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U of Delaware startup inspired by ‘Impractical Jokers’ show

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Three University of Delaware students were watching truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” the hidden-camera reality series, just for fun, not with the idea that it would change the course of their lives.

But it did.

The trio, Sam Bacharach, Amedeo Deluca and Bailey O’Brien, were living together last summer in Newark. The Fourth of July episode they were watching had a throwaway line that asked: “Name a good idea for a startup.” The response was something about delivery gasoline, and the three rowing teammates sprang into action.

Less than a year later, their startup, D150 Fueling, was awarded $12,500 at the university’s premier startup competition, Hen Hatch.

D150 Fueling shared the top prize with WilmInvest, another product of UD’s Horn Entrepreneurship program.

Deluca and O’Brien just graduated in May with degrees in civil engineering, and Bacharach, a finance and economics student, will graduate next year.

But soon the three will have commercial driver’s licenses and will take their business on the road.

“We’re an on-site fueling company,” Deluca explains. “We come to your site and fuel all your vehicle tanks directly so your employees don’t have to. We save you time. We save your employees time because they don’t have to go to the gas station anymore.”

D150 — which got its name from combining UD and 150 pounds, a rowing weight limit — has already signed contracts with the University of Delaware, a logistics company with around 50 trucks in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and another company with about 20 buses in its fleet.

One of the company’s contracts came directly from the pitch at Hen Hatch.

The company has raised nearly $300,000 in funding, most of which has gone toward the purchase of two 2,800-gallon trucks, the second of which will arrive this week.

Through a personal connection, the company has access to fuel at a good rate. The plan is to fill up the trucks at PBF in Delaware City and do on-site fueling between midnight and 4 a.m.

The co-founders have projected revenue of $2.5 million in the first year of business and plan to scale up quickly enough to double that number within a year or two.

Originally, the plan was to develop an app that basically just provided delivery gasoline for whoever needed it, taking the comment on “Impractical Jokers” at face value and running with it. But the three students quickly realized that would be a logistical nightmare and too expensive to develop.

“I’d rather drop fuel in a 300-gallon tank and sell 300 gallons rather than go to something like my Nissan Altima and sell 15 gallons,” said Deluca, a native of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

“The expenses for commercial are much lower and the profit much higher,” said Bacharach, who is from South Jersey.

Deluca said he saw the problem first hand when he was an hourly employee stopping for gas while on the clock. He’d stop at a Wawa or something similar, go inside and get a sandwich and make the most of his pit stop.

In the early stages of the business, the three students contacted a company in Oregon that was doing similar things and flew out to check out the business. The Oregon company is also involved with FuelCloud, the cloud-based system D150 will use that enables tracking and control of every gallon in its on-site tanks.

That system, which will be easily scanned with a barcode using an iPhone, tracks inventory, runs unlimited custom reports and even requests tax refunds for off-road use with the click of a button, a process that saves both parties time and money.

O’Brien will be the first to finish his CDL test, which he is taking June 20 in Ohio, his home state. Deluca and Bacharach will follow in July. D150 will immediately start servicing UD’s 18 transit buses, and its other clients have said they’re ready to go as soon as the CDL certifications are done.

Bacharach’s senior year won’t be affected much by the business, since most services will come well before morning classes. His sleep schedule might just become a little off. The other two said they’re just glad to be done with school.

“Especially when you have a company,” Deluca said. “You just want to be done. It’s great just being able to do this full-time.”

“You wake up and it’s this all day,” O’Brien said. “You’re not studying for an exam.”

Instead, he’s just practicing driving a fuel truck. He can thank a TV show for that.

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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.



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