IN FOCUS: Small Business – Right on track

Posted on Sep 2, 2014 :: Small Business Spotlight
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer
Femur Software CEO Jeff Mason developed LogFirst, a device that plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter and records and sorts travel data for IRS purposes. The device is also capable of tracking flight mileage and elevation. Mason, pictured here, is an avid pilot who routinely flies himself to business meetings across the country. Photo courtesy Jeff Mason

Femur Software CEO Jeff Mason developed LogFirst, a device that plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter and records and sorts travel data for IRS purposes. The device is also capable of tracking flight mileage and elevation. Mason, pictured here, is an avid pilot who routinely flies himself to business meetings across the country. Photo courtesy Jeff Mason

Calculating taxes is simply not fun. Writing off your miles driven as a business expense is even less so: getting the IRS deduction of 56 cents per mile requires stringent documentation that can include recording the purpose, distance, time and destination of every trip in the car.

LogFirst, a new record-keeping device and app, seeks to change this.

“Software is fun,” says Jeff Mason, CEO of Femur Software, maker of LogFirst. The device plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter and records travel data for upload to the LogFirst website. From there routes can be sorted, mapped and prepared as documents ready for the scrutiny of the IRS.

The office of Femur Software is in a suite overlooking the civilian tarmac of Austin Straubel Airport. But Mason, a licensed pilot, isn’t there for the view. “I do a lot of business out-of-state, and I fly myself.” LogFirst is also capable of tracking flight mileage and elevation.

Mason, an entrepreneur and self-described fitness nut, is a person seemingly always in motion. Perhaps it was natural that he founded Femur Software to make traveling easier, if only for business purposes.

Mason has spent 32 years in both the medical and business sides of health care. His interest in computers enabled him to keep pace with the quickly changing field.

“The concept of combining health care with informatics is moving rapidly,” Mason says. “I’ve always been fairly computer-literate. I’m fairly knowledgeable about computers and I’ve always been fascinated with their potential.”

Although the IRS and many businesses reimburse employees for their business travels, manually documenting proof of travel was problematic for Mason during his time as CEO of BayCare Clinic. “Many people estimate their business mileage based on looking back at their calendar. That’s time-consuming, it’s inaccurate and they miss a lot of little business trips that they don’t remember.”

“The old-school method is common,” says Sean Ryan, a beta-tester for LogFirst and freelance event planner. “For people who are self-employed and need documentation, it’s a pain in the butt.”

While others in his field experienced the same logging issues, Mason sat down with his friend, a programmer, and decided to solve the problem – and launch a company to do it.

The result was Femur Software, a subsidiary of Mason’s health care consulting company Analytics LLC. Femur, launched in mid-2013, released both a free LogFirst app and a premium device that remains continuously active in the car.

While Femur currently makes no revenue from the app, Mason hopes it will become sought enough to sell ads while steering people to buy the device. As the app gains traction, Mason focuses promotion on the premium device. “I sell those for $79 and that’s how I make my money.”

Mason acknowledges competition from companies such as U.S. Cellular, but he says that there is “very little competition doing exactly what we’re doing. My app will provide actual maps of the route that you drove, distance, time, start time and end time. It gives you the total mileage and then you sort it and process your data.”

Ryan uses the LogFirst device and says it was the first of its kind he encountered. “I knew that fleet managers for trucking companies had something like it,” he says. “But it sounded like a cumbersome solution that required an investment in equipment and software.”

Ryan organizes numerous community running events like the Turkey Trot and Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, and often finds himself in transit. “I’m on the phone a lot and juggling a lot of different things. What I like about what Mason’s doing is I can put logging miles in the back of my mind,” Ryan says.

Although interest in LogFirst has been mostly among traveling salespeople and business owners, Femur is trying to develop a niche market for those in the health care industry.

Femur’s other ventures are still in development and include custom app creation and apps for patient-to-patient and physician-to-physician communication. Interest mostly comes from the Green Bay area but is “spreading,” Mason says.

Femur’s two employees, including Mason, are based in Green Bay and outsource their programming to a third-party company. Mason believes that his familiarity and connections in the area would make growth in Green Bay the next step. “As Femur grows, I hope to hire and bring more in-house and do more in the Green Bay marketplace and depend less on external providers for that outsourcing.”

Mason is not a programmer by profession. Have enough fun with your interest, though, and it could become bigger than just a hobby.

“Software is intriguing to me,” Mason says. “You can do so much with it – make so many things happen.”