Local startup launches AI productivity software aimed at blue-collar service companies

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Rising Tide co-founders Jeff Corbett, on left, and Nels Yehnert. (Jack Jacobs photo)

A Richmond-based tech company is bringing an AI tool to blue-collar workers.

Rising Tide recently unveiled a subscription-based software designed to improve the efficiency and knowledge retention of employees at service companies such as delivery firms, exterminators and home repair outfits.

In the wake of the product launch, the company also in recent weeks secured $650,000 in investor funding to grow its team.

Rising Tide CEO and cofounder Jeff Corbett said the new product is intended to combat an issue faced by many services companies: their workers – repairmen, delivery drivers and similar roles – generally rely on their own personal experiences to get their work done, which means a seasoned worker’s knowledge usually gets lost as employees come and go.

“Your HVAC repairs, your refrigerator installations from Home Depot, your lawn care; all these people have vans that are moving around and doing things, but once they get to the door, they’re basically using whatever is in somebody’s head. The churn of the industry, of people coming and going, is reducing the amount of success companies can guarantee,” Corbett said.

Rising Tide and its software works with such businesses to build online toolkits that feature employee-created videos and audio files. Those resources are accessible via mobile app and used by workers in the field to get educated on everything from tips on where to find utilities at a residential property to a rundown of a homeowner’s quirks. Corbett likened the experience to looking up videos on YouTube to learn how to do something.

“George, a 70-year-old guy who has been doing this since 1965 or something, is going to talk to you just like he’s in the truck with you. He’ll say, ‘Hey, Mrs. Smith likes it when you back into the driveway. This oil tank is on the right side of the house under the magnolia tree,’” Corbett said.

Corbett said the new system utilizes generative artificial intelligence.

“The customers we have right now have an issue with knowledge management, that issue is sharing what the best of their employees know with the employees who are newer,”  he said. “That’s where AI comes in. Because you can take what’s in Sally’s head, push it out to other employees, replicate that knowledge and then walk them through how to do it.”

Corbett said a key element of the platform is employee buy-in, because they are the ones who need to create the how-to resources that will be used by their colleagues.

“They’re bringing the content expertise to us. We’re focusing on just replicating the technology and then letting them give us the expertise” he said. “All we have to do is facilitate the sharing of the knowledge and AI learns as it goes.”

Rising Tide’s program also uses blockchain, a technology usually associated with cryptocurrency, so a client can build a permanent and accessible database of records such as warranties, billing and other information that employees can reference in a single place.

Rafe Wilkinson, Rising Tide’s vice president of strategic revenue, said similar productivity technologies are usually aimed at office workers, whereas Rising Tide’s program is seeking what they feel like is an untapped market of blue-collar fields.

“Everybody is taking AI from a B2C, white-collar approach where it’s chatbots helping people write emails and that sort of thing. We’re really turning to the everyday, blue-collar worker. We’re automating their day, making it easier for them to get where they’re going and know what they need to do on a day-to-day basis,” Wilkinson said.

As of early March, Rising Tide had 15 to 20 businesses subscribed to its service, Wilkinson said.

The company launched its software service, which is called The Rising Tide, in January. The launch preceded the completion of a $650,000 investor round that closed in late February, and is being utilized to grow the size of the Rising Tide team.

The company currently has six employees and plans to have a total headcount of 10 by June. Those new hires will primarily be software engineers and developers in addition to other roles.

To date Rising Tide has secured about $790,000 in funding. The February raise followed a friends-and-family round in summer 2023 that raised $140,000, Wilkinson said.

Looking forward, Rising Tide is planning to raise a future $2.5 million capital round.

Rising Tide was established in 2022, and the company’s co-founders are Corbett, Nels Yehnert, Craig Huber and Zachary Robinson. The company is based in Startup Virginia, a business incubator in Capital One’s Michael Wassmer Innovation Center in Shockoe Bottom.

Corbett, who has a background in logistics, said the startup originally focused on last-mile delivery but expanded its efforts after service companies expressed interest in what Rising Tide was doing.

“What we found out very quickly was that the issues we were solving were a lot more diverse than we expected,” he said.

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William Willis
William Willis
22 days ago

Congratulations Rising Tide, excited about the growth of the Ai startup scene in Richmond. Love the conversations happening in our community about developing, upskilling the workforce and implementing responsible Ai. Making RVA The Hub for Ai innovation and workforce adoption.

Last edited 22 days ago by William Willis