Yuval Brisker and Irad Carmi started TOA Technologies in 2003 with a great software idea but a Microsoft-sized obstacle: Although the duo had experience in the technology field, potential clients had a hard time looking beyond Brisker’s background as an architect and Carmi’s job as a classical flutist.
“A lot of people were skeptical about an architect and a musician in technology,” says Brisker, the company’s CEO. “It was, ‘What, are you crazy?’ ”
Today, that creative energy may be the company’s greatest strength. Headquartered in Beachwood, TOA creates workforce management solutions that are focused more on the needs of the customer than the needs of the company.
For example, when a homeowner wants to know when the cable guy will show up, TOA’s predictive software helps companies give a much better time frame than the frequent and nonspecific “between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.”
The idea was spawned when Brisker and Carmi, former co-workers at MaxBill Inc., decided that they wanted to build a company around their infatuation with technology and a creative solution to a problem — any problem. It was a collaboration that probably wouldn’t have happened without Brisker’s architectural background.
Brisker studied architecture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., and environmental design at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. That led him to a job in New York with HOK, one of the top architectural firms in the world and largest in the United States.
“My luck was that when I got into the architectural profession in the early ‘90s, I was immediately immersed in the first generation of technologies and [computer-aided design],” says Brisker.
“I got my first taste of working in a software-testing environment,” he adds. “It gave me the sense that I can go in this direction.”
New York seemed to be a great place for Brisker to expand on his creativity. He also began working toward a master’s degree in film at New York University.
“I was always interested in film, so I started on this parallel track,” Brisker says.
But his main focus was still technology. He eventually landed at MaxBill, an international telecom billing software vendor, where he learned enterprise software and met the like-minded Carmi.
“It was a brave new world,” Brisker says. “It was completely Web-based in a browser. It was a new way of thinking.”
And that further fueled Brisker’s creativity. Although he’s never written a line of code, he considers himself a technologist.
“We realized that we were focused on the business side of software, and there were other opportunities,” explains Brisker.
So he and Carmi searched for a problem to solve. They didn’t have a particular product or industry in mind. They just wanted to discover something that affected everyone. “Usually those problems are the more mundane,” says Brisker.
Waiting for a service provider to show up at your house certainly falls under that category. Brisker and Carmi’s solution was a cloud-based mobile workforce management application that reduces customer wait time and increases efficiency.
TOA’s technology measures workforce data, such as how long employees take to do various tasks. From there, patterns and profiles are created and analyzed, allowing companies to make service-window predictions that are 96 percent accurate.
“We said that all the software would be online,” says Brisker. “We’ve seen a huge revolution in the way the marketplace is viewing the potential of smartphones, tablets and the Internet and what can be accomplished over those platforms.”
With TOA continuing to grow — it recently landed Dish Network as a client and expanded into Latin America — Brisker can look at the path that led him here and clearly see the
“When I went into architecture, I wanted to be in a creative world,” says Brisker. “I view architecture the same way I view technology, so to me the move was seamless. I don’t see any break. When you’re looking at architecture or film or technology, all three interact with creativity. All three are intertwined.”