. This connected him to the conservation team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, where he was brought on to “write, basically, an iPad app to replace their paper data collection,” Shear explains. After that project went well, he “did a bunch of other apps for that same team” and eventually took the leap and started his own business, Narwhal Systems.

Shear realized that “there’s nothing that specific about the platform that limits us, or constrains us, to field biology” and began to grow his market and target customers outside of conservation scientists. The addition of Shearer, now in his final year of the software engineering program at RIT, elicited both new ideas and new connections through the university. Narwhal Systems has consistently “worked with students at RIT [in the form of] co-ops,” says Shearer. Perhaps most importantly, Shearer was approached at RIT by one of his professors with an opportunity from the city’s Commissioner of Recreation and Youth Services to work on the app that has now become Roc Public Market Shopper.

The developers hope to capitalize on the success of this app and carry their product to broader markets, including nationwide public market systems. The team also identifies a longer-term goal, which is to become a sort of meta-SAAS (Software as a System) platform for any organization that requires a hierarchical flow of data collection. Commendably, they want their platform to be approachable to those without technical coding or developing expertise. “[If] you get all the hard parts taken care of, you can plug in your [specific] knowledge,” states Shearer. “You can have a lot more opportunity to do what’s important to you.”

Roc Public Market Shopper is live on iOS and Android systems. A press release for the app is scheduled for December 19, and a larger unveiling of the app at the Rochester Public Market can be expected sometime in spring 2020. For project inquiries, the team can be reached at info@narwhalsystems.com.

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