A personal interview with Rod Goossen, Founder of RoGO Fire.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I have worked in technology for a long time now and there was a wildfire event 8 years ago called the Yarnell Hill Fire. This is a wildfire that took place outside Prescott, Arizona, and unfortunately, 19 brave Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters were burned alive. There is no easy way to say that and the whole entire event horrified me, not only because of the loss of life but also because my younger brother is a Wildland Firefighter. Due to this event I started looking into the communications and situational wireless capabilities that firefighters have because oftentimes they are working in cellular denied areas. What I found is even today, Wildland Firefighters still use just paper maps, compasses and two-way radios to do their dangerous jobs with. I knew that there had to be a better way. I began looking into how to fix this and developing a technology that would enable Wildland Firefighters to gain access to real time situational awareness and communications so they can align and coordinate their tactical efforts while working in the middle of nowhere. That event truly inspired me to start the company and save the life of my brother and all the lives of the great firefighters that I have met through him. I really admire people who run into a burning building or a burning forest while everyone else is running out. I am inspired by all first responders including the military. Since we launched our beta devices, we have had interest from FEMA, Border Patrol, The National Guard and more. I am really excited by the opportunity to help those who help us.
Q: Can you tell me in a nutshell what RoGO Fire does?
A: We make satellite communication-enabled devices that allow Wildland Firefighters and other first responders, who work in remote, austere, cellular-denied areas the ability to gain access to real-time situational awareness information and communications so they can mitigate the disaster better and save more lives.
Q: What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: It is a very busy lifestyle with the ongoing challenges of balancing product development, juggling new relationships, marketing, selling and trying to find funding. The most exciting part is balancing priorities and finding new opportunities. Oh, and of course keeping up with the never ending list of to-do tasks!
Q: Do you have any mentors or role models who have inspired you while you have been building RoGO Fire?
A: I do! Of course I have met collaborators through RIoT and Tom Snyder who has lit the spark for enabling remote IoT devices in austere areas with our products, which can connect them to the internet through our satellite enabled devices. There are many others who have inspired me along the way and on the top of that list are our first responders who give of themselves so selflessly in times of tragedy. Many first responders I have spoken to have learned about our products and are awestruck by the potential of these devices. That right there tells me that the devices we have made are needed, desired and wanted. They see the value in what we have made (and are still developing) and how our product can help save their lives as well as help mitigate the disaster faster. In addition, I have several business advisors who I have met through SolderWorks and the Innosphere Incubator here in Colorado where we have gained extensive experience, and overall, a ton of input coming from all these people who want us to succeed and help us grow.
Q: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs?
A: Plan on not getting a lot of sleep! If I were to do this all over again, I would change this: I started this company and then I started looking for funding after we gained some customer interest and product traction. Due to this, I have bootstrapped everything myself so far. My advice for a new founder would be: if your technology is applicable for SBIR funding through government grants, seek that government SBIR grant, which provides non-dilutive funding first before you jump head first into product development.