What inspired you to start this business?
I grew up working odd jobs in construction and saw how this industry largely operates from word of mouth, which can be time consuming and limiting -- for both the workers and employees. I went on to get a degree in engineering and built a career in technology, but I’ve remained close to the construction industry through family and friends. I’ve frequently thought about how technology could make it easier and faster for people to find safe, reliable work.
A few years ago, a mutual friend introduced me to Rudy Rucoba who had an idea for a business that would connect construction workers and contractors with a customer-centric approach that leverages technology in a way that’s not being done today. I was drawn by the business opportunity and the chance to help people.
What’s your mission?
To increase the efficiency of both hiring workers and being hired for short-term construction gigs. We want to connect the right people through technology and cut down on the time it takes someone to find work.
What’s your background?
I was born into a blue collar family in Texas and grew up as an electrician’s helper; I was kind of a Jack of all trades at construction sites, constantly learning and pitching in where I could. I worked hard in school and was accepted at Stanford University where I earned a degree in electrical engineering and an MBA.
Post graduation, I started working in marketing and worked my way up to executive roles, eventually running companies in the U.S. and internationally. Eventually I left public companies to work with startups and really found my calling. I love the startup environment, especially when you get to solve big problems with technology like we’re doing at Work4Workers.
I love the startup environment, especially when you get to solve big problems with technology like we’re doing at Work4Workers.
Have you founded other companies? Any exits?
Yes, I’ve founded multiple startups with several successful exits. The most challenging and the most rewarding exit was for a startup I helped found in the semiconductor industry around the year 2000. We were achieving good growth and had raised our seed funding and our series A funding from traditional venture capitalists. We were negotiating a strong series B funding round when 9/11 happened, changing the economy and investing landscape. All the term sheets were pulled, and we ran out of cash.
We needed a buyer and found one in corporate giant AMD. This soft landing enabled us to take care of our investors and employees in a significant way.
I’ve also been able to play a key role in several turnarounds where we’ve pivoted the business for a better outcome. I’ve managed acquisitions, such as that of Sigmatel being acquired by Freescale at a 69% premium to the previous trading price.
What experiences along your career path help you most in your current role?
Being part of startups that have succeeded and those that have failed has taught me a lot about running and funding a business. It’s vital to have funding, of course, but it’s equally important to have the right funders for your business. Startups need funders who are eager to help them and then the funding needs to be structured in a fair and equitable basis across the board. That’s one of the things I appreciate about equity crowdfunding where we can offer the same terms to all levels of investors.
The experience of leading companies in the private and public sectors has also taught me how important it is to take care of your employees and build a cohesive team. You’re going to have to deal with challenges; it’s how you deal with those challenges that makes the difference. And a cohesive team is much better positioned to work through the challenges.
You’re going to have to deal with challenges; it’s how you deal with those challenges that makes the difference.
How did you and your cofounder meet? How did you come together to build this business?
Rudy and I were introduced through a mutual friend, and we hit it off immediately. Rudy described his vision for Work4Workers, and it was a great fit for my operational and marketing background. We both know the construction market well and have a deep desire to help people. We know the limitations of the current approaches to finding short-term jobs and believe we can solve this long-standing problem with technology designed the way users need.
Tell us about the team you’ve built.
We’ve built a team with deep experience and strengths in complementary areas, with a focus on the core areas of our business -- construction, labor, recruiting and technology. We’re serial entrepreneurs who understand what it takes to move an idea from initial planning to market launch to growth.
Our executive team is well connected in the construction and labor market, so we’ll be able to connect with our target users quicker. And three of us are graduates of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative where we continue to mentor other entrepreneurs.
We’re members of the Latino and Hispanic communities, we have an in-depth understanding of our audience and their pain points, and we’re eager to help them.
Describe your company culture.
Our culture is one where we encourage open communication and welcome feedback. We’ve built a solid plan that we’ll refine and iterate based on market feedback. Our team is focused on our mission of solving employment issues in the construction industry.
What brings you the most joy on the job?
For me, it’s hitting milestones. I like to set goals and then see us get to the next point.
One of the big milestones we hit recently was finalizing all of our inputs to launch our funding campaign on Fundify. A lot of startups don’t have all the financial and structural information together in a way that’s required to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign.
Going through that process helped us mature further as a company. We’re excited about the early results we’re seeing and are eager to move to our next milestones.
What are you most proud of?
My family. The success that my wife and I and our children have been able to achieve is so much more than we ever imagined. It’s given us incredible opportunities and the ability to help others in meaningful ways.
Because of my professional success, I’ve been able to participate with the Latino Business Action Network and the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative where we train and mentor business leaders. More than 800 people have completed the executive training program and have been responsible for creating 35,000+ jobs with $4 billion in revenue. These businesses are changing people’s lives and impacting communities in a positive way.
Sometimes my wife and I think we should pinch ourselves. We’re so grateful for the opportunities we’ve had and wish our parents could see this.
|Phil enjoying beach time with his granddaughter.|
What are the top factors influencing your industry or company right now and how are you managing them?
We’re at an unprecedented time where people are struggling to find work while construction companies are struggling to find qualified people to hire. For workers, the inability to find a job each day means they don’t earn money that day. For companies, the lack of enough skilled workers is a limiting factor in how many projects they can take on and complete.
The market was already in need of a tech-based tool to solve this problem, and Covid made it worse as it introduced more uncertainty to the market.
We’ve all seen images of day laborer camps on the news. Those are not a good solution for workers or employers. It’s a difficult environment to navigate and can be dangerous for all parties if not managed by a local entity.
We need to launch our platform and get it into the hands of workers and employers so they’ll have a faster, safer, more efficient method to find and fill jobs.
We’re at an unprecedented time where people are struggling to find work while construction companies are struggling to find qualified people to hire. ... The market was already in need of a tech-based tool to solve this problem, and Covid made it worse as it introduced more uncertainty to the market.
Why did you decide to raise capital through crowdfunding?
As we’ve described Work4Workers to people, many have told us that they’d like to invest. They’re retail investors who are looking to invest a few hundred or few thousand dollars, unlike venture capitalists who invest larger amounts in later funding rounds.
It can be difficult for a startup to accept more modest investment amounts due to the associated administrative expenses and management overhead.
The beauty of Fundify and crowdfunding is that it gives us a way to take all of those interested parties and let them invest whatever amount they’d like. Whether you invest $100 or $10,000, you’re treated the same and given access to the same information. I think it brings a lot of integrity to the process.
What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?
I consider myself lucky and blessed. Of course luck is what you make of it, but I’ve been lucky enough to have been given interesting opportunities. From there, I’ve worked hard enough to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.
And I’ve been struck by the need to be mindful of these blessings and stop and say thank you. I’ve taken the time to go back to Stanford and knock on the doors of some of my former professors just to say thank you. There were days when I didn’t think I could finish certain courses, and my professors encouraged me along. I think it’s important to let people know you appreciate the role they played in your life, and I try to pass this on by mentoring other business builders.
What is the most important habit of a startup founder?
Tenacity. If you really believe in your idea, keep charging forward. Know that it won’t be all roses, and some people will think your idea won’t work. That’s ok. You can listen to their concerns, adjust if needed and keep pushing forward.
As I mentor entrepreneurs, I sometimes see ideas I don’t think will work. As I give feedback, I tell them -- “Take my advice or take this as an opportunity to prove me wrong.”
What do you enjoy in your spare time?
My wife and I enjoy traveling, and it gives us great joy to be part of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives. I also enjoy getting to mentor other entrepreneurs, helping them with lessons I’ve learned or providing contacts that will help them.
If you were on stage in a spotlight before a packed audience, would you rather teach, sing, dance or accept an award? Tell us about that scene.
I would teach to a smaller audience so I could see the feedback from people and measure the results from the material I was teaching. In a different life, I would have loved being a teacher. I tutored in college and then after in underserved schools in San Antonio. I helped kids with calculus and physics, and it was extremely rewarding to see the light bulbs go off as they understood these subjects.
Learn how you can invest in Work4Workers here.
This blog article is published by Fundify, Inc. The comments and opinions expressed within are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or Fundify, Inc.