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.