From Commando to business success
By Courtney Snowden for Prince’s Trust Australia
Veteran of multiple deployments, including Afghanistan, Alex Pryor has gone from Commando to entrepreneur, successfully launching two technology-based businesses within the construction industry.
Business has boomed during the COVID pandemic – a 30% increase almost overnight – with clients needing to ‘see’ worksites without physically visiting the sites.
The 39-year-old started his small business journey with Pryority Droneworks, which serviced the construction industry, and took it a step further with Sync Technologies, which aims to increase productivity on jobsites.
Alex joined the Australian Army in 2004 and was posted to the 4th Battalion, Royal Australia Regiment in Sydney, which became the 2nd Commando Regiment. He has served in Timor Leste, Fiji, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He discharged in 2010 with half a dozen or so deployments under his belt, ‘not too scarred from service’, and having achieved everything he’d set out to do while in uniform.
At that stage, the Global Financial Crisis was at its peak and Mr Pryor ended up working 15 jobs in 18 months before finding himself in the construction industry.
By 2018 he’d moved up the civilian ranks – from apprentice carpenter to supervisor, foreman and project manager – when old service injuries caught up with him.
Two hip replacements later and his surgeon advised Alex to get off the tools.
Post-surgery and while on a DVA-facilitated placement with defence contractor, Rheinmetall, Alex read about Prince’s Trust Australia in one of the company’s bulletins.
‘Prince’s Trust had these single-day events,’ he says. ‘You know, a come and see what it’s like on the dark side of start-up life. That was the catalyst really to go, okay, let's have a crack at it.’
That was the start of Pryority Droneworks, where Mr Pryor used technologies he was familiar with from Defence – drones, scanners and sensors – to create 3D data for builders and designers.
The Brisbane local then took all that knowledge, technology and skill, from both Pryority Droneworks and his time in the military, and launched his second company, Sync Technologies, with co-founder Carolina Dreifuss and the backing of investment platform Antler.
Put simply, the company uses technology to ensure everyone working on a construction project has the information they need to be on the same page. Much like the missions Alex undertook as a commando.
‘Everyone in the team going out had to understand the mission fully and even repeat it back to anyone else,’ he says. ‘That takes all the guesswork out because, the thing is with humans, we fill in the gaps if we don't know something.’
Sync Technologies uses existing and emerging technologies to capture data for a construction project, from planning through to completion, to streamline the process and ensure everyone knows the ‘mission’ inside out.
Alex said he never thought of himself as an entrepreneur. He says his biggest struggle becoming a business-owner was learning to delegate, while one of the most valuable lessons he has learnt was accepting failure as part of the process.
‘We were in a zero-fail environment in the military. The mission must succeed. But in the real world, it's okay to go: “What do we learn from that?” And off we go.’
His advice for anyone considering the start-up life is to just give it a go.
‘It's worse thinking about it than actually doing it. William McRaven, one of the US Navy SEALs who is now an admiral, talks about how you can’t steer a ship without it being underway.’
Accenture spokesman and fellow veteran Patrick Batch said it was fantastic to see Alex succeeding.
‘I think Alex really demonstrates the broadly employable skills that Defence gives their workforce,’ he says. ‘And he’s a great example of using those skills to their best effect.’
Patrick says the technology industry had a strong focus on outcomes and a user-centred approach, which tightly matches the abilities of Australian Defence Force members.
‘The skills to adapt to changing requirements and needs I think are in the DNA of veterans.’
Visit Alex’s business: Sync Technologies
Prince's Trust Australia is a national charity that helps young people prepare for the rapidly changing world of work, inspires veterans and their families into entrepreneurship and self-employment, and champions resilient sustainable communities.