3 Days, 4 Interviews and the Best New Tech from Groundbreak 2019
One convention center. Three days. Four thousand construction geeks. A packed expo, an innovation lab and dozens of speakers, including our own James Benham. It’s a little slice of builder’s heaven called Groundbreak, and this year it’s bigger than ever.
This year’s Groundbreak 2019 conference is in the rearview mirror, but we’ve got your nerdy need-to-knows right here. We sat down with four featured #GBK19 speakers to catch up on the latest construction tech, thought leadership and advocacy from lead sponsor Procore and beyond.
Geek(s) of the Week
We Interviewed: Tooey Courtemanche
Day Job: CEO of Procore
”What I really want people to know is this is not really about Procore,” says Tooey Courtemanche, the founder and CEO of construction management platform Procore. “This is an industry event where we can get people together to connect and share best practices.”
One of the things the Crew loves about Tooey and the Procore team is their maniacal focus on their, ahem, core clients: construction companies themselves.
“Our focus for 18 years has been on the people that build our world. It’s kind of religious for us,” Tooey says. “We just don’t go outside those boundaries. Our industry has so many challenges to be overcome. And there’s just not a lot that’s been done for them yet.”
Given that the construction field makes up 7 percent of the global workforce and 13 percent of the American GDP, “there’s enough for us to keep focused on,” Tooey says.
Job number one: providing top-notch service to 100,000+ general contractors, owners and tradesmen across the U.S. and around the globe. “They’re the largest contractors all the way down to the folks that just remodeled my house,” says Tooey.
Procore extended its reach last summer when it acquired NYC-based Honest Buildings (our chat with founder Riggs Kubiak follows). That move surprised quite a few of us in the contech geekosphere: Tooey has always been a “build it, don’t buy it” kind of guy. But this was the exception because Procore had long-term plans to build what Honest had already done, “and they’d done it really well,” he adds.
And he’s passionate about elevating the business he loves so much. Tooey wants kids to want to get into construction –– to say, I want to be like that guy. Or woman, he points out.
“I heard a story yesterday … a superintendent on a job site was asked, ‘who’s the most important person here?’ And he said, her name is Helen. She operates the sky crane. She’s 70 years old. She comes to work everyday with a lunch pail and a coffee can, and she climbs the tower to work the crane. Helen gets materials to the site, in the right place.”
Now, Tooey is “on a mission” to find and meet Helen.
“That’s the type of person we have in our industry. And those stories are endless.”
We Interviewed: Riggs Kubiak
Day Job: SVP Owner Strategy at Procore
Honest Buildings founder Riggs Kubiak –– now SVP of Owner Strategy at Procore –– first harnessed the power of digital solutions in the shelter business when he was just a teenager.
Cool story: Riggs became a rental agent at 19 to help pay his way through Boston College. He scheduled his classes in the morning and worked in the afternoon. He posted all his listings on Craigslist, and back then, in the year 2000, “no one else was doing that,” he says. “They were just sort of sitting around waiting for people to call. Technology was really enabling my business.”
In 2011, he launched Honest, the first capital planning and project management software purpose-built for building owners. It was a response to a question Riggs had for years: when it comes to real estate, where is the technology?
“You use your phone for everything in life,” he says. “You can get 60 reviews for pizza around Rockefeller Center in six seconds, but if you want to spend $20 million on a construction project, there’s just binders and paper piled up on your desk as far as you can see.”After more than seven years of steady growth, you know what happens next: he sold the company to Procore in the summer of 2019. He and his team of 100 are now Procore for Owners.
We Interviewed: Mike Rowe
Day Job: Host of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs, ” CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” “The Way I Heard It” podcast and founder of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation
It’s been almost four years since the Crew spoke to TV host, podcaster and all-around good guy Mike Rowe, who champions the trades through his foundation, mikeroweworks. It’s been 11 years since he launched it on Labor Day 2008 –– and it’s picking up traction.
“The first five or six years were kinda tricky,” he says. “I was sort of out there without a net, just talking generally about the opportunities that existed and offering scholarships.”
More than 800 people have received “Work Ethic” scholarships and the foundation has given out $5.5 million dollars, Mike tells us.
Now, the foundation can show that they’re actually making a difference –– “it’s just not me out there saying, you can actually make a really great living in the trades,” Mike says. “I can say, don’t take it from me. This kid learned to weld seven years ago and now he’s making $90,000 in North Dakota. Here’s how he did it with no college debt.”
We Interviewed: Sasha Reed
Day Job: Director Industry Advancement for Procore.ORG at Procore
“I cut my teeth on industry,” says Sasha Reed, who joined Procore in June 2019 after 12 years at software innovator Bluebeam.
At Procore, Sasha leads the company’s education and outreach efforts via procore.org. “At this stage in my career, I thought this would be a nice way to create an impact outside of the traditional sales approach.”
The site includes education, networking and advocacy resources for nonprofits, schools and other audiences.
“Procore.org gets to be the higher calling,” says Sasha.
Construction Tech News
The news doesn’t stop while the Crew’s at a con. Here’s what’s on our radar this week.
Our friend Tannis Liviniuk shared this in-depth interview from Global Infrastructure Initiative. Two partners from Lendlease Group discuss how “digital twins”— digital replicas of physical objects — can be game-changers for the construction industry. These 3-D byte-size twins can save time and money by allowing for prefabrication or other efficient processes. Our take? If you figure it out before you get to the field, you reduce the number of hours you’re out there –– and you also increase the possibility of finding better ways to do things.
Is Gen Z the answer to the labor shortage in the construction industry? Raised by Millennials who know that college is a hideously expensive and even dubious investment, the newest generation in the workforce knows that things can be done differently. They want real world experience, which lends itself to the trades re-emerging as an option: with apprenticeship, you’re making money while you’re learning. Leaders like Mandy Rennehan, Jamie McMillan and Mike Rowe are leading the charge here. If they got together, it might rip a hole in the space-time continuum. Thankfully, it looks like we’ll have plenty of young welders to join it back together.
BIM+ is out with a story about a new drone-deployed marker system developed by Israeli startup Civdrone. The tech uses a GPS-guided drone, aided by a robotic arm, to set marker pegs at specific locations. The data can then be read by smartphones. We think it’s a great example of using drones for something other than slick marketing videos. That’s only a fraction of what they can do. Photogrammetry and reality capture take it to the next level.
We have a saying on the pod –– well, now we do: You’ve got to talk to your concrete. BIM+ has another scoop this week on tech that could prove to be huge. Skanska and VolkerWessels are among 30+ European contractors using a new concrete strength monitoring system powered by the IoT and cloud technology. It embeds a sensor network inside concrete and uses a proprietary wireless signal to provide real-time data on its curing process, temperature and other structural-integrity metrics –– for up to 10 years. Rock on.
Naturally, Procore was the star of the show at Groundbreak. Here’s a roundup of their big announcements and our takeaways.
- First, it’s clear that Procore is making a big push toward the owner market with the Honest Buildings acquisition. They’re providing tools for owners to manage their portfolios and projects, mitigate risk, to control their data sets.It’s just one response to a long-time request from Procore customers for better integration. There are entire companies that have spun up just to serve as a bridge between Procore and itself.
- We’re impressed so far with the speed at which Procore is integrating acquisitions like Honest Buildings, as well as Construction BI. The data analytics/insight app, launched by Jason Ramsey in 2017, is now the Power BI app. Construction BI was already integrated with Procore, but now it’s going to be supercharged. We’re seeing a huge interest in analytics for the construction space and everyone knows that reports suck. Data visualization is the way we roll in 2019.
- The last big push at groundbreak was about community –– including the launch of Procore Community, a social and support network for users featuring forums, personalized news feeds and IRL meetups.Hungry for more Procore integrations from Groundbreak? Head over to our Twitter and Instagram feeds for interviews with Buildr, Triax, VisualLive and more geeks like us.
… and One More Thing*
Quote of the week:
“Just because you love something doesn’t mean you can’t suck at it.” –– Mike Rowe