Welcome to ‘Crazy for ConTech’ with Romey Oulton, a Q&A focused on the Construction Technology Industry.
This Q&A series is an opportunity for our North American Consultant Romey Oulton to discuss all things construction technology with key players who are championing innovation and digitalisation in the construction space.
Construction design firms create millions of details a year. Architects and engineers spend countless hours redesigning details that have already been constructed. Pirros enables a company to easily find their details and accompanying data, reducing the time spent on design and drafting.
What led you to Construction Tech?
I grew up in an engineering family where my dad ran a small business doing structural engineering. I wanted to follow in his footsteps so I studied Civil engineering at University of Michigan. There, I also gained a passion for programming so after college, I started in a role where I could combine both. I ran an in house software development at a large structural engineering company before deciding to leave to start Pirros.
Can you describe the inspiration behind starting Pirros? What problem did you aim to solve, and what motivated you to tackle it?
While we were working as structural engineers, people would constantly be asking each other for reference details. We even had a Teams channel dedicated to asking the office if a specific construction condition had been detailed before. Most of the time, the same conditions would have dozens of different details across the office because everyone would create their own and we thought that was very inefficient and error prone. We built Pirros to give every engineer and architect quick and reliable access to all of their offices’ details so that they can actually learn from past experiences rather than always starting from scratch.
Why is it that the construction industry is deemed ‘slow’ or ‘resistant’ to adopting technology? Is this justified? If so, what are some of the barriers you’re seeing?
The construction industry is highly experience driven. Every construction project is different and so it takes years of experience for engineers and architects to truly become experts. By the time they have gained all of that project experience, they have also built habits on how they complete those projects. Those habits are harder to break with new workflows and technology.
Technological adoption is the biggest barrier but we are seeing more and more firms with people dedicated to new technology. These people are very effective at integrating new products into their current workflows and ensuring firmwide adoption.
What will be the biggest trend in the ConTech space in 2023? What will be the biggest challenge?
The biggest trend we are seeing in ConTech is in line with the trends in the rest of Tech; AI. We have seen some really cool uses so far like UpCodes Copilot and I’m sure we will be seeing plenty more as the year goes on.
I expect the biggest challenge in our industry will still be adoption for the time being. We are starting to see this get easier as software tools become more integrated into architectural workflows. However, that does also mean that software budgets are getting depleted quickly as there are so many valuable tools to adopt.
What is your vision for the future of Pirros (1, 3, 5 year plan) and its role in the construction industry? How do you see your technology evolving, and what new opportunities or challenges do you anticipate?
Detail management has been around in one form or another since the days of hand drafting but we are now digitizing the process. Today, we allow any architect/engineer to find dozens of samples from their past projects to aid in their design process and we continue to push out new functionality to track data on all the details produced by an organization so that leaders can continue to improve the quality of their construction documents.
Over time, our vision is to enable designers to spend most of their time designing buildings rather than documenting their designs in drawings. Buildings are built from standard materials and so it seems strange that we continue to re-design the ways in which those standard materials are connected. In a perfect world, an architect would design a building, and then pull all the details and drawings from their Pirros catalog so that documentation can be done in days rather than months.
I also have to mention AI given how much attention it has gotten lately. We are actively using AI in parts of our product to improve search and data analysis. There is certainly the potential to use AI to tweak and generate new details after being trained to a company’s detailing standards.
What advice would you give someone looking to join the Pirros team? What qualities/ characteristics/ experience/ skillet/ mindset really stands out to you?
We are actively hiring for multiple roles! We are still a small team so every new hire will help shape our culture and trajectory. The most important things for us are work ethic, ambition, and flexibility. The best advice I can give to anyone interested in joining a startup is to always be learning. At an early stage startup, everyone gets involved in every business function so there are always new things to learn and contribute to.
How did your experience in the YC W23 batch form a path for your current success as an entrepreneur?
Being in YC and the relationships we made have allowed us to scale as fast as we have. Being surrounded by hundreds of other founders forced us to grow much faster as well as the invaluable advice provided by our group partners. These relationships have endured after the end of YC as well and continue to pay dividends.
What is your guilty pleasure? And favourite song?
My guilty pleasure has to be Nashville hot chicken from Howlin Rays in LA. For a while, my friend and I would order it every Tuesday without fault.
I don’t have a favorite song. I have a habit of over-listening to any songs I like to the point where I get sick of them and move on to the next.
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