Monthly Archives: August 2021


Featured Founder: Will Sitton of SlipSeat

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Will Sitton of SlipSeat, which supplies truck drivers and owner-operators to motor carriers using a freelance marketplace.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I come from an industry so small that searching Wikipedia for it in quotes will return 0 results.  It’s called driver leasing, and it deals with 3rd party truck drivers.

While it is largely unglamorous, back-office type work, driver leasing companies are experts in the unique rules and regulations regarding 3rd party truck drivers.  Most operate as specialized DOT temp agencies.

My employer used driver leasing as a tool in providing customized 3rd party trucking solutions for clients.  Companies would outsource their complex trucking operations to us, and we used driver leasing to provide the services.  We specialized in mission-critical, hyper-seasonal, and/or mass movements, especially those that required a significant amount of operational precision.  I ran sales and operations.

One night, I couldn’t sleep, and while staring at the ceiling, I started thinking about the growing driver shortage.  It was becoming an industry hot topic, and earlier that day I had heard a radio spot on it and that evening had read yet another article about it.  Two things dawned on me: 1) everybody was looking at the wrong root cause and 2) the shortage could be “solved” without adding drivers.

What most people don’t realize is that the capacity already exists – it just isn’t being used properly.  Half of all truck drivers have at least one available day that they could be driving but don’t.  It could be they don’t want to work or that they can’t find a truck driving job for 1 or 2 days per week because it’s not cost-effective for the trucking company.  There are also millions of workable hours lost in the “system” – hidden, untapped capacity tied up in processes.  If just a small portion of the total unused capacity could be turned into a useable supply, it would offset the shortage.

Although I had fleshed out the concept and knew it was solid - I had used similar math and logic before in a few mass movement projects - I still resisted joining the startup world.  It was my Dad who finally convinced me to launch SlipSeat.  If it wasn’t for him (and the rest of my family and friends), we never would have made it this far.  (Thanks everyone!)

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

Since we are a marketplace, we have two different sets of relevant pain points to resolve – one for demand and one for supply.

The truck driver labor market has been in shambles for years; COVID has only made it worse.  Although driver absenteeism and turnover are both high, the #1 problem for the trucking companies is a large, growing shortage of truck drivers.  SlipSeat was created to solve it by pooling unused capacity from existing and returning drivers and dispensing it to trucking companies using the tenets of driver leasing and driver sharing; however, operationally, we’re a solution to all three – the shortage, turnover, and absenteeism.

Because we solve multiple big operational problems, our customers can streamline their operations and lower their operating costs.  Overall, trucking companies save money, time, pain, and worry and improve their cash flow, but where we have sufficient driver density, we can be an absolute game-changer for trucking operations that do shift-type work, especially those in Intrastate trucking (about 40% of the industry).

On the supply side, our goal is to be the last “job” a driver ever has.  The shortage will be around for the next 20 or so years.  We strived to create the ideal driving environment so drivers would keep adding supply year after year.  We effectively solve 8 of the top 10 driver pain points, including the #1 which is more money.

(If anyone has questions about how we do things or the benefits we provide, feel free to email me at  I’d be happy to explain.)

I’m an efficiency geek who loves big trucks, solving problems, and helping others. Running a startup that maximizes trucking efficiency while making both sides of the equation better off is arguably my dream job! (Thanks Dad!)

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge to date has probably been developing an effective chicken/egg strategy that’s bootstrap friendly. Commonsense in a supply-constrained market would be to add drivers first and then trucking companies, but driver screening is costly, and there is a timing component to putting a driver in a truck for the first time. A driver-first approach isn’t necessarily ideal. It would be better to bring drivers and trucking companies on at the same time, but that would take people and necessitate funding, which we don’t want to do just yet.

Conceptually, our platform is designed to create a large pool of shared, on-demand truck drivers, but it works on a small scale too if driver density is high enough.  So, instead of first finding drivers to sell on our marketplace, we’re targeting a subset of larger trucking operations, which utilize multiple trucking companies, where the overall operation can gain efficiencies when the trucking companies aggregate their drivers into a pool.  The best part is that the more trucking companies that join, the better off everyone becomes.

We are in the process of setting up the first of these large driver pools here in FL.   Assuming we’re successful since it’s an operational solution, we’ll be able to replicate it anywhere these same types of trucking operations and market conditions exist.

Technically, we’re marketing an operational efficiency solution to our customers’ customers, but the way we’re doing it should allow us to grow considerably faster while better balancing liquidity and remaining cost-effective.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We have some exciting things on the horizon.  There are two pieces of legislation that individually could have a significant positive impact on us.  One is AB5 in California, which is currently at the US Supreme Court; the other is the PRO Act, which is currently in the US Senate.  Both negatively impact a subset of trucking companies by essentially outlawing how they use a certain type of driver.  If the laws affect the industry, the companies and the drivers won’t have many options.  Our marketplace is a low-cost, simple, fast, and effective alternative that easily integrates with their operations.

Also, a couple of universities have asked us to take part in a joint study about our marketplace, the operational model we create, the resulting industry efficiency gains, and the benefits for both trucking companies and drivers.   We’re especially excited about this because, from a startup perspective, academic validation is always good!

Additionally, India’s driver situation is in rough shape after COVID, and we have been told by a few people there that it could benefit from our operational model.  We’ve studied the situation, made some key contacts, and developed our strategy.  It’s in our sights, and our plan is to head there as soon as we are able.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

If you have a startup in Tampa, join Embarc Collective! The people are outstanding, and the facilities are top-notch!! If your startup isn’t in Tampa, don’t underestimate stealth, be fluid but directed by your vision, and keep moving.

Why Tampa Bay?

We’re opening up shop in Tampa because the business climate is excellent for what we do, the local talent is outstanding, the cost is comparatively low, and the community at large is very supportive. Not to mention, it’s just a terrific place to be if you like beaches, seafood, or professional sports!


Growth Story: Will Barrett of Threshold 360

Welcome to our Growth Story series, where you’ll meet startup leaders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Will Barrett of Threshold 360, which is a virtual tour SaaS platform and provider serving the hospitality & tourism industries..

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I was at the artist merchandising company, I left to start a new venture and was in the research phase, connecting with investors, and fleshing out my concept when I met the Threshold team. At that time, the co-founders and the first few engineers were developing an MVP. One of the co-founders convinced me to join the team as they developed a go-to-market strategy and started to build an ops team. I was inspired by the vision to take this technology global and the mission of giving anyone, anywhere the ability to virtually step inside of any location on earth.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

It’s still difficult for consumers to get a good sense of a place, or space, before visiting. We’re delivering them the next best alternative. At the same time, we're enabling location owners and managers to tell the story of their location. I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to build a team and culture that works collaboratively, gives each other life, and supports each other beyond our work at Threshold.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

I have two answers: first, finding product-market fit was not a simple straightforward process for us. It required a lot of testing and exploring various markets. We did not think that we would land in the destination tourism market, which is our beachhead. Two-fold, growing within this market while not straying from the vision is always a challenge. You’re continually presented with short-term opportunities that you have to weigh against the long-term impact you want to deliver. Secondly - People. Finding the right people and getting them in the right position with the right direction requires constant work.

Where do you see your company headed next?

Next, we’ll raise a Series A and move into a growth phase as we build new products for larger markets. I'm looking forward to sharing those developments with the Embarc community later this year!

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

Tactical advice without context is tough, but for many founders, I’d encourage them to put blinders on - Figure out the right goal-setting structure for you and your small team. Figure out the right productivity methodology for you and encourage your team to each do the same. Create a structured personal schedule and stick to it. Be disciplined.

There are obvious benefits within the variety of resources and start-up communities out there, but there are also a lot of distractions. Threshold earned our first few million in ARR with almost no one knowing about it. No articles, little marketing, no PR push, no interviews, no pitch nights, nothing. This boils down to a basic decision-making filter we have; what’s an opportunity vs what’s a distraction? Without goals, a schedule, and discipline, making these decisions can be difficult.

Why Tampa Bay?

Because I grew up in the area, I love Tampa, and it’s home 🙂


Featured Founder: Matt Redler of Panther

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Matt Redler of Panther, which allows you to hire anyone, anywhere, in a click.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

In 2019, Matt Redler and Vasil Popovski created Chefit, an app that made it easy to order from personal chefs. But they realized that what they were building was more than an app. Matt and Vasil were growing an incredible global team filled with talented people.

Sadly, Chefit closed during COVID-19, and after departing, our founders worked day and night to make sure that everyone landed on new opportunities. They talked with companies that wanted to hire their teammates but couldn't because they didn't have entities set up across Europe — nor did they had any interest in it. The process takes months if you're lucky, a year if you're not, is expensive and requires navigating a ton of foreign compliance.

So, Matt and Vasil offered that their entities proxy-hire our former team members on their behalf. And that's how Panther came to be.

The most significant consideration of the work-from-anywhere movement is that less expensive, highly talented global workforces are becoming the norm. We're humbled to build the bridges that facilitate distributed teams.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

Employing a global remote workforce is complex, expensive, and labor-intensive. Doing so requires maintaining foreign entities in every employee's country.

Every time a company finds someone they want to hire in a jurisdiction they haven't previously employed from, they have to:

  • buy or build a local branch, and register it as their foreign subsidiary
  • File for local bank accounts, and fill them with the country's capital requirements
  • Learn and keep track of the local employment laws
  • Set up local payroll
  • Hire local accounting, legal, and HR people

By the time the employer is ready, between 6 to 18 months have passed, the candidate is likely no longer on the market, and $80,000 has been spent. Setting up just one country.

We operate a global network of 150+ subsidiaries on behalf of our customers, so they don't have to. Everything related to international payroll, compliance, benefits, and taxes is automated. With Panther, years of bureaucracy turn to minutes, and subsidiaries become a thing of the past — for a fraction of the cost.

Global employment, and leave the tricky bits to us.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

Our prior company was failing, and it looked like the investment markets were going to get real quiet with uncertainty around Covid. While some of our investors moved on, a handful changed our lives and decided to double down on us. That was the jumpstart to Panther.

Where do you see your company headed next?

By separating physical location from economic opportunity, Panther will radically expand the number of good jobs in the world and dramatically improve the quality of life for millions, if not billions, of people. We may, at long last, shatter the geographic lottery, opening up opportunities to countless people who weren't lucky enough to be born in the right place.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

Solve a hair-on-fire problem.

Why Tampa Bay?

I get to live and work wherever I want in the world. Tampa Bay is my home because of its beauty, community, and growth.


Featured Founder: Todd McCall of ROK Technology

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Todd McCall of ROK Technology, which designs, manufactures, and sells Ruggedized Digital Equipment for the construction industry returning full-scale construction drawings to the Jobsite digitally.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I’ve spent all of my career in different facets of the construction industry from carpentry in college to project management and an executive role.

I've had the advantage of working with professional organizations throughout my career.

I launched this company based on a need as we started to see the progression of technology and its entrance into our industry. As a VP of Operations for a general contractor, I was trying to update an old process to match new workplace software. All the team members were challenged transitioning from paper plans to digital software. I created the ROK portable kiosk as an alternative to the paper that is no longer on our job sites.

I automated construction workflows that were not considered to be a digital process. I invented this device to go on the job site, and it was embraced by everyone. I took it further and received four U.S. patents.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

The ROK is a central platform that provides real-time data to the job site as opposed to standard paper. Technology has evolved where handheld construction documents are converted into PDFs, but they are viewed on small screens and are not always readily shared. It's challenging for people to see the information on phones, so they have to go to the original piece of paper. It's creating an inefficiency.

We're proving an accessible large-format device for building professionals that acts as an information terminal. ROK Technology allows companies to easily adopt high-level management software.

The software is only as good as the people who use it. We're trying to help field-based construction professionals at work and in their everyday lives. It's overwhelming to think about the opportunities and versatility of this piece of equipment on a job site. It's something no one has done before.

I’ve been very determined to solve problems and create solutions that people thought could not be done. If something is broken, I don’t just throw it away. I always repurpose it and make something new. Throughout my career, I have sought out new ways to do the tasks at hand. I’m always trying to innovate whether it be how things are built on a job site or various workflow improvements.

One of the values of the company is to help others, which pairs nicely with our deep understanding of the construction industry. It has opened the door to complement the industry professional and the software they choose to use.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I faced was really myself and believing in myself enough to commit to the project. I felt that the product and idea were strong enough to help a community of construction professionals, but I lacked familiarity in a new industry. I started to build confidence and comfort by immersing myself in the community, books, and communicating with other entrepreneurs. I built myself up by seeking out others who are experienced. As far as business skills, project management, and finances, I am super confident. I have been devoting a great portion of my time to learning through different mediums, and I continue to push to improve my craft.

Embarc Collective has helped me become a part of a community and culture that I was not previously familiar with. Fear in the industry comes from being in an unfamiliar business. Strength is in numbers, and more than one mind is better than a single individual. It wasn't on my own. It was by pure faith that it will all be OK. Fear has no place inside of my mind, body, and soul. I overcome fear by immersing myself in the community. A failure would have been to not have gone through with ROK Technology, and that's in the spirit of true entrepreneurship.

Where do you see your company headed next?

I don't see any roof, and I'm going as far as we're meant to go. I see the company showing the construction industry how to evolve an ancient process into an advanced, high-performing industry. We have a huge labor shortage and these construction terminals may offset that.

I see us accompanying other software technology and being the primary platforms these leading software companies want their product displayed on. We're trying to create a platform to complement construction software, and we're going to institute new levels of safety and performance. The mobile device size is not compatible with the construction software on a job site, so ROK gives construction companies access to the software they might not have adopted yet.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

My advice to a startup with a tangible product is to be honest with yourself and understanding what an MVP really is. It's very easy to lose yourself in the excitement of designing a new product and keeping with the spirit of being a minimal viable product (MVP). You must keep it as minimal as possible. It will save you time and money as well as help you get it into the market quickly.

It is key to seek objective professionals to add constructive insights into minimal alternatives to your product. You need to get an unbiased point of view as early in the process as you can. This will help you because inherently you'll be caught up in your thoughts and too close to the product. If you don't do this, you'll spend an excessive amount of resources on your North Star product rather than focusing on an achievable MVP. If you are going to fail, you want to fail fast and cheap; however, excitement is the engine that keeps things moving, so don't get rid of it. You need that Yoda in your life to give you guidance.

Why Tampa Bay?

Simply put, Tampa is an awesome city. I love Tampa, and I have roots here. It's near and dear to my heart. There is great cultural diversity and business diversity, and we are geographically positioned perfectly to other major Florida cities.

Construction and other industries are thriving in Tampa, and there's an influx of talent coming to this area. The magic of Tampa is you can get like-minded professionals no matter their age. It is established enough to attract new companies such as ROK Technology, but it's also able to support these endeavors.

Tampa offers so much opportunity for the older and incoming companies moving to the area. Florida isn't just about tourism. There are so many industries and professionals here. Tampa is a safe haven for those with innovative and new ideas. I couldn't think of any better place to start this project. Tampa is a great place to work really hard and play really hard.