Talent, innovation, smarts, tenacity drive growth of tech company in Tampa

Sourcetoad Development Studio isn’t your ordinary business. You can tell that when you walk in the door. The walls are striped with glossy, dry-erase whiteboard paint. Colorful meeting rooms facilitate creative discussions. A treadmill in the break room enables employees to keep in shape while mulling over a computer problem. And if you want a brew, well, that’s in the fridge.

Sourcetoad, a name derived from the source code they write, solves problems for businesses by building customized, cross-platform software that works on multiple devices like the Internet, smart phones, TVs, desktops and tablets.

“We run the place like a band. Everybody plays a good instrument … but they’re all doing their own thing,” explains CEO Greg Ross-Munro. “We just have to have good conductors. It works extremely well.”

Ross-Munro started Sourcetoad in 2008 as a consultant firm, but it has grown into much more. It has created software for high-profile clients like Honeywell, a Morris Plains N.J.-based Fortune 100 software-industrial company; the Tallahassee-based Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy; Tom’s of Maine, a Kennebunk, ME-based natural personal care products manufacturer; Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and others. 

Sourcetoad relocated to new offices on West Busch Boulevard in Tampa at Twin Lakes Office Park in February after outgrowing its former Town N Country office space. There are 18 employees in Tampa and nine at a sister company in Australia, Sourcetoad Australia, where the phone rings off hours for round-the-clock coverage. 

Ross-Munro, a 36-year-old originally from South Africa, has developed Sourcetoad into a business with the tenacity and drive to build new and innovate things. For example, Sourcetoad teamed up with RedCell Technologies in Town N Country to develop an interactive television known as Entertainment 360, which is currently in use at the Swiss-based Viking Cruises.

“Imagine our cable service at home and Netflix pushed together,” explains Tennyson LaJeunesse, RedCell’s CEO. “You’ve got standard TV channels and you also have video on-demand movies.”

Additionally, the system can be used to book shore excursions.

RedCell looked to Sourcetoad when it needed a software partner for the project. “We would have not gotten if off the ground without the help from Sourcetoad,” he says.  

They had a close, working relationship, literally. “They worked out of my office for the last six years,” he says.

Connecting through shared projects

For Activate Learning, Sourcetoad has been like an extra arm brought to the task of developing its digital product for middle school science students.

“They function like a part of our company,” says David Robertshaw, Chief Product Officer of the Greenwich, CT firm. “We work closely with a product manager and lead programmers there. We’ll work together with customers directly.”

Sourcetoad is collaborating on Activate Learning’s Investigating and Questioning Our World through Science and Technology, an interactive digital notebook that allows teachers to communicate directly with students.

“They’ve created a lot of flexibility to meet the needs of various school districts,” he says. “We have to be able to accommodate those things. Sourcetoad has done a great job of giving us a flexible platform for doing that.”

Another company requiring interactivity is CTI. “Our courses are different. What we teach is different,” says Rana Kasti, COO of CTI Physician Leadership Institute in Tampa.

With the goal of improving healthcare, the institute provides leadership training for doctors and requires a number of assessments. “The system is complex. It has different parts. Based on your assessment, you get recommendations about what would be relative to you,” she explains.

They need reliable partners and have found Sourcetoad to be “customer friendly,” she says. “They’re very responsive to our needs.”

The Boston-based ePublish Corp. hired Sourcetoad to build a web app enabling publishers and authors to sell ebooks more easily from multiple devices like cellphones, desktops, laptops and tablets.

“It does all the things a Kindle or an iBook does but it does it on the web in a browser,” explains Nick Maier, the company’s President. “You just log into a website and you’ve got everything. You can read and look at previews. It looks beautiful.”

He described the platform, known as Flexpub, as an “innovative product, something that wasn’t already there.” 

“They have done all of the work. I had thrown away a lot of money beforehand with developers that couldn’t deliver,” he says.

Maier wants to help the independent author. “These are tools that are better than the publishers have. It’s got all kinds of things that help motivated independent authors to share their work,” he adds.

Getting the right people on the team

The Sourcetoad team in Tampa includes Deborah Alvarez Neff, formerly Tampa Bay Wave’s Director of Operations. As Sourcetoad’s Director of Operations, she makes things happen, orchestrating things like the smooth transition to the company’s new offices, for example.

Chief Technology Officer Justin Weber, who joined Sourcetoad in 2015, lived in Silcon Valley between 1985-92. Weber, who oversees development, works with the architectural design of products, enabling others to sidestep potential problems.

“We get to solve more interesting tech problems,” he says. “We’re not locked into a specific technology or system. We generally try to find what is the most appropriate thing.”

Nick DeMelas, 35, works as a Project Manager. Though he’s originally from Philadelphia, DeMelas has been here more than half of his life. “I’ve been here 20 years. I’m from Tampa now,” he says.

He is enthusiastic about the local tech market. “Tampa is a really good place to be right now. It’s pretty hot in the tech scene, DeMelas says. “It’s really cool to watch an emerging market grow here.”

The team is constantly learning about the dynamic tech field. “We really do want to see people grow here,” DeMelas says.

Ross-Munro, who has been programming since he was 8, has assembled a knowledgeable staff. “I am the worst programmer that works here. These guys embarrass me,” he says. “I only hire people that can outthink me on a tech level.”

The Careers page on its website reflects the company’s culture by the invitation to “Geek-Out, Professionally.” “I feel like the nerds are the new cool kids,” DeMelas says. “We all have a passion for seeing things work and getting things working [with software].”

Sometimes they are really challenged. “We’re coding things I couldn’t believe were possible,” DeMelas acknowledges. “It’s pretty cool.”

Running Sourcetoad has been a learning process for Ross-Munro. “I made so many mistakes earlier on hiring the wrong people, mainly because I was desperate,” he explains.

Now he uses a more comprehensive screening process, which begins with the online screening of resumes. He follows this with some practical testing online “to prove they’re not a complete fraud,” he explains. 

After that is a telephone interview to ensure the candidate is a good fit and sit-down interviews, one with him and one with the tech team. “Then we switch it. Potential hires go and actually interview our guys. They get to ask what are you working on,” Ross-Munro says.

The result is greater job satisfaction. “You [as an employer] get turnover not just because you hired the wrong person,” he explains. “People take the wrong jobs. In our situation, everybody who comes here knows what they’re getting into.”

Every team member has to agree to hire -- and the new hire has to ask to work there. “That means, from day one, they both owe each other,” he says. “When the candidate comes in, I tell them that those guys all said they wanted to hire you.”

The result is increased loyalty and gratitude. Other things they can be thankful for are healthcare benefits and open policies on vacation and sick time. “If you want to take a month off, take your laptop,” Ross-Munro says.

The benefits include paternity leave that can be interspersed throughout the year. “People like to work here. We offer a ton of flexibility. They come when they want and leave when they want,” Ross-Munro says.
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Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about careers. An ebook author, she also writes Bible Camp Mystery series that shares her faith. She is publisher of New Christian Books Online Magazine and founder of the Mentor Me Career Network, a free online community, offering career consulting, coaching and career information. Now a wife and mother, Cheryl discovered her love of writing as a child when she became enthralled with Nancy Drew mysteries. She earned her bachelor's degree in Journalism and Sociology from Loyola University in New Orleans. While working at Loyola's Personnel Office, she discovered her passion for helping others find jobs. A Miami native, Cheryl moved to the Temple Terrace area in 1985 to work for the former Tampa Tribune