Tampa Bay Tech awards spotlight region's tech leaders, innovators

St. Petersburg-based construction firm Power Design Inc. had a problem.

With 290 active job sites around the country, including metropolitan areas with multiple sites, the company encountered a situation where a subcontractor was fired and banned from one job site for stealing materials only to go over to another job site in the same city and steal again.

Chief Information Officer Raghu Cutty says in an industry that has, until recent years, stayed largely unchanged for 50 to 60 years as technology rapidly transformed other areas of the economy, Power Design developed an innovative tech solution to the problem in-house.

The CrewConnect app lets superintendents and other crew leaders use facial recognition technology to check in and create a profile on each worker on a job site. With it, Power Design is able to track subcontractors who are banned from a site for theft or some other infraction and also keep track of subcontractors who go above and beyond and reward them.

The innovative tool has earned Power Design the Tech Project of the Year award in the 16th Annual poweredUP Tampa Bay Tech Awards.

“We had two challenges,” Kutty says. “How do you reward good work in a way that builds loyalty? And then there’s the other side. When a worker does not follow our values, how do we make sure that tracks them no matter what job site?”

As it turns out, the positive reinforcement side of the equation has, to the company’s delight, produced more results. Field employees use the app to track and give rewards, such as new tools and gear, for good performance. To date, the company has given out 1,500 rewards, totaling $60,000. Meanwhile, 47 people have been banned from job sites across the country.

Another winner this year is Tampa Bay Wave CEO & Co-Founder Linda Olson, who receives the Community Dedication and Leadership Award.

“It was a 100 percent surprise,” she says of the award. “The thought never even entered my head. It’s a complete surprise. I was not expecting this. I don’t know how my name got into consideration.”

Olson has led the nonprofit tech accelerator, coworking and entrepreneurial hub since 2008, assisting hundreds of tech firms and entrepreneurs in their launch.

Right now, Tampa Bay Wave is working with its counterpart in the Orlando area, StarterStudio, on a federally- funded initiative to attract more angel investors along the I-4 corridor. With the talent and patents coming out of the University of South Florida, Florida Polytechnic University ad the University of Central Florida, Olson says the effort can unleash the potential in a region that could rival some of the country’s leading tech hubs.

Tampa Bay Wave has also recently partnered with nonprofit Think Big for Kids to add a tech companies and entrepreneurs to a career mentoring program for at-risk youth.

“We want to give back to the kids in the community so they see the idea of building tech startups in Tampa Bay is not a fantasy or a dream but is actually happening today,” Olson says. “If we can help a few kids with the interests and talent to see a clear pathway to becoming an entrepreneur or getting a high wage job, we certainly want to.”

The other winners this year are:

  • Tech Leader of the Year: Dan Lasher, Corporate Vice President, Enterprise Architecture, Governance and Cyber Security, Tech Data
  • Emerging Tech Leader of the Year: Kishen Sridharan, Cybersecurity Partnership & Outreach Executive, Office of the CISO, Raymond James
  • Tech Unicorn of the Year: KnowBe4
  • Tech Company of the Year: AgileThought

The awards ceremony is scheduled for Friday, November 8, 2019 at Armature Works.

For more information, please go to these links: Power Design Inc., Tampa Bay Wave, Tampa Bay Tech.

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather and the wealth of outdoor festivals.
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