The Future Is Now: Cody Horchak Of Zerv Access Solutions On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Starting is better than perfection. If you strive for perfection you’ll be dead before you even start. While strategizing is important, the most meaningful thing is to start.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cody Horchak.

Horchak founded Zerv in 2018, a concept born out of public parking inefficiencies and a desire to digitize the physical world. He spent the early part of his career as a portfolio manager for high-net-worth individuals at Fisher Investments in Camas, WA, overseeing the protection of assets and risk mitigation. Today, Horchak leads a growing team of nearly 50 full-time and part-time employees who are based strategically throughout the U.S. in addition to a software development team in India. A passionate, resilient, and collaborative leader, Horchak continues to propel Zerv toward its mission to connect people, communities, and technology together under one reliable ecosystem.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In a world where we have the ability to buy almost anything imaginable and work hard in order to increase our income, the one thing we can’t seem to get more of is time. The driving idea behind Zerv Access Solutions was that there must be a way to eliminate a lot of these daily inefficiencies in our lives to get that precious time back.

For example, I was recently on my honeymoon and while checking into our hotel room, we had to wait in for 20 minutes. It doesn’t sound like much, but those are moments I wanted to spend relaxing or adventuring with my wife, not sitting in a lobby with my luggage. I work extremely hard 48 weeks a year and when I’m able to take time for myself, I don’t want to waste it by waiting for a door to be opened.

I created Zerv to eliminate the waste of critical time spent every day just trying to get where we need to go, whether it’s a parking garage or an elevator or even into our own homes. They say that Americans spend about two weeks of their lives on average waiting for a red light to turn green; imagine how much is used in line for a turnstile at a football game, or waiting for your rental car to be prepared to drive off the lot, or standing outside your friend’s apartment in the dead of winter waiting for them to buzz you in? What if the world just opened up to you instead of keeping you out at every turn?

We’re working with data scientists to quantify how much time the average person spends searching for misplaced objects. Nine times out of ten, the item that’s been misplaced is a key, and our team projects two to six months will be wasted searching for those keys over the course of a lifetime. Zerv is working to eliminate that, too.

Finally, Zerv allows users to connect under-utilized assets by transferring temporary ownership from an owner to a renter on demand. Empty parking spots, empty apartments, empty offices and conference rooms and storage spaces…every hour these resources aren’t occupied or used is wasted potential and missed incremental revenue.

Consider Airbnb. Prior to electrified smart locks, a renter had to physically meet up with the owner of the home just to get in. With that mindset of eliminating wasted time and potential, Zerv is on a mission to connect technology with physical keys across industries, from car rentals to hotels to conference centers. We’re bridging the digital and physical world together.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most exciting thing that’s happened since I began my career is fully realizing the impact Zerv will have on the world. We’re revolutionizing how you complete everyday tasks: entering your office, renting cars, checking into hotels. The technology has supply chain applications, too; soon Zerv will be able to help track products and identify counterfeit goods like medicines and drugs. The applications are endless.

Zerv connects the digital and physical world. Your phone is connected to call, text, and the web, but it can’t start a car. Yet. With Zerv, we’ll be able to scan items in a grocery store or a retail shop and your phone will act as a checkout machine. This technology connects your digital makeup to all your physical assets and streamlines engagement.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Zerv is a first-of-its-kind contactless access control platform. We bring a new level of convenience and empowerment to people and give you more of your most precious commodity: time.

Our solution emulates a physical credential, like a fob or key card or access badge, and seamlessly creates a digital clone that activates as needed from your phone. A plug-in device called a Zerver updates any existing access control infrastructure to read this consolidated mobile credential. A Zerver is installed to a legacy system in about 30 seconds, no big replacements or updates required. It’s the only platform that can provide cost-effective, contactless access security to anyone on any system at any time.

The digital ‘keys’ on a user’s mobile device can control, manage and share access on any Zerv-enabled smart lock or access reader. We bring a fragmented and convoluted network of access and security of systems together under one roof, acting as a universal translator that gets this entrenched hardware and software speaking the same language. We’re the missing piece of brands like Google, Apple, and Samsung, bridging the gap between today’s tech and physical interactions with the world

How do you think this might change the world?

Zerv unites the digital and the tangible. These huge tech companies are connecting us online, but that connection usually stops at the physical world. Right now, these platforms require the physical world to issue updated systems to communicate, a process that’s just taking too long and costs too much money. Zerv will eliminate that.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Yes, of course. We’re bringing access to physical assets directly online which has a serious sensitivity about it. Our vision is you’ll never have to meet up with someone again to rent a car or any manual transaction. But with that amount of control, security has to be a top priority. You wouldn’t trust just anyone with your credit card, so we have to make sure we’re not doing it with cars or rental properties.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I saw a persistent pain with inefficiencies, and I began searching for a solution. The breakthrough was when I met a talented team of developers focused on deep space communication via radiofrequency. The team had been recently let go from a top telecommunications company, Motorola, and was ready to build something new. I was able to begin working with brilliant engineers who built iconic devices such as the Razr and two-way radio and gave them another chance to build something that’s never been done before.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need open and willing partnerships. We need proprietary companies to know the future of access control is changing and recognize us not as a threat to the amazing systems they’ve built, but a tool and a facilitator.

Zerv is going to help open a world of possibilities and help consumers have the freedom and control they deserve. No one likes to be told how to use something they bought. But in the access control industry, consumers are being told how to use the products they own, such as not duplicating a key. This is so companies can control the distribution and make buyers pay a significantly higher cost to maintain control. We plan to act as the technology world’s Robin Hood by taking those who have heard “no” over and over and telling them yes when it comes to access control.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

No. We’ve been very quiet as we’ve been building the technology and when we’re ready to market we will be able to do so to consumers in a successful manner. We just recently started marketing and running public relations and getting into guerilla marketing. We think it’s fun and a fascinating way to get our name out in the public. We have some things up our sleeve so stay tuned!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful for the employees in Zerv who have stuck with us throughout the time. I’m grateful for our investors, specifically Chris Green and Ryan Shmeizer, with GreenPoint Partners, who see Zerv as what it can become and are helping to drive that mission forward. One specific employee who has been with Zerv since the very beginning is Frank Annerino. Frank is a very successful mechanical engineer from Motorola and has been committed to us from the beginning in an effort to build something that hasn’t been done before. He’s a great sounding board and has insight into what will see success and what won’t. He’s been a steady figure in Zerv’s history through times of darkness and a celebratory party in the company’s success.

My wife, Josie Horchak, has also been a huge motivator in my commitment to Zerv. She pushes me to be better and I advise everyone to find a Josie in their lives. She’s someone who helps me keep my head above water when I’m overwhelmed.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I don’t measure success in how much money a company can make but how much time was invested doing something the founder and employees love. We’ve created a technology solution to help people get time back to do the things they love as well.

Zerv also is a huge contributor to a socially responsible world. We have a significant green initiative in helping buildings run autonomously and efficiently. Zerv will be able to help buildings with a quantifiable analysis in building management which will help lower utility consumption, resulting in less greenhouse gas being released into the environment.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The first thing I wish someone told me is that there will be more challenges than successes. In the world of a startup and something that is incredibly new, the failures outweigh the success. It’s important to keep a positive outlook and be extremely resilient even when the failures might start to pile up. Every failure is one step closer to success and you only truly fail when you give up.
  2. Prioritize passion over intelligence. You can hire the smartest people but if they don’t have a passion for the company, they won’t achieve success. How many times have we met a person who’s a savant but doesn’t have the drive to get off the couch in order to achieve what the world expects? Find someone with a drive and harbor that passion. I assure you that you can teach someone to be smart, but you can’t teach passion.
  3. Training employees will take more time and patience than expected. I wasn’t aware of the significant demand it would take in order to grow a team from seven employees to 47. You can hire someone who comes directly from a competitor, but they need to understand the culture and expectations of your vision. It’s not as easy as taking a concept and running with it. There’s a bit of hand-holding during the first two months.
  4. Starting is better than perfection. If you strive for perfection you’ll be dead before you even start. While strategizing is important, the most meaningful thing is to start.
  5. Marketing is key. That’s the final thing, you could build an anti-gravity machine but if the world doesn’t know about it, it doesn’t exist. Marketing is a critical role in communicating to the masses what someone is hyper-focused in. It’s like a mathematician speaking to a doctor. They have different mentalities and marketing helps bridge the gaps.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I’d be most proud to inspire would be simple: for people to spend time doing what they love. The movement would be a life that is measured in minutes, not dollars.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’d have to say there are a number of quotes from Steve Jobs or Elon Musk that I could discuss here. What they all have in common is the theme of pushing society to the next level. They challenge what’s acceptable and do their best to make a difference. I admire these quotes because they’re from people who didn’t accept the status quo but decided to push the boundaries to make society better. Everything in the world can be made better and we can all strive to be better than the day before. With this mentality, you’ll never live a life that’s unfulfilled.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Zerv is the only company in the world that can help you buy time. We do so by connecting the world and help create more time to do what you love. Name something else more meaningful. We give people back time and control.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

The Future Is Now: Cody Horchak Of Zerv Access Solutions On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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