Toggle Canarsie 1

FAQ2 — Toggle is entering the Seed Stage

A construction robotics company

Toggle is a new type of construction company, one that is utilizing manufacturing technology and processes to contribute to the built environment. As a startup, one of the first pieces of advice Ian and I got upon joining the Urban-X Accelerator program as the co-founders of Toggle was to begin maintaining an FAQ to track the most common questions from everyone we’d interact with, from customers to investors to media and new recruits. We adopted the business part of the FAQ for our website www.toggle.is where you can read about what we sell and what kinds of customers we serve. This is the other half of the FAQ and our first narrative post about the company. It’s our “hello world” to mark Toggle’s official entry into the arena of Seed Stage tech startups (based in NYC and hiring!).

1. What does Toggle do?

Today, Toggle is a technology-enabled rebar fabricator and assembler. We supply cut, bent and sometimes pre-assembled steel reinforcement or “rebar” to construction industry customers who are the builders of buildings and infrastructure. Rebar is the literal “reinforcement” in reinforced concrete which happens to be the most ubiquitous building material in all of construction. To provide a sense of scale of the material’s use: our world consumes more concrete than any other material on the planet besides water; and in virtually every bit of concrete, on every single construction site, you will find rebar. Toggle is developing technology including industrial robotics and automation, across software, hardware and services, to make the process of fabricating and working with rebar safer, more precise and more efficient. In the future we hope to do this with other construction materials and processes as well.

2. How did you end up here (and why the name Toggle)?

Toggle began with a mutual interest in renewable energy and the transition to new forms of power production. Both Ian and I had spent time on construction sites for industrial scale wind energy and were fascinated by the technology and scale of this business. It was not in the turbines though, that we found our opportunity as entrepreneurs. It was in the foundations of these enormous machines where we saw a process, reinforced concrete construction, and in particular the assembly of rebar, where the spark of inspiration for Toggle began. “Toggle” represents the physical and mechanical solution to enable change, not only in the way we build but also to provide flexibility in what we build from one project to the next. Toggle’s vision is for a construction industry that can deliver large scale urban and infrastructure construction at the same level of quality, speed and value as manufactured consumer goods.

3. Why rebar?

Rebar is a hard business. The companies that have been successful in the industry have won their places through hard fought competition, volatile commodity pricing and tariffs, the ups and downs of the construction cycle and a business model that is traditionally high on costs and low on margins. It’s an incredibly high volume and high demand business but sustainably maintaining a rebar supply operation is complex, capital intensive and every day brings new challenges. At Toggle we saw this barrier as an opportunity: to join an industry, be a different type of participant, and provide an absolutely critical component to the built environment supply chain using new approaches. The opportunity to bring technology and data together into a new model driven business for producing construction materials is clear. As a full stack business that develops technology and sells steel we hope to carve out our own place in this uniquely challenging yet indispensable corner of construction.

4. Is there a social impact?

At Toggle we are building a team of people and professionals that care about what they do and why they do it. That being said, we are very intentional about the technology and the business we are working on and see some important and direct impacts we have the opportunity to make:
Shared infrastructure –global urbanization and economic development is generating an unprecedented demand for new construction. We’re building cities and infrastructure systems (transportation, energy, water, resiliency and others) at a pace, scale and level of complexity never seen before. At Toggle we want to contribute directly toward helping to meet this demand in a way that makes more efficient use of materials and resources while also delivering better value to the communities in which new construction and rehabilitation of legacy systems is critical.
The future of work –the workforce for urban and infrastructure construction isn’t growing at the same pace as the demand for these types of work and yet the critical skills that experienced tradespeople bring to the process are indispensable. As a result, Toggle is asking questions like how can we augment the existing workforce to increase productivity? Can we increase production while simultaneously extending careers and increasing safety? Our aim is to create new categories of factory and construction jobs here in our community. As structures and materials get larger, heavier and more complex new challenges to the workforce arise. We need to ask ourselves: what tasks can be done with new tools or be supported by machines so that people can focus on what they’re great at and participate in a workflow that is more comfortable, safe and sustainable? We firmly believe that technology is a means not an end and that its purpose is to enable people to achieve more.
Energy –as the world transitions to cleaner, more efficient and renewable energy production an enormous amount of construction will go toward the buildout and retrofit/upgrade/maintenance of power supply, transmission and storage. A key customer focus for our business at Toggle will be and already is in serving these projects with an equal emphasis on technology, efficiency and value.

A final note on being a startup

Another early piece of advice we got at Toggle was that one of the most critical things we could do to ensure success as a startup was to just keep our company moving forward so that our path could intersect with good luck. This has been incredibly resonant for us in that we have been fortunate and lucky again and again over the course of our first three years and we would like to thank the following people and groups for helping us to get to this point and for the future luck and support they will undoubtedly send our way:
Accelerate NY and Empire State Development
ABB
Autodesk Technology Center Boston
BMW/Mini/Urban-X
The Consortium for Research & Robotics at Pratt Institute
ETH Zurich dfab
Matic Senicar
Metal Partners and FGH Rebar
MIT Digital Structures
NYU Tandon Robotics & Mechatronics
Perl Street Capital
Urban Us
… and the newest members of the Toggle family, our Series Seed investors, Point72 Ventures, Mark Cuban and Twenty Seven Ventures.

And speaking of the Toggle family we are hiring!

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Daniel Blank

Daniel Blank

Rebar & Robots @ Toggle.is

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