Monthly Archives: July 2022

07.29.2022

Featured Founder: Joe Wilson from PRx

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 Joe Wilson of PRx, which is a construction management software that digitizes intuition to accelerate analytics and inject project teams with decades of experience instantly.

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

Growing up, my dad would regularly iterate to my 4 siblings and me: There’s always a better way. Be a problem solver. Work smarter, not harder. He didn’t know it then, but those words ignited a passion in me and set me on my problem-solving journey years later.

After studying Financial Economics in undergrad, I began my career with an ENR top 25 General Contractor, with stints in Estimating, field training under a Superintendent, and finally as a Project Manager. I pivoted to CRE development 4-years later, and after another 3-years transitioned to an owner’s representative as a Senior Project Manager. In my 15 years in the construction industry, I’ve guided processes, managed teams, and led projects over a $300 Million portfolio.

This varied perspective gave me a firsthand account of many of the industry’s successes and failures. I have seen many mistakes and have made many of those mistakes myself. Fortunately, I grew up with a fascination for how tech was rapidly changing the world around me, and I sought new ways to prevent those mistakes from recurring for future projects.

In the 3-years leading up to my launch of PRx, I researched alternative software solutions that helped managers forecast project risks so they could avoid those same mistakes we all made. When I couldn’t find anything that met the teams’ needs, I built what I could in Excel. Any person with a shred of tech know-how would laugh me out of the room when they saw the model that I built (and some have), but… it worked!

My last project was a $40 Million expansion to an occupied senior living community that broke ground in September 2019… right before COVID. Like most projects at that time, ours was rocked by supply chain issues, material shortages, and pricing spikes, not to mention all the new constraints around staffing a project in a high-risk environment. During our bi-weekly meetings, we’d hear that the project was doing “OK, all things considering,” and receive a 60-page report full of data to “back it up.” For months, after hours, I studied the PDF reports from our meetings, and manually entered the data into my Excel model. Surprised that it was working and at what it displayed, I saw data trends and behavioral patterns that made the trajectory clear as day: unless significantly altered, our project was going to be well over budget and behind schedule.

Long story short, I showed my findings to the executive leadership, and with a herculean effort by the whole team, we finished that project on time and $1 Million under budget! My rinky-dink Excel model spotted risky trends, accurately forecasted the trajectory of the project, and enabled the leadership to correct course effectively before it was too late.

What inspired me to launch PRx? It began with my dad’s words: There is always a better way. Be a problem solver. Work smarter, not harder.

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

Historically in the construction industry, it takes a lot of experience to be able to accurately forecast project risk and intuitively know how to handle it – a learning curve that costs millions of dollars per employee.

Over the last 40 years, more than 75% of projects are over budget and behind schedule. When the dust settles, the industry spends more than $175 Billion annually on delays and overages... Largely avoidable with the proper experience.

Considering this opportunity, we are educating project teams with automated risk intelligence and prescribing strategies to optimize human capital and drive project success.

In October 2021, I launched PRx in the hopes that we can be problem solvers who participate in the evolution of the industry’s processes, accelerating the growth of the next generation of managers, and helping the industry work smarter towards greater productivity and profitability.

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

A fellow entrepreneur and friend once said, “making things remarkably simple is remarkably complex.” This particularly resonates with an old-fashioned industry that has been remarkably averse to new technology over the last 4 decades.

The most significant hurdle has been and will continue to be (into the foreseeable future) changing the outdated mentality and approach to project management. However, we are seeing an experience void expanded by the learning curve, an aging workforce, and skilled labor shortages that are creating a vacuum for simple solutions to these complex issues.

There is an element of this shifting organically, as technological solutions are more widely accepted by the younger generation of executives. But we have also found success by reaching the intersection of common ground with our customers. Once we reach that intersection, our simple solution becomes an obvious next step.

Where do you see your company headed next?

To the moon! Just kidding… but not really. I believe that we have an opportunity to be the quintessential instrument for risk intelligence in the construction industry.

Our path to a successful acquisition begins with targeted contractors to pilot our product and champion the message to a broader market in their network.

The construction industry is highly competitive, and the companies within it are always seeking to gain that edge on their counterparts. A handful of case studies and testimonials will be a powerful accelerant to broader adoption in the contractor community.

In the near term, we are focused on a successful pilot to drive that early adoption with the goal of raising our next funding round in Q2 2023 to pour more accelerant on our trajectory.

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

In the life of every founder, there are plenty of good days and there are plenty of bad days. There are plenty of days when you succeed and plenty of days when you fail.

Don’t let your highs get too high, and don’t let your lows get too low. Be humble, faithful, and diligent with the task in front of you. Regularly remind yourself of your reasons you are pursuing this venture in the first place. For me, it is my family. My kids. Their future. That they can look up to a good example of love, hard work, and discipline, and learn to apply that in their lives. What is it for you?

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow. Repeat. Remember that there is always a better way. Be a problem solver. Work smarter, not harder.

Why Tampa Bay?

I was very fortunate to stumble backward into Tampa before realizing that Tampa is fast becoming a national hub for tech and startups.

For me to pursue this startup adventure, my wife and I understood that I would not be able to take a salary for myself for some time, which meant that she would bear that financial burden for the foreseeable future. To make ends meet, we needed to relocate our family from the Washington, DC area to a more affordable situation. With two sons under 2 years old, we needed a strong support system around us while relying on her salary alone. Fortunately, my wife was raised in Tampa from a young age and her family has been a staple in the Tampa community for generations. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that relocating to Tampa was probably her plan all along… She was playing the long game!

Since our arrival in Tampa last year, the support system we’ve found in our extended family and our growing network at Embarc have enabled me to pursue this dream, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the life we’re building here.

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07.19.2022

Our Team is Growing: Hiring an Operations Associate (Entry Level)

Embarc Collective is Florida’s fastest-growing startup hub. Structured as a 501c3 nonprofit, we help Florida’s startup talent build bold, scalable, thriving companies and currently support over 125 early-stage technology startups. The support from Embarc Collective is hands-on and driven by the specific goals and needs of each startup being supported. Embarc Collective operates from its 32,000 square-foot hub in downtown Tampa at 802 E. Whiting Street, Tampa, FL 33602.

We are growing our team of builders to help support Tampa Bay’s startup talent. Do you want to be a part of our mission?

As our team’s Operations Associate, you will serve in a newly-defined, critical role providing support for the financial, operational, and administrative functions of our organization. You will aid us in building out and fortifying our infrastructure in support of our mission, helping us to drive efficiency, identify and address organizational needs, and ensure fiscal and administrative compliance.

To be successful in this role you’ll be comfortable juggling competing priorities and deadlines, working independently and transparently, and thinking creatively and critically about how to constantly learn and improve. You’ll enjoy moving with quick and sound judgment while working with a variety of internal and external stakeholders.

We believe in helping our team grow within our organization, so our assumption is that the role will grow along with you as you gain experience at Embarc Collective. As the Operations Associate, you will report to the Embarc Collective VP of Administration & Operations.

Core Functions:

  • Own the membership operations processes, including member onboarding, offboarding, contracting, and billing, while collaborating closely with the Member Experience team
  • Manage office supplies, supply ordering, and supply areas and conference rooms
  • Update and deploy space signage, both printed and digital
  • Assist with expense tracking, monthly reconciliations, asset tracking, and vendor contracts
  • Help to craft and update operations & administration-related communications, policies, and procedures covering a wide range of organizational components across multiple platforms
  • Provide backup coverage for the front desk as needed
  • Manage special projects as assigned for the CEO and the VP of Administration & Operations

If this sounds like you, we want to connect:

  • Is self-directed but also extremely collaborative, both within the organization and externally when engaging with members, guests, and vendors
  • Is proactive and solution-oriented, but knows when to ask for help and how to manage up
  • Responds promptly to shifts in direction, priorities, and schedules
  • Is an experienced project manager
  • Is a flexible multitasker and eager to learn
  • Thinks strategically and with sound judgment
  • Is adept in learning and navigating a variety of systems and platforms
  • Has an interest in startups and building the Tampa Bay community
  • Has an interest in or experience with nonprofit organizations
  • Is tech-savvy; familiar with general IT systems and equipment
  • Is proficient in Excel and possesses some general accounting/budgeting experience

Please submit your resume here with subject line: Ops Associate for consideration.

Embarc Collective does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, age, national origin, marital status, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other reason prohibited by law in provision of employment opportunities and benefits.

07.01.2022

Featured Founder: Kevin Murray of Rare Drop

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 Kevin Murray from Rare Drop, which is creating digital & in-person experiences to inspire positive impactful change for its partners through events, creative services, marketing, tech, and more.

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

I spent most of my life working in event planning and catering in NYC. I started when I was a teenager working in the stock room for a company that did catering and events at the American Museum of Natural History. By 2015, I was a Director of Operations & Finance at one of the top companies in NYC; but I was pretty miserable and had no time for my family. My wife ended up getting her dream job here in Tampa, so we decided to take a chance and relocate so she could pursue her career. I had already been creating content on Twitch in my spare time and decided to dive into full-time content creation once we moved. I ended up partnering with two friends I made here in Tampa who were also content creators to create the first GCX (Gaming Community Expo) in 2016. It was a huge success and we ended up raising $564k for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital during our online charity marathon. When St. Jude met with us after the event, they wanted to enter into a partnership with us to support further fundraising efforts. To do this, we needed to start Rare Drop. After our 2017 event, I realized how much more we could be doing with Rare Drop and we began the building blocks for what the company looks like and is involved in today.

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

Rare Drop is involved in a lot of different things, but our main focus right now is twofold. On one side, we're looking to help non-profits enter the gaming and digital media spaces in order to build fundraising events and opportunities organically through building communities and creating relationships. To date, we've helped a number of non-profits raise over $26 million through the power of content creation and digital media. On the other side, we're looking to teach non-endemic brands and companies how to use the gaming space effectively through similar methods we use with non-profit organizations. We offer services such as online/physical event production, marketing, media, consulting, creative services, production, and more to get our clients to where they need to go. The idea that we have a business that is helping make the world a better place for future generations really inspires me to use the knowledge we cultivated over the years to continue to do good. I also get to work with clients like the Tampa Bay Lightning and build out their esports program, Bolts Gaming. I don't think anybody would complain about getting the chance to coordinate gaming initiatives and tournaments with the 3x Stanley Cup Champions.

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

We have been self-funded and mostly debt-free since the day we officially opened our doors. This led to some serious hurdles and slower expansion over the years, but we've built ourselves from a team of 2 to 12 by making intelligent decisions and being careful about how we spend. It also forced me, and some of the members of our team, to step outside of our comfort zones and learn skills that we didn't previously possess. For example, our Associate Producer started out as a part-time content creator on Twitch. We hired him straight out of college and 3 years later he's producing some of the best online shows in our space and helping get us noticed.

Where do you see your company headed next?

Our next big adventure is getting into the creative side of storytelling within media. We currently have about 6 projects we're looking to get off the ground in that realm that ranges from animated/live-action content to game development/creation. It's a lofty goal but with companies like Diamond View operating out of Tampa and the general growth of the city, we're betting on a creative boom to hit here and we want to be part of the catalyst for that to happen.

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

There will be ebbs and flows. There will be good times, bad times, and everything in between. Your passion for what you do shouldn't be dictated by the peaks and valleys your business and team will go through. Your passion can help keep your perspective in check during rough periods.

Why Tampa Bay?

While I originally moved because my wife got her dream job, I fell in love with this city and have worked very hard to make Tampa a hub for gaming, digital media and entertainment. It's incredible to see the community around Embarc Collective and how many like-minded people want to make Tampa one of the best places in the world to live, work, and play.

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