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The DEI Digest with Meirav Oren, Versatile


Welcome to ‘The DEI Digest’ with Romey Oulton, a Q&A focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Built Environment.

This Q&A series is an opportunity for our North American Consultant Romey Oulton to discuss Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Built Environment with lead changemakers in the space who are championing DEI.  Each week we will ask burning questions, providing a platform to share career advice, discuss innovative strategies to overcome challenges, and how to lead by example. 

This week we have been in touch with Meirav Oren, CEO and Co-Founder at Versatile.

Headquartered in Los Altos, CA, Versatile creates technology that gives construction professionals unmatched visibility into their production rates.​ By delivering the right data to the right people at the right time while naturally fitting existing processes, a fragmented industry becomes a controllable manufacturing process. The result? Increased productivity, predictability, and safety with the insights needed to manage and bid future projects more competitively.

What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you and why are they important? 

To me, DEI means embracing diversity of opinions. When that is actually in place, this leads to getting the best decision in a room.  You shouldn’t have to work hard to get this environment – perhaps I say that because my company is female led, so I just feel that way. For me, I have the best people and in the right seats and they happen to be diverse, as that’s naturally where success comes from. If you’re not looking for diversity of opinions in the first place, you won’t ever reach a diverse workforce, so focusing on that at the very beginning is the most important starting block.


What strategies has Versatile implemented to ensure there’s a sense of belonging, equity, and inclusion? What tangible results have you seen come from these efforts?  

I don’t think we’ve done anything specific. I think there’s a time and a place where we will need to do things specifically where it’s not just my DNA that will drive this but more of an intentional strategy across the board. The culture we have is driven by the people and they happen to be diverse – if you are open and inclusive in the way you hire, then you’re more likely to hire diverse candidates.


Just 10% of the construction sector in the US was represented by women and most of that was in office operation positions rather than on the field — is this a challenge when it comes to hiring for your business? If so, how do you navigate such an issue?

The only real challenge we have is the R&D team in Israel – it’s not as diverse as I’d want it to be. If your candidate pool isn’t diverse in the first place, you need to work harder. Anyway, it’s about a basic sense of belonging and for different kinds of minority groups to have someone to look up to and say “”I can do this, because I see him/her/them in that seat.” We need to start trailblazing it for other people.


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?

Thank you for this question – I appreciate it.  Our industry is not antiquated or laggard, or simply slow to adapt. It just needs the tech providers to provide technology that is easy to adopt, that is seamless, and naturally fits the workflows. I don’t even think it’s that different from other industries, right? Like that’s what users want. They want ease of use, they want the technology to actually work – I call upon the tech providers to actually do a really good job at understanding the users and understanding the industry that they’re trying to deliver value into, to honestly love your users, love your industry, and believe in what you do. Then miracles are likely to happen, right? But the key is absolutely to be a natural fit, not a commodity that forces itself with heavy change management that it’s just not going to happen – no one has time for this. I say this especially if you’re addressing field construction. You just want to get things moving, you need to get out ahead of your schedule, instead of behind on schedule, so anything that gets in your way, it’s just not going to happen. Technology should be there to make things easier, quicker, more cost effective, and safer. 

Take Versatile as an example, the intent is actually making it easy for our users, collecting the data seamlessly, and then the way we communicate it back continues to be that easy with automation. Seamless, with a natural fit into workflows. This is it.


What will be the biggest trend in the ConTech space in 2023? What will be the biggest challenge?

I think the biggest trend remains data, but specifically, actionable data. 

People are looking to drive the ability to control progress. You look at it and think “am I on track? If not, what can I do about it?”. This translates into quite a few different solutions & this is what the GCs need in the current environment. 

I also think it’s going to be big if you can automate data capture, make it seamless, then feed it back in a way that truly helps you understand whether you’re making good progress on the field. You want the Superintendent to say ‘if this is going to carry on like this, we won’t finish the project on time.’

Some sites are too big to keep track of & this is when data is really needed.

Anyway, overall for this year, I think it’s going to be challenging for everyone, regardless of what you’re doing – although, I think it’s going to be better than we anticipate. I think we will see consolidation, the smaller solutions rolling into the larger ones, the bigger ones making better offerings to GCs as a result. It’ll be interesting times, possibly for the ones that are at the beginning of the road. For instance, if they need to Beta test, if the solutions don’t have that natural fit, then they will struggle just a little bit in an environment that needs to be moving fast and getting things done. Plus tightening budgets. Don’t forget that because we’ll see that too. There will be an interesting year.


Are you seeing any specific trends ConTech start-ups you think are rocketships?

Oh, I can’t say as I wouldn’t want to offend anyone! But look, it’s exciting to see so many new startups emerging and catalyze new solutions. I hope that for those younger entrepreneurs, their journey is slightly easier as a result of us breaking down the barriers of ‘there’s no such thing as construction tech.’ I think we’re seeing a lot of companies in the medium to large stage but I’d like to see more early stage ones crop up, as well as those which are closer to IPO. 


Growth plans, 1 year 3 years 5 years.

Ah, wow. Continue to do what we do best, which is extract data out of job sites, interpret it, and put this power in the hands of builders! Continue to be that one thing makes their days easier, and safer in more ways than one (so not just using the crane to do that… hint, there’s more to come!). We will also obviously continue to grow exponentially to where we are that operating system that allows control over what I call the world’s most fragmented and non-structured process. We will also be growing beyond North America… I’ve said no to other geographies for a long time, but I might have finally stopped saying no… so long story short, we will have busy times ahead! 


Do you need to have VC funding to be a successful start-up?

Hmm, that’s an interesting one. I think it depends on your business, honestly. There’s a very clear pattern to what a good VC backed startup does and looks like – it’s about the rate of growth and the magnitude. Right? So if you want to grow like this year on year, then that’s hard to do without significant capital. If you want to grow slower, and have a stable, beautiful, great business, then maybe you don’t need venture backing. I really think entrepreneurs need to look at the business that they’re building and ask themselves if they need VC money in order to be successful – and also, what does ‘success’ actually mean to them. A VC very early on asked me that question, and probably, in a way put me on the right path when he said “what is it that you’re building? Are you building a $10 billion IPO business [which I am, by the way] or are you building something that you want to grow slowly in one market one step at a time? 

So to wrap up, not all businesses need venture backing. So the ones that want to grow very fast and make a huge difference in a huge industry probably do.


What’s been your high and low as an entrepreneur? 

High would be watching the response of early adopters of Versatile and presenting to them what we’ve built today. It was such a basic product when we first went to market, but now we’ve seen them turn from skeptics to “I never want to do a job without this” – it’s a great feeling & what I aspire for 100% of the time. 

I think the low is about understanding and reflecting on your own leadership style – what really works for you. When things don’t work out the way you had envisioned, it can be hard. I always look at myself first, assess the “what” and the “why”, and take stock of key learnings. I always see changes as an opportunity to become a better leader & I appreciate learning even when it’s tough. 

“I don’t lose – I either win or I learn” Nelson Mandella – it’s my motto to lead by, I’ve tweaked it for us to use internally – “the only failure is a failure to learn.”


What is your guilty pleasure? Favorite song? 

Guilty pleasure: I appreciate just getting away for a day or two after big industry events. Climbing a mountain, disappearing in a forest somewhere. 

Favourite song: You’ve got a secret smile, Semisonic – although, maybe that’s more my husband’s choice… I would say, Super Girl, Ramone. 

LMRE are specialist PropTech recruiters, if you need help growing your business or making any key hires please get in touch via the form below!

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