Josh Riedy of Thread On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Enhancing Decision-Making. The value of digitized utility assets becomes clear in energy outage scenarios, where every second counts. Accessing context-qualified, systematically quantifiable imagery of specific defect areas with high precision and accuracy empowers utility providers to swiftly make informed decisions and prevent possible outages, or higher caliber disasters.

Digital transformation has become a crucial component for businesses striving to stay competitive and relevant in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. As technology continues to shape industries and redefine business models, companies must adapt and leverage digital tools and strategies to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. In this interview series, we aim to explore various aspects of digital transformation, including best practices, challenges, success stories, and expert insights. We are talking to thought leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, technology innovators, and executives who have firsthand experience in driving digital transformation initiatives within their organizations. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Riedy.

Dr. Joshua Riedy is the Co-Founder and CEO of Thread, a technology company that provides data solutions for critical infrastructure management. Prior to founding Thread, Josh was Chief Operating Officer at EdgeData in 2016. Before that, Josh was the Vice Provost and Chief Strategy Officer, and Chief Information Officer at the University of North Dakota. Josh holds a doctoral degree from the University of South Dakota, and both a MA and BA South Dakota State University.

Josh has more than 15 years of expertise managing complex, multi-party technology projects, coordinating government agencies, higher education systems, and private parties. As a former CIO with a software development background, Josh is proficient in the areas of research computing, IT architecture, and development. He also has substantial drone knowledge having received grant funding from notable organizations including the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I was born and raised on a remote ranch near Thunder Hawk, South Dakota and am a self-taught technical founder with a passion for utilities. In particular, rural cooperatives– of which my paternal grandfather founded one (Grand Electric) following a tragic accident.

I founded Thread with co-founders Dr. Jim Higgins (Aviator) and Dr. Travis Desell (Computer Scientist). We met at the University of North Dakota while creating software for FedEx. Building on that experience, we focused our efforts on digitizing energy assets such as wind turbines and worked directly with Xcel Energy, a prominent regional investor-owned utility. A combination of initial funding from Microsoft’s TechSpark program and personal encouragement from their President, Brad Smith, resulted in the founding of Thread (formerly known as Airtonomy and Evolve Analytics), which is now only the second North Dakota company to reach Series A.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

  • The funniest part is really the misconceptions about founding a company. Starting a venture backed technology startup in the Dakotas is largely without precedent. At the beginning, I received lots of well-intentioned, bad advice. I think that was largely due to my inability to articulate the problems I was hoping to solve with Thread. But all of those interactions forced me to grow, forced me to be a better leader, and made me realize that the journey of learning from one’s mistakes is never really complete.
  • Everyday, I’m reminded that Thread has become an industry leader not just because of me, but because I’m supported by all the wonderful people at Thread. As an example, when we took possession of our office space, significant renovations were required in the building. In my experience, nothing brings a team together like sharing a portable toilet for a majority of the summer.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Our relationship with Xcel Energy has been critical to our success. They’ve helped to provide key industry insight, guide fit-for-purpose product development, and foster technology growth within the industry. Our partnership is a first of its kind, built on a foundation of co-development.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“The Revenant” is based on a true story set in the place I was raised. The main actor’s sheer will to survive is akin to the drive necessary to succeed as a startup founder. So too are the litany of challenges that startups face to survive, let alone thrive.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Following a successful Series A funding, Thread has embarked on a journey to bring stepwise change to the electric utility industry. With support from notable industry customers looking to digitize their utility assets inspection routines, Thread is transforming the asset performance management software arena with UNITI Workspace. Previously, we were focused on wind power generation; we’re bringing that success to new verticals.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. Digital transformation can mean many things to many people, from your perspective, how do you define digital transformation in your industry?

In the context of energy utility management and inspection, digital transformation refers to the comprehensive adoption of technology-driven solutions to enhance asset management. Currently, most of the industry still relies on manual data handling including individual file management, organization, and review. Thread is giving utilities a digital space to conduct their inspection and decision processes so that everything is contained in one place. Representing a fundamental shift in how utility companies operate, especially in scenarios where the margin between success and failure is narrow.

This transformation involves leveraging digital tools to aggregate data, streamline workflows, and establish standardized safety protocols across the energy sector. By integrating legacy knowledge with modern technologies, such as condition-based monitoring, utility companies can proactively monitor and maintain their infrastructure, preempting potential failures and optimizing repair schedules.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

  • By prioritizing data-driven insights, utility companies can gain a holistic understanding of their infrastructure’s health, enabling them to minimize downtime, reduce maintenance costs, and ensure a safer and more efficient operational environment. Given that many utility operators still rely on outdated manual processes, digital transformation becomes imperative for maintaining network resilience and efficiency.
  • This shift towards digitalization enables utility companies to transition from reactive maintenance practices to proactive strategies, improving the reliability and longevity of their assets. By embracing digital transformation, energy utility management can evolve into a more agile, data-driven, and resilient sector capable of meeting the challenges of the modern energy landscape.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Digital transformation is really a change management problem. The majority of potential customers we talk to see the benefit of having data management and workflow automation technology integrated into their operations. However, the industry is rooted in decade-old processes, partly because it’s dependent on legacy knowledge to maintain historic infrastructure, and partly because utilities are big enterprises that don’t have the luxury of flexibility. While our platform, UNITI Workspace offers a solution to the first problem, Thread, as an organization, is the solution to the second.

Let me clarify; utilities are complex ecosystems of contractors and sub-companies that work in harmony. Paradigm shifts aren’t done overnight. Thread works with customers to implement proof-of-concepts, small implementations, and business plans that help organizations launch slowly, at their pace, within their available appetite for change. It’s Threads support team, account executives, and commitment to customer success, that make it possible.

Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”?

1 . Actionable Data

  • At the core of this digital revolution is the need for data that is not just abundant but also reliable and actionable. Traditional asset inspection programs often face significant deficiencies, from inefficiency as an outcome of robotic operations’ complex skill requirements, to the generation of data that lacks the precision necessary for accurate analysis.

2 . Enhancing Decision-Making

  • The value of digitized utility assets becomes clear in energy outage scenarios, where every second counts. Accessing context-qualified, systematically quantifiable imagery of specific defect areas with high precision and accuracy empowers utility providers to swiftly make informed decisions and prevent possible outages, or higher caliber disasters.

3 . Transforming Inspection and Management

  • The digitization process revolutionizes asset inspection and management, allowing for rigorous and repeatable data acquisition with minimal operator experience. This approach not only democratizes the inspection process but also ensures that the data generated is immediately usable, marking a significant departure from traditional methods. As an example, with the support of Thread our partner Otter Tail Power achieved a 2X to 3X increase in the number of blade operation inspections for their wind assets performed within the same timeframe as competitors.

4 . Empowering Utility Providers

  • The most transformative aspect of digitizing utility assets is the unprecedented control it offers utility providers over their inspection and maintenance schedules. By enabling in-house and on-demand inspection-based data workflows utility providers can dictate the terms of asset inspection. Again, an example is Otter Tail Power, who committed to a cleaner and sustainable future and embarked on a journey to transition to new technologies and energy sources. By turning to Thread as a partner, our platform provided timely and accurate asset data, eliminating the need for external service providers, scheduling complexities, and additional costs.

5 . Proactive Maintenance

  • Currently, utility inspections are reviewed asset-by-asset with the focus being individual components, poles, towers, or stations. Broad scale decisions are difficult to make when inspection data is so specific. As well, utilities regularly use contractors for both inspection and repair who have their own inspection protocols, leading to further disconnect between data, decision, and action. This often leads to reactive maintenance of assets when there is a defect. However, with the integration of automated dataflow and the digitization of these assets, maintenance becomes proactive which mitigates the risk of these issues.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

While doing field demos, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with everyone from lineworkers to upper leadership and C-levels. I’ve discovered that there is already an appetite for change. Everyone recognizes that the current methods of asset management aren’t sufficient. The way forward then, is providing employees with the autonomy and resources they need to explore new ideas and experiment with innovation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is, “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life”. It’s relevant to me personally, but in my professional life, I find myself reflecting on this phrase frequently. Especially given the current economic climate for technology startups. Over the last few years, Thread has gone through a number of large scale changes. Many decisions along the way have not been easy, but in the long term, I know Thread has advanced in the right direction because of them.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Feel free to follow Thread on Linkedin for continuous company updates here or visit us at .

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.