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Auburn entrepreneurs receive support from familiar faces

By Bethany Deuel

Published: Nov 18, 2022 9:00:00 AM

VLT founders with investors Walt and Ginger Woltosz VLT founders with investors Walt and Ginger Woltosz

‘Just figure it out’ is the motto of startup Vulcan Line Tools (VLT) and is the mentality that caught the attention of investors Walt and Ginger Woltosz.

VLT, an electric utility solution company, was founded just three years ago by Zac Young, ’21 mechanical engineering. Young and his co-founders Hayden Patteson, ’21 mechanical engineering, and Trey Sims, ’22 mechanical engineering, have subscribed to a ‘no-quitting’ mentality and have proved their determination to overcome any obstacle to make their products as effective as possible. 

Young, encouraged by his electric utility veteran father, developed their first product, the Wave Timer. During development when the tool, which calculates sag, tension and temperature in power lines in a matter of seconds, gave a faulty reading to a Mississippi Power lineman, Young and Patteson put their Auburn Engineering education to the test. Patteson used a tracking loop algorithm from an engineering elective the two took their senior year from David Bevly, Bill and Lana McNair Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering, and morphed it into the code for the device. Walt said this story was what first caught his attention and sold him on the company.

“I thought, ‘these guys are smart, they’re hard-working, they’ve got the right attitude – just figure it out – and they’re persistent.’ I was immediately impressed with them,” Walt said.  

Walt, ’69 aerospace engineering, was first connected to the VLT team through Bevly, and instantly grew an interest in investing in the company. 

“In venture capital investments, you get maybe one out of 10 that really take off,” said Walt, the founder of Words+ Inc. and Simulations Plus Inc. (Nasdaq SLP). “When I saw Vulcan I thought, ‘this is the one out of 10. This is going to do really well.’ They impressed me way more than many other companies.” 

Young and his team initially had no interest in taking on investors, for fear of losing their autonomy as a company. But the Woltoszes are not like other investors.

 “I walked onto campus as a freshman, no ideas of doing any of this, and my friends and I would study in the Woltosz building,” Young said. “To us, he was a larger-than-life figure. So, to be able to grow a company to the point where you get to meet someone like Walt is just incredible. To have him believe enough in you to invest in you, that’s also incredible.”

While Young said he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, he is quick to recognize the assistance his team has received while starting VLT.

“I got to use all the resources the university had to offer, and they did a ton for me as far as getting the product ready to go,” he said. “My time at Auburn was tremendous. I can’t speak highly enough of the city and everyone in it who has helped us – especially those in the New Venture Accelerator and the College of Engineering.” 

Now based in Birmingham, VLT is made up of three main sectors: hardware, software and service work. Young, Patteson and Sims each head up one division, while also managing each aspect of the growing company. Young, for the time being, is enjoying the hands-on aspect of running a small company with his team.

“It’s cool to be able to have guys who are so trustworthy and know how to get things done that you can just hand off and say ‘hey, go run with this.’ To be able to have that much trust to know they’re going to kill it, that shows you have the right leadership in place,” Young said. “Getting those right people in place is crucial.”

Walt agrees.

 “It’s always about people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good an idea sounds, if I don’t feel good about the people, then I won’t invest. Clearly these guys are honest, they’re hardworking, they’re very smart and they’re Auburn engineers!”

Media Contact: Bethany Deuel, bcd0048@auburn.edu, 335.844.5519

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