By Jack Stubbs
In the current era of commercial real estate tech, many companies are seeking to integrate technology into their products to streamline and enhance the communication process between industry professionals.
BuildingConnected, a platform founded in 2012 and headquartered in San Francisco, is one of many companies aiming to transform the commercial construction industry.
We recently spoke with Dustin DeVan, founder and CEO of BuildingConnected, about the company’s objectives, what it helps industry professionals in the construction industry to accomplish, and where the platform is headed.
What can you tell me about BuildingConnected (where, when and how the platform was founded, current goals, etc.)? In a nutshell, what does BuildingConnected allow pre-construction industry professionals to do?
BuildingConnected has transformed commercial construction by simplifying the bidding process and creating a network to streamline communication. It is the first company to combine a full suite of preconstruction tools with an extensive network of owners, general contractors, and subcontractors. This year alone, more than 200,000 businesses used the platform to bid on over $820 billion in new construction.
BuildingConnected’s vision is to connect every business in the $10 trillion construction industry and to strengthen the lives, jobs and relationships of millions of hardworking construction professionals worldwide.
Where does BuildingConnected operate, both geographically and demographically? How does the company’s geographical location influence its operations and mission?
Incredible software is created in Silicon Valley, which is why BuildingConnected set up its headquarters in San Francisco. The company is in the unique position to recruit top tech talent to solve some of the greatest challenges facing construction—inefficiency and lack of communication.
BuildingConnected’s customers come from all over the U.S. and Canada. From the new Warriors stadium to local schools and hospitals, the software has been used in over 110,000 building projects.
Can you elaborate on how, specifically, the platform allows its clients to more effectively communicate, collaborate and accomplish day-to-day tasks?
BuildingConnected is bringing the entire construction industry together onto a single communication platform. It’s a one-stop shop for owners, general contractors, and subcontractors. General contractors can find and qualify vendors, send invites, level their bids, and share work with owners. Subcontractors can automatically manage all their bid invites in one place, assign opportunities to coworkers, sync their bid calendars, and get real-time analytics.
Who are some of BuildingConnected’s primary investors? Can you elaborate upon the partnership that BuildingConnected aims to foster with its investors and clients? How is this partnership unique to the pre-construction industry?
BuildingConnected was founded with the goal of creating a network effect, which is what initially attracted top VCs like Homebrew, Freestyle, Brick and Mortar Ventures and CrossLink. The company started by offering bid-management software to GCs to help them evaluate bids from subcontractors. This led to exponential growth in BuildingConnected’s network, as a typical subcontractor might work with five to 10 GCs, but a GC usually works with dozens, if not hundreds of subs.
What is the current state of the pre-construction industry in relation to the commercial real estate market?
BuildingConnected helps commercial real estate professionals understand what the market is going to cost. For example, the more projects bid out during the preconstruction phase, the busier the market gets, and the more costs rise.
Right now, there’s a lot going on in preconstruction and many people are paying a premium. Commercial real estate professionals don’t always realize this, and they often underestimate the market. BuildingConnected plans to anonymously aggregate this information to help commercial real estate professionals fully understand and benefit from market trends.
To what degree does BuildingConnected address a “broken workflow” in the pre-construction industry and address the needs of real estate professionals?
Real estate owners want a great solution for managing how they’re procuring their general contractors and directly sourcing their subcontractors. One of the greatest things BuildingConnected can provide owners with is cost indexes: What is construction running in different markets? Which markets are hot? Which ones are slowing down? BuildingConnected can offer these insights in real time across the country.
Commercial construction is the most collaborative industry in the world. Every project is actually a joint venture of hundreds of businesses and thousands of professionals working together. But before BuildingConnected, there wasn’t an easy way to select who was going to work on each project and exchange information.
There are many platforms that do the same thing as BuildingConnected — providing networking tools, tracking files, and synthesizing complex data and reports. What, specifically, makes BuildingConnected unique?
BuildingConnected is unique for a variety of reasons. There is no other tool platform on the market that combines bid management with a professional network. Contractors can easily search for new vendors and specify exactly what they want subs to include and exclude on a bid form, and this ensures they’re building out the right scope of work.
The foundation of BuildingConnected is the idea of simplification, synthesis, and streamlining of the project process, from inception to completion—how does the platform contribute to this end?
Preconstruction is the foundation for every successful construction project. By detailing the scope of the work, selecting the right vendors, and setting up the contracts correctly, the project will ultimately be successful. Many people in construction breeze through the preconstruction phrase, and then wonder why their projects are disorganized and chaotic. Putting in a little prep work upfront will pay off down the road.
In the current CRE (commercial real estate) tech era, successful products are those that are intuitive and easy to use. Is there a steep learning curve associated with the platform? Is the product scalable across different contexts and platforms?
BuildingConnected’s modern, easy software is used by over 400,000 professionals to manage more than $1.5 billion in construction projects every day. There’s zero setup and no coding required. The product is scalable across different contexts and has been used for every type of commercial construction project, including multi-family, high-end residential, heavy civil, oil, gas, and petroleum.
What are some of the challenges involved in ensuring that the platform is offering clients the most efficient and up-to-date technology? In the pre-construction industry in particular, can you elaborate on the increasingly prevalent influence of technology?
The construction industry is already recognizing the importance of bid management, collaboration, and analytical tools. Owners need to justify decisions more and more, and technology is providing greater transparency, documentation, and visibility.
BuildingConnected’s software is being rapidly adopted by construction companies big and small, and this momentum is only going to continue. Construction companies that are slow to adapt will find themselves less competitive in a market they once dominated.