Listening to the latest ConTechCrew podcast with co-founder and CEO of LINQ, Jake Olsen, a pattern seems to emerge which explains why some construction tech companies fail while others thrive and create a massive impact on our industry. It is still very early days in the world of #ConTech startups, but looking around at founding teams where success has already been achieved, one critical factor seems to be this…
Has anyone on the founding team actually worked in construction?
There it is…plain as day. When I look at the latest generation of construction tech companies which are creating the most significant impact on our industry, every founding team came from industry. These companies include Procore, PlanGrid, BuildingConnected, and Rhumbix, and a small handful of others who I hope can forgive me for not mentioning them by name here. The founders of these companies worked in the field, they wore the boots, they lived the 12 hour days, and they felt the pain themselves. For every one of the companies listed above, there are at least ten others which failed to make a significant impact.
So what is one consistent difference between these highly successful companies and the growing number of new construction technology teams we see today which appear poised to save construction with AI* * and * fix the productivity problem? …*Surprise, it’s construction experience (or lack thereof)!
Why do founding teams with direct construction experience seem to thrive where others with broad expertise in technology, but no actual construction experience, seem to fall flat?
Construction people can learn technology faster than technology people can learn construction.
The level of complexity in actually understanding why construction works the way it does exceed the level of sophistication of building a software application. It is worth noting however that a team with only construction DNA and no real technology chops will also likely fail. The construction knowledge needs to be complemented by a strong team on the technology side, but product decisions need to be driven by construction.
I spent the last four of my nine years at FARO helping builders pioneer and implement workflows for using 3D laser scan data during active construction. Not just scan-to-BIM for precon or TI work, but monitoring of slabs and steel during the build. That means concrete pours at the bum-crack of dawn and many late nights processing scans of an entire deck to produce cut/fill maps for grind and fill operations. Despite all that, I have had more of my ideas shot down by my cofounder Philip, and rightfully so, because there is so much, I still don’t know. The truth is, there is no substitute for the experience that comes with building something as a part of the project team.
These are my opinions and not presented here as facts, but instead, as one possible filter that contractors and owners can use to think about technology partnerships with promising early-stage ConTech companies. Will this trend we see with the last wave of construction tech companies continue into the next wave? Will the next wave of winners be topped by teams who came from construction? Only time will tell.
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