Featured Founder: Elezar Tonev of EaseAlert
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 Elezar Tonev of EaseAlert, a company that delivers less stressful and more efficient alerts directly to emergency responders to help them live longer, healthier lives.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
Before co-founding EaseAlert, in 2016, I co-founded a design & engineering company focused on enabling inventors and businesses to streamline the product development process. The inspiration for launching EaseAlert came from my co-founder Blake Richardson who wanted to improve the alerting process at fire stations and the wellbeing of his father, a career firefighter. It was the portfolio of products that our engineering team had developed over the years and my passion for developing solutions that create change that gave me the confidence to launch EaseAlert and create an environment where both companies could flourish.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
EaseAlert addresses the leading cause of on-duty death among firefighters, a heart attack. Most don’t know this, but firefighters are up to 14.1 times more likely to die of a heart attack during an alarm response than during non-emergency duties. EaseAlert’s system mitigates the auditory startle response associated with traditional alerting systems at fire stations. Being able to go to work every day and actively develop and improve our alerting system to address a fatal issue makes me most excited. It’s knowing that after a long day, we are one step closer to improving the wellbeing of those who selflessly put their lives on the line for us.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced is breaking into an industry that has seen little change in over a century. All alerting systems on the market still use loud alarms to alert on-duty firefighters, so getting buy-in from decision-makers to purchase a system that relies on visual and tactile alerts instead has been difficult. To overcome this challenge, we successfully secured an SBIR grant to help fund a clinical study on EaseAlert and have partnered with several organizations focused on firefighter health to spread awareness of our solution. More recently, we’ve focused on building an experienced sales team and improving our products to provide more utility and features.
Where do you see your company headed next?
In 2023, the theme for EaseAlert is Scaling. We are working hard to refine our internal process and expand our sales team as we prepare to launch the 3rd generation of the EaseAlert alerting system. This new system will allow us to integrate with more departments nationwide and internationally while providing a better user experience for first responders. We are also actively working on expanding into the Air Force after successfully outfitting MacDill Air Force Base and hope to secure a Phase II SBIR grant to help scale production.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.
Tactical advice for another founder would be to learn how to delegate effectively as fast as possible. Often as founders, we fall into the trap of wanting to tackle every task. While this might be easy at first, as the company grows, the demands also increase, leading to that never-ending to-do list. This is especially true for those who don’t have co-founders. So, learning to delegate early gives founders an edge because it develops critical leadership, management, and people skills, all of which are necessary for scaling.
Why Tampa Bay?
In my opinion, there’s no better place to live! From the great weather all year long to being surrounded by like-minded individuals focused on building their careers in a rapidly expanding tech hub is hard to find elsewhere. Also, we must remember the world-class beaches and sports teams. Go Bolts!!