When you think about hot sectors for startups, the construction industry is not typically the first place you'd expect. So, we were surprised to learn about the backing that Los Angeles-based mobile app provider TRUCKAST (www.truckast.com) has from investor Gary Winnick (who founded Global Crossing). We caught up with CEO Todd Davis to learn why the company and its investors think mobile apps for construction are the next big thing.
What is Truckast?
Todd Davis: Truckast is a new mobile app for the construction industry. Think of us like Uber. We solve the contractor-to-supplier problem, so they know where their stuff is, and they're not paying expensive, skilled labor to stand around waiting for concrete, block, gravel, or other bulk building materials to show up. On the other side of that is manufacturers and suppliers, where we help them figure out what happening with their trucks, so that they are not tying up their trucks and drivers and killing their margins. We solve those issues by taking that enterprise construction data, moving it into the cloud, and delivering it via a mobile app. It's in super contextual format, stunningly displayed, to end users, contractors, as well as manufacturers and suppliers.
Construction information is not exactly a sexy area--how is it that Gary Winnick became interested in your app, and how did that investment happen?
Todd Davis: Today, communications between manufacturing, suppliers, contractors, and end users is disjointed, lacks context, and requires lots of telephone calls, messages, and emails. That creates huge inefficiency and mistakes. We replace nearly all of that communications technology with a single mobile app. It gives you full trust and transparency on what is happening, and not only applies to construction, but to regulators, to developers, and owners. For example, for the Guiness World Record pour we did in Los Angeles for the Wilshire Grand Tower, TRUCKAST was used in the big media event, and by AC Martin, the developer and architect, the concrete companies to track what was going on, the generate construction firm, Turner, to monitor the complex pour, and even the Guiness adjudicator to monitor the 21,200 yards of concrete that was poured. That exemplifies the appeal this has to a large constituency, the 8 trillion dollar construction industry worldwide.
What's your background, and how did you get into this?
Todd Davis: I'm a veteran of Oracle, and had been CEO of an equipment finance company for the construction industry globally. I was recruited by Winnick and Company to launch this venture, and also brought along and extraordinary Chief Technical Officer, Chris Heiser. I think we have phenomenal product experience, specifically in the bulk material industry. Matt Brinker, our VP of products, comes from the construction industry, as does Rich Haus, our VP of Sales and Service. They and their teams have built this product and have been rolling out out rapidly.
Your customer base is in an age old industry, not known for rapid technology adoption - how have you found reception to your product?
Todd Davis: The reason this is news in 2014, is exactly as you state. The industry tends to be status quo oriented. However, when they see this carefully developed product, and look at it, within ten minutes they grasp the strategic impact of this new mobile app. That's leading to rapid conversion in our customer target base.
What's the range of markets your software can be used?
Todd Davis; That's a good question. We are starting with the concrete industry, and we're now working with a good portion of the top ten, largest concrete and bulk materials companies in the world, all the way to smaller regional players in the US. We have several implementations, because this is strategic to their business.
What's the biggest challenge you have had in getting this to market?
Todd Davis: We're really big fans of Eric Ries and the lean startup methodology. It's all about build, measure, and learn. We're building minimally viable product, and building out an architecture which allows you to iterate very quickly based on your hypothesis, and get validation across a large cohort of concrete manufacturers, as well as contractors. Because of that, we have very high interest in our product today.
What's the next big goal for you now?
Todd David: The next big goal is to move beyond concrete to other bulk materials--such as asphalt, mixtures, and cement--before w move into the entire array of construction materials.