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Ken Sills, M.Eng. '13

(Electrical Engineering) | The Unintentional Entrepreneur

In a knowledge economy that’s leveraging big data and machine learning to disrupt our traditional perspective on almost everything, Ken Sills is perfectly situated.

“I never saw myself as an entrepreneur, but with graduate degrees in both science and engineering, I was well-prepared to both identify interesting problems and solve them,” is how Sills puts it.

In 2014, that perspective led him to partner with Sasha Kucharczyk, a fellow McMaster engineering graduate, to launch Preteckt.

A rapidly growing startup based in Memphis, Tennessee, Preteckt offers fleet managers and vehicle manufacturers a vehicle prognostics system based on machine learning. Using connected hardware and software analytics, the system can predict vehicle maintenance needs before they cause expensive downtime.

“It's like driving with a master mechanic in your engine compartment,” Preteckt advertises, in a bid to connect with trucking companies and transit fleets, where unexpected breakdowns eat into profits and reliability.

Sills, who earned his Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering at McMaster in 2013, and spent eight years teaching kinematics, electricity and magnetism, and modern physics as an adjunct assistant professor, serves as Preteckt’s CEO.

The startup has raised about $1.5M to date from angels and financial VC, and is now growing on revenue from contracts with Fortune 500 companies.

The company is currently hiring for data scientist and data engineer positions in Hamilton, and Sills says they’ve had a lot of success with McMaster graduates.

But he also urges engineers not to shy away from their own entrepreneurial opportunities.

“Don't be scared of selling,” says Sills. “Build a product that solves a serious problem and that you want to be an evangelist for because you think it's the best thing since sliced bread.”