For many do-it-yourselfers and contractors, obtaining a permit for projects can sometimes be like pulling teeth. Those days of waiting for permits may be over, thanks to Ray and Rebecca Antonino, founders of PermitZone, a company that provides contractors and do-it-yourselfers with information and resources to stay compliant, and the ability to pull construction permits online, from anywhere.
PermitZone was not the original idea Ray and Rebecca submitted to Techstars. Initially, the couple created a task management application called FieldVine, which was built as an internal tool to manage a previous construction company the couple had built in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“The first three weeks were a blur,” says Ray, “as Techstars requires you meet with 120+ mentors in a 20-minute speed-dating setting, back-to-back for three weeks!” He goes on to say, “The thing that became clear, is that we could be one of 50+ task management software providers, or we could focus on the one thing our application does that no others do: Manage construction permits and inspections.”
It was a month or so into the Austin-based Techstars program that the team pivoted from their original app, even though they had just onboarded their first paying customers. The founders attribute the mentorship received in the Techstars program as the root cause for making the pivot, and are 100% confident in the decision to pursue PermitZone.
Ray also credits the Techstars Mentor Network for helping him and his team identify a real customer pain, but also pivoting to build their solution in less than two months. He cited multiple reasons that allowed the company to pivot so quickly, giving special praise to his technically gifted co-founder Adam Michel, who left a six-figure job to come on board.
In the startup world, it is imperative that you and your cofounder work well with each other in order to run a productive company, and as a married couple, the Antonino’s found out first-hand the challenges of separating company time from personal time.
Ray, an Army Reserve veteran, credits his experiences to the military training that gave him the strength and mental fortitude to become a successful entrepreneur. Being a veteran spouse, Rebecca has a great understanding of veterans and has a special place for them in her heart. The Antonino’s are alumni of Patriot Boot Camp, which describes itself as a “nonprofit organization operating in Boulder, Colorado and focuses on helping veterans and military spouses build technology companies.” Patriot Boot Camp allowed Ray to become a mentor to 40+ veteran entrepreneurs who were housed at Galvanize, a coworking space in Downtown Austin.
Both Ray and Rebecca have participated in four Patriot Boot Camp events; twice as participants, once as volunteers, and now as mentors. They credit PBC events as a helpful tool which jump-started their entrepreneurial journey, as well as taught them about the nuances of the startup world.
Ray has received help from other veterans organizations as well. He specifically mentions Bunker Labs, an entrepreneurial resource that supports veteran entrepreneurs in 11 states, as extremely supportive in reaching out to their network for various connections to gain exposure. The efforts of Bunker Labs Austin helped PermitZone get into the 1776 Challenge Cup. This opportunity led to the startup making it to the regionals event held in New York City. It was here that the doors of exposure blew open. Soon after,PermitZone received recognition from Amazon Web Services as finalists for the 2016 City on a Cloud Innovation event in Washington, DC.
It’s been a long road for the Antoninos’ in their quest to build a profitable and impactful company and they are proud to represent the veteran community in their entrepreneurial ventures. For them, it’s all about showing their veteran counterparts that the American Dream is still attainable.
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