Software for the subcontractor

San Diego ­based construction software firm eSUB provides cloud-­based software for the subcontractor.

Author: Mark Armao
Article published at the San Diego Daily Transcript.

 

Nearly all software developed for the construction industry is geared toward general contractors despite the fact subcontractors perform most of the work on largescale projects. Local industry veteran Wendy Rogers is demolishing that mold. Her company, eSUB Construction Software, provides a cloud-based
project management platform that enables commercial subcontractors to document their work in the field using mobile devices, while staying connected to back office personnel and company executives.
 
The San Diego based firm recently raised $5 million in a Series A financing round led by Revolution Ventures. After starting the company in 2008, Rogers struggled to find a substantial customer base in the construction industry, which is notoriously slow to adopt technology. Knowing the time wasn’t right, Rogers bootstrapped the company for several years before seeking venture capital.
 
“We were still very early to market in 2008,” Rogers said. “One of the reasons why there is so much interest in the construction space by institutional investment right now is because it is a lagging industry, so it’s ripe for disruption.”
 
Last year, the company received seed financing from The Investor Group, led by San Diego based investor Sheldon Lewis. Rogers said eSUB will use the proceeds from the Series A financing to hire around 40 engineers, sales professionals and customer success managers, and to expand the company’s engineering efforts and mobile first initiatives. As opposed to existing software platforms for general contractors who often act more like brokers than builders, collaborating and coordinating changes with the architects, engineers, owners and subcontractors on a project eSUB was designed with subs in mind.
 
A former consultant for subcontractors, Rogers knows well the conflicts that can arise over the documentation of work. She recalls sifting through reams of handwritten notes, emails and drawings to create claims for unpaid work that, because of the disorganized nature of the records, were never paid in full.
 
“You don’t get paid for the work you do; you get paid for the work you document,” she said, adding that large subcontractors sometimes lose “millions of dollars of extra work that is never documented properly because they haven’t really had the mechanism in the field to document it.”
 
Often, a catch22 arises in which subs are too busy completing the extra work to properly report it, she said. Mobile devices, though, laid the groundwork for a project management tool that could keep track of change order work in real time. Using the software as a service platform, subcontractors from any trade can take photos, create daily reports using voice dictation and submit requests for information (RFIs) to the general contractor from the field. If a subcontractor is told to place a wall six feet from where it was originally slated to be installed, the sub can confirm the change without missing a beat.
 
“I can submit within seconds an RFI documenting the fact that I was told to move it over six feet,” Rogers said. “And, I can do that without holding up the progress on the job, because I can do all of this through my phone.”
 
Workers in the field can also access all the contracts, purchase orders and timecards associated with a project using the eSUB mobile app, Rogers said. In the back office, accountants can access real-time photos of change order work.
 
“All of a sudden, everybody can see work that [laborers] have done out in the field, and we can bill for it because accounting can see it through the backend app,” Rogers said.
 
Project managers and executives using eSUB can also keep track of timelines and monitor productivity levels, she added. To date, eSUB has been used by subcontractors on several major U.S. construction projects, including the headquarters for both Apple and Facebook, and the Freedom Tower in New York City. For other firms developing similar technology, Rogers emphasized the importance of software integration as the construction industry transitions from a paper driven field to a tech driven one.
 
ESUB was one of the original member firms of the Construction Open Standards Alliance, which pushes for construction technology providers to create software that facilitates the seamless transfer of cross application data. And, because much of the software being developed for the industry is tailored toward general contractors, Rogers sees a huge growth potential for technology aimed at subs, who she said perform 99 percent of the labor on largescale construction projects.
 
“Everybody served the needs of the general contractor for so long that that’s where the software went, but there are a lot more subs out there than there are general contractors,” she said. “And, they need to know how to properly manage their projects, manage their crews and make money.”
 

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