Bring your fresh perspective to whatever you’re interested in and challenge the “norm.” A lot of people think that our lack of life experience means our opinions aren’t valid. We’ve grown up in a world of technology, so we know when things need to be updated and industries need to be shaken up.
As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Ruef. Bryan is the co-founder of 10–8 Systems. Since working as an emergency medical technician, emergency dispatcher, and sheriff’s department volunteer, Bryan was astonished by the outdated, error-prone systems cities heavily relied on during emergencies. He created an affordable, cloud-based dispatching and records software created for emergency responders, by emergency responders who understand the difficulties of working with outdated equipment.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up here in California my whole life, went to school, college, and I’m still here. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always had a passion for technology and public safety. I’ve been coding various websites and tinkering with different projects since I was 13 years old. Freshman year of high school, I started with a website detailing roller coasters/amusement park news across Southern CA. It got a ton of traffic and somehow qualified me to go to media days and get first looks at the newest rides. I even had a few friends “working” for me at the time writing articles, taking photos, and getting ideas for new posts.
Just after I started that, I began volunteering with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as a sheriff’s explorer. The explorer program allows teens and young adults to explore a career in law enforcement and even includes an explorer academy! At the same time, I was still coding in my spare time (this was high-school). Once I graduated high school, I wanted to combine my passion of computer science and public safety by going into cybersecurity to try and help the good guys. I wanted to “hack the hackers”.
After years of ride-along almost every weekend with local sheriff’s departments, I ended up working as an EMT. First, I started in an ambulance, then I ended up as a dispatcher for a few years. During these almost 10 years in public safety, I realized a trend: the majority of computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and record management solutions (RMS) available on the market are outdated, unreliable, require on-site support, and are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. Additionally, it was pretty obvious that the majority of CAD solutions are exclusively designed by software engineers — NOT actual first responders or even people with any experience in public safety.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Most existing software solutions still require on-premise databases and equipment. This means there’s either a closet or room hooked up to a bunch of fans, and if that room goes out — then they’re back to pen and paper. Depending on the severity of the issue (and the skills of their IT team), agencies can go days or months without functional software.
When we were speaking with a Sheriff’s Department in Missouri, their dispatch center was actually struck by lightning during a storm.
When they were struck, it fried all of their electronics, resulting in decades of data loss. It ended up taking them over three months to be back in action. When we started speaking to them, they didn’t even know Cloud-based systems were an option. With modern systems like ours, customers can access their entire system and records from any internet device — anywhere, anytime. Plus, the joke that we always make is that if there was some sort of major disaster here in the west coast, we’d be gone, but our customers will still have full access to their system, thanks to AWS GovCloud.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I would have never started on this journey without the amazing support of my parents. My mom was in the technology industry before she traded it in to be our biggest supporter. My dad was a salesperson extraordinaire and showed us how to talk to anyone. Also, my dad was one of the first police explorers in Newark, CA — he inspired me to start volunteering my time with the Sheriff’s Department. I attribute my passion for public safety to him.
Above all though, my brother has been the greatest help in getting me to where I am. He is my co-founder and has helped to drive us to where we are today. By combining my experience in public safety and programming with his experience in business and sales, we’ve been able to grow to what we are today.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Always! Currently, we are working on multiple strategic partnerships. These partnerships will allow us to do something that’s never been done before — create a complete public-safety communication platform. In the next year, our software will have the opportunity to raise the bar across the public safety industry and do things no public safety software has ever done before. Stay tuned…
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We are bringing modern, cutting-edge technology into the hands of our brave first responders. In a world where decisions are made between paying our brave first responders and expensive technology — we are happy to offer a modern, economical solution. This allows agencies to focus their money on other life-saving missions versus simple software solutions.
Honestly, this is the best part about working in public safety. We provide a software that not only brings powerful tools to first responders, but actually helps members of the general public. Back in August 2019, we were contacted by Florida Search and Rescue, who were one of the FEMA groups responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. They were able to use our software to save over 650 lives throughout the course of their rescue efforts. At one point, their radios went down for an extended period and the entire communications between responders and the mainland, was through my software. It was a pretty amazing feeling knowing that I created a platform that could be used by those who are saving people all around the world.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Much to my book-loving mother’s chagrin, I am NOT a book reader. All my free time is spent focusing on researching and reading articles about programming or the public safety industry.
Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”. Please share an example or story for each
- Perception means a lot.
First impressions mean everything, especially in business. As a “TwentySomething founder”, it’s sometimes an uphill battle, especially in an older industry. For example, we are constantly working with Chiefs from various departments across the country. Their preconceived notions and stereotypes for people in their 20s aren’t always the most positive, so it’s important that we always make a good impression. It’s been important to show our customers that we aren’t just another “millennial”.
2. Everyone wants to help.
This is really a double-edged sword of being a young founder. Everyone, I mean everyone, wants to try to help you. Now, this is sometimes helpful, but oftentimes people have no idea how to relate to the situations I’m in. Although I believe that most people are truly altruistic, there are also a small percentage of people who would try to take advantage of my age and perceived naivety.
3. You and your peers might not see eye-to-eye.
It’s often hard to relate with people that are similar age with me. A lot of twenty-somethings want to party all day every day, while I’m more concerned about new business contracts coming in. Also, as I’m starting to get more busy with my business I’m growing as an entrepreneur, I find myself more surrounded by slightly older demographic than those my same age. Luckily, I’ve always been told I have an “old soul”, but sometimes being the youngest person in the room can be difficult. Sometimes you have to fight to prove you belong at the table, but always do this without being a know-it-all and always remain humble.
4. Being a “TwentySomething founder” means you have a fresh perspective.
We’ve always heard, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” As a young founder, there are multiple industries waiting to be shaken up. Bring your fresh perspective to whatever you’re interested in and challenge the “norm.” A lot of people think that our lack of life experience means our opinions aren’t valid. We’ve grown up in a world of technology, so we know when things need to be updated and industries need to be shaken up.
5. Timing is everything as a younger founder.
Take the leap of faith and start something when you can. It’s a lot easier to take chances as a TwentySomething founder when you’re younger, have less overhead, and less to lose. This is the time to shoot for the moon and see where you land. There’s always time to get a j-o-b.
What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty-year-old who is looking to found a business?
Consider finding a suitable co-founder to join you on this journey, one that shares your passion and vision. It’s really hard trying to be everything at the same time. It’s important to understand your strengths and weaknesses (be honest). Find someone that compliments your skillset and put together a “dream team.” As you start to get traction and scale, it’s nice to have a built-in support system. If you have a co-founder you know you can trust, it helps a lot to know you can be hands-off on some aspects and trust that it is getting done. My co-founder is my brother. He has a degree in Economics and has a lot of history in the business and sales world. With him focusing on sales, it allows me to focus on innovation and development.
Also, be different. Everyone always teaches you that you go to school, graduate, get a job, and work for someone for the rest of your life. While that isn’t necessarily a terrible option, you can make such a bigger difference in both your own life and the lives of your community if you go the entrepreneurship route. Find something you’re passionate about and make your mark in that field. If you’re doing what you love, you’ll be so much prouder of your accomplishments. Making money shouldn’t be your number one priority either. Help others and be a positive difference in the world (and also make money).
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
This might be a somewhat obvious choice, but I would love to meet Bill Gates. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to not only for his achievements in the business world, but also in technology and, more importantly, in philanthropy. His philanthropic work has inspired me throughout my life to give back. I hate breakfast, so I would love to get lunch with him and pick his brain about various topics in technology, business, world events, and philanthropy.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can follow us on our company Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/108systems/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!