After serving four years in the United States Army, Justin Gilfus returned to civilian life and quickly realized he didn't know what to do with himself.
"I was a calvary scout for four years," he said. "Went to Afghanistan. When I came back I was just kind of bouncing around jobs. My PTSD wasn't working for me. I didn't have a motivation, I didn't have drive. The worst thing you can do with PTSD is be alone. And I was working hours a day, alone."
Gilfus tried a variety of jobs before talking to one of his best friends’ father. He told him about a business he was thinking of creating - putting digital advertisement bearing signs on cars and vehicles across Austin.
"I thought, I've got nothing better going on," Gilfus said. "And this sounds like a great idea. Let's do it."
"Ads for the Road" was born. In the last year, the company has equipped cabs in Austin with digital signs that can display a number of ads.
"Up to 72,000 a day," Gilfus said.
The signs are equipped with GPS and timers allowing Gilfus and his company to tailor advertisements to clients’ needs.
"Let’s say I have a cafe downtown," Gilfus said. "There’s no reason for them to actually advertise outside of downtown. They really just want to target the downtown area....We specifically crafted something for them so the advertisements only come on downtown. When the taxis move out, the ads stop playing, when they come in they start playing again."
Now Gilfus and "Ads for the road" are working on a new project with Electric Cab of Austin. The company has electric vehicles for hire that run short range trips in the downtown area.
"We provide short range transportation to the urban core," CEO Chris Nielsen said. "Most traditional taxis or TNC's don't want to take the short range fares, and it's not their fault."
Gilfus and Nielsen are working together now to put screens, equipped with GPS, inside the headrests of the Electric Cab vehicles.
"Ads for the road was the missing link for us," Nielsen said. "Traditionally wrapping a vehicle for a company has such a high cost. Typically only national sponsors were able to afford our ads. Now we can provide advertising to the local businesses for Austin."
Gilfus said they wanted to take an existing business, advertising, and bring it up to the 21st century.
"Outdoor advertising hasn't changed in almost 100 years," he said. "We have addition of LED boards and screens but we're mostly a print media....Now, we're the only ones that use tech. I guess everyone else is scared and us vets aren't."
Part of his company’s appeal, Gilfus said, is that it can offer cheaper, tailored ads to local businesses. Putting Ads for the Road at odds with other advertising companies.
"I would say it's David and Goliath," he joked. "But if you really knew David and Goliath, you'd know Goliath had no chance. And Goliath has no chance now."
Gilfus is now using his company’s success to give back to other vets who might now be struggling like he once did.
The company is hosting events for local vets to bring them together, and Gilfus said he hopes to continue hiring vets into a company that will care for them.
"Now we've come so far and I have a mission, I have a drive," he said. "I want to give it out to other veterans and hopefully bring them in. Give them a mission as a well. If they have a company that actually looks out for them and they have a stake in it, it's going to give them a sense of purpose."