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.
1build provides universal access to millions of construction costs via an easy-to-use integration. They connect to industry-leading supplier catalogs with ease, track labor and equipment costs across every corner of the US, and enrich your application with materials purchasing functionalities.
What led you to Construction Tech?
I was leading a data science team at a real estate technology company. We were building machine learning models to help us invest in real estate. The biggest blocker was the lack of accurate pricing data for construction. I really needed a construction data API for my ML models, but since I could not find one, I decided to build it myself.
What was the mission of 1Build when you created it? And what is unique about your business VS competitors?
The typical way construction companies research prices today is by using “cost books.” These are actual printed books with tables of prices for common construction materials and assemblies. They get published once a year.
1build, on the other hand, offers a modern API that integrates into any software application and tracks 6 million data points on construction materials, labor, and equipment. We have data for every corner of the US and partner with major construction suppliers to embed their catalogs in our API.
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?
Construction is behind virtually every industry in digitization. McKinsey did a study ranking industries by the degree of technology adoption, and construction was near the very bottom, only beating farming. It’s hard to say what causes this.
Most likely it’s the combination of the high degree of regulation in construction that makes it more risky to adopt new tech, combined with the fact that most founders lack the necessary industry background to build the right solutions for the industry.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pivot into ConTech? What should someone already in ConTech look for in their next steps?
Founders who want to break into the construction market need to work a lot harder to develop empathy for their customers. Contractors don’t have the same software buying behavior as big enterprises or tech startups. Sales cycles are longer, onboarding needs to be a lot more high-touch, and price sensitivity is a lot higher. It takes a different level of patience to succeed, but those who are able to figure this out have a chance to win an extraordinarily large market.
What will be the biggest trend in the ConTech space in 2023? What will be the biggest challenge?
I am excited to see how LLMs make their way into construction. Contractors I spoke with have either tried ChatGPT or at least heard about it. I think that contractors enjoy interacting with other people more than interacting with SaaS apps. While ChatGPT can’t quite replace human interaction, it might still be a major UX improvement that accelerates their software adoption.
Tell us about your approach to talent acquisition and culture? Has it changed over the past few years? If so, how?
As a company, we embrace radical candor. We hold each other to a high standard and provide transparent feedback. As a small team, we have the luxury of being able to involve the whole company in strategy discussions which are usually accompanied by written memos we call “testfits.” We are a remote team, but we meet regularly for in-person off-sites , which helps us accelerate our planning and build stronger relationships.
Who in particular within the ConTech/Construction space inspires you?
I think it’s incredible what Tooey at Procore achieved over the years. Procore is consistently ranked among the top Cloud 100 companies and one of the fastest-growing public companies. That’s especially impressive if you consider all the tech adoption challenges we have in construction.
What’s been your high and low points as an entrepreneur?
High: When we invented the universal catalog for construction. 1build can now connect any construction supplier with any construction software with just one line of code.
Low: we’ve made a big bet about a product release that didn’t work out. Thankfully we’ve recovered quickly and learned a lot from this process.
What is your guilty pleasure? And favorite song?
I love Argentinian food: I can never get enough of steak, provoleta, alfajores, and Malbec.
According to Spotify, all of my top songs from 2022 were by the rapper Logic.
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