startups

Brendan Dowdall, "loT in Construction"

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From studying Ancient Greek to building a business, founder Brendan Dowdall has traveled an interesting path. Construction is a staid industry but Brendan is revolutionizing it with data. Concrete Sensors’ innovative devices sit in concrete and transmit data. The payoff is already evident in time savings and improvements in quality experienced by the industry’s biggest players. As their data set grows, Concrete Sensors hopes to become the go-to source of information for contractors on concrete.

I was an early investor in this company and am excited about its future. It was a fun and instructive interview with a delightful founder.

Highlights include:

  • Sal celebrates the success of portfolio company SQZ Biotech which is working on training our immune systems to fight cancers and other diseases (Interview with Armon Sharei of SQZ Biotech)

  • Brendan Dowdall bio and introduction.

  • Brendan Dowdall explains what Concrete Sensors does and why it matters.

  • Hardware, software, lab & data.

  • Producing reliable results that speed up construction jobs and save money.

  • Co-founder Ryan Twomey and Brendan met while getting their Babson MBA in 2014.

  • Ryan is a software engineer but his mother is an architect and his father worked in a construction company so he was familiar with the space.

  • Ryan and Brendan hit it off and decided to start a business together; Concrete Sensors was the product of what they thought would be their most promising idea.

  • They have now signed up five of the top ten general contractors in the country.

  • Concrete Sensors’ clients finish weeks ahead of time.

  • Sal asks for audience to leave a review or a rating on iTunes. Brendan already left a rating.

  • Concrete Sensor’s big pivot was on how they went to market. Initially selling online but found it did not work; their clients don’t spend time on social media. Had to build a direct sales organization. It was expensive.

  • Execution is 99% of success.

  • How to be lean and still have the right sales operation?

  • Why device businesses are so hard.

  • 2016 McKinsey Report pointed to potential for development in construction. Autodesk has been buying companies in the construction tech space. Starting to become interesting.

  • Selling to a contractor is totally different from selling to other types of businesses.

  • Contractors don’t like to pay for subscriptions; prefer to buy outright.

  • Contractors are sensitive to being left behind technologically.

  • CS is the only player in the business that has a lab and takes a scientific approach to the data.

  • The holy grail for data on a construction site is to know what’s going on without having to enter data.

  • Introducing a hub that gathers data from sensors and transmits via the cellular network to allow remote monitoring.

  • Have 8,000 sensors in place.

  • Hard to find investors; angels don’t understand construction and construction people don’t do early-stage investing. 

  • Bolt was their first investor and a huge help.

  • Brendan invites people who are thinking of starting a company to just jump in. he’s found it hugely rewarding.