May 18, 2023
In this episode of The Construction Revolution Podcast, we sit down with Adam Stark of Jet.Build. We discuss Adam and his co-founder Joseph’s fascinating path to developing the software and founding the company. From creating their initial software to solve challenges they were facing in their respective Real Estate Development roles, they have developed the software into a complete solution that addresses all of the operational needs on a jobsite.
We’ll also dive into the future of Jet.Build as well as other exciting advancements in construction technology. Additionally, we’ll discuss how Adam’s diverse experiences, from being in the special forces to becoming a yoga instructor, helped start and grow Jet.Build.
Marketing & Events Specialist, Giatec Scientific Inc.
Hello there and welcome to the Construction Revolution podcast. My name is Steven Rossi, and here on the show we explore the latest trends, technologies, people, and organizations that are revolutionizing or disrupting the construction industry and are changing what the industry will look like tomorrow. Today on the show, I’m speaking with Adam Stark, the co-founder of Jet Build. Adam started his career as an owner’s representative at a New York based developer where he went on to achieve the title of VP of Construction and Development. He has extensive experience in the industry working on construction job sites and completing dozens of complex multi-million dollar development projects. Jet Build is an innovative cloud-based command center that simplifies project management for real estate developers, general contractors and operators. Their platform offers over 30 industry specific modules covering accounting, collaboration, construction, and data reporting. I’m excited to pick his brain about the fascinating world of construction, his experience in the industry and how Jet Build’s platform is revolutionizing the way we manage construction projects. Thanks for coming on today. How are you doing?
Steven, thanks so much for having me. Great to be here. I’m doing well, doing well.
Nice. So I guess we’ll dive right in. So can you tell me a little bit about the origins of Jet Build and how you got the idea to start the company?
Absolutely. So I have a origin story that I love telling. We’ll start off with childhood, which is a funny place to start, where Joseph and I… My co-founder, used to be enemies because we played high school sports against one another. We both somehow then end up, a few years later in the same enlistment in Israeli military. So it was airborne paratroopers. Then somehow we both end up back in New York City working for real estate developers, different company, but very similar structures where our roles were to be on job sites every day and to ensure accountability for all project stakeholders. So your contracting teams, the developer teams, ourselves, the lenders, design teams, city logistics, deliveries, et cetera. And in that experience, being that kind of point person for all of those stakeholders, we were recognizing how difficult it was to remind people for responding to whether that was an RFI and submittal, or a generic tasks that they were responsible for across all of these teams via Excel chain… Sorry, via Excel files and email chains.
And that’s when we said, “You know what? We got to figure out a solution for this.” So we went to the market to understand what management softwares existed for our space, development and construction. We came across what we call the legacy type models that did exist at that time. This was back in 2017. We were not able to adopt those companies, those tools, those softwares for the companies we were working for really because of two general points of friction, one being pricing. So they had very, very expensive price points. And then the second reason was just difficulty in understanding the backend. And keep in mind we were working for different companies and this was feedback that we had which ended up being the same. And it’s kind of feedback that we hear today on a daily basis with potential clients and clients who have been exposed to those legacy products.
And that’s when we said, “You know what? Forget all of this, we’re going to just go ahead and create a solution for ourselves.” And that’s quite literally what we did. And that’s the origin of Jet Build. So we started off with a few functions, so submittal and RFI, management and workflows, drawing, and file management, and workflows. So we created some basic means of communication, file management and accountability. And what I mean by that is essentially automated email reminders for due dates that we’ve set. Started realizing after a few months, “Wow, this is really working for us on our projects and the external teams, the external stakeholders that were involved in those projects.” So we just continued to add features to what we were using for ourselves and for our own projects. Fast-forward a bunch, we were able to onboard some external companies as design clients, as we call it.
So we essentially went to our network of builders being in the industry and said, “Hey, we’ve started this product. If we’re open to testing it out and giving us feedback, that’d be amazing, and ideally it’ll help you in your role as well.” So very grateful for that opportunity that we had and those people are still building with us today. Two companies in particular that started in that design phase. And basically over about two year period, more or less, we ended up with this end-to-end solution covering really all of the needs that we faced while building high-rise properties in the Northeast, in the United States area. And that’s when we said, “Oh wait a second, here’s a solution that we’ve created as kind of a side hustle for ourselves, to just better our roles and our management skills that really works given our experience with the two companies between Joseph and I and the stakeholders that were involved there. And then the other design clients that we onboarded.”
And that’s when we said, “Hey, let’s try to flip this to some venture capital, see what happens and see if we could really focus on this full time.” And that’s exactly what happened. We were able to raise capital with Shadow Partners. It’s a real estate tech focused VC based in Atlanta. And here we are today, growing the business, growing the brand, growing the product, which is a never ending evolution. And today we got close to 3 billion in construction value actively operating on the product and are growing.
Yeah, that’s great. That’s a really interesting story of especially how you met your co-founder. That’s a good one. And it’s great that you were able to, it seems like a lot of these newer tech companies are sort of starting as you solve a need for yourself and then realize, “Oh, this is good, and maybe other people have this need to.” So it’s really cool. So you kind of touched on this a little bit of the industries you started and what Jet Build does when you first started. So where we are now with Jet Build, what does the platform do and what type of companies or industries do you see benefiting most from it?
Definitely. So yeah, we touched on really just kind of two, or actually I guess total four features in terms of how we started. What we did is we created four modules that we’ve built Jet around, so it’s accounting module, it is collaboration module, construction module, and then reporting module, which will take the data that’s input in those three modules I said prior, and then produce data insights, so reports. With that said, under accounting, we have things like budget creation, bidding management, payment applications, insurance tracking, change orders, APAR. In the collaboration module, like I touched on from the origin story, we have file management, drawing management, we have meeting minutes, we have generic tasks. And then in construction module back to that founder story, also the RFI and submittal management and workflow. We have [inaudible 00:07:59]. Scheduling, we have punch lists, daily reports, we have inspection management, scheduling with dependencies and critical paths, and… Sorry, and then in data reporting, it’ll basically collect a lot of that information and produce this macro oversight.
So whether that’s a RFI, so that’ll snapshot, it could be forecasting reports, which ties your budget to your schedule, could be budget report, a workforce report, and so on. So we’ve really kind of addressed all of the operational needs that are anyways occurring on any job site, wrap them up into a single product with intuitive kind of user interface and user experience in mind in order to provide this what we call smartphone like application, smartphone like product. And what I mean by that is for those that know how to use a smartphone, which is most likely everyone today, you’re already certified as a Jet user. So that’s kind of the product in terms of what we’re covering there, at least on a macro basis. And then in terms of the market that we’re addressing, I’ll break it into three general categories.
So you have your general contracting firms, you have your owner rep or construction management firms, and then you have your developer. So coming from the perspective of a developer, we typically target or focus on your SMB developer type of company. And the reason for that is a few angles there. One is we’re obviously a little bit skewed coming from that background and that perspective. But with that said, in coming from that perspective on job sites, we recognize that when parties like your general contractor or your design team comes onto a project with a product, with a management software, it’s more difficult to get collective buy-in to that product because they’re the ones being hired, they’re a piece of the puzzle rather than it being the developer, meaning a top-down approach of saying, “Hey, this is the product that we’re using, everybody needs to get on board.” From that perspective, you’re also hiring all these teams. So that’s one element.
The second element is being the developer. And these are all kind of connected. And the reason why we take this approach is being the developer. I mean, you should very much want to own that information, own that data for a multitude of reasons. One is, again, you’re paying for everyone to be building your project, which is your property. So in owning that data and having that kind of oversight, that transparency across your project, you get to understand what’s happening with your project, understand what’s happening with your money better. Second is if you go ahead and then own that property and manage it as an asset, you always need to reference that information. And some stories that come up in my experience, and it’s really typical to anyone in the industry, is that, let’s say later on you got some issue in a room where you have a line of AC units that are breaking because an electrical riser is not working. Just making up an example there.
Well, what are you referencing to go and fix that? I mean, you’re really digging through email chains or digging through Excel files, trying to see where it’s stored on some Google Drive, et cetera. Well, with Jet Build, what we’ve done is everything is organized to the function that it belongs in. So you would have, for example, drawings that will be listed for electrical risers. You’d have specification on those a AC units. So you’d be able to reference these things via our internal search. It’s like a Google search essentially, or via tags, or via literally just finding that specification in a matter of a few clicks and then address that problem, understand who was working on that unit, who was working on that electrical riser.
So really, really simple needs for a developer. Whoever on that team is responsible for managing that asset or managing the active project to reference that information and fix whatever’s needs to be fixed. Now with that said, we have tons of clients that are general contractors, tons of clients that are owners reps and construction management firms, reason being, because there’s certainly a use case for all these different demographics of market, right? General contractors need to manage their teams, they need to manage their budget, they need to report to their client as is the same case for the CM or owner’s rep as well.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s great that you’re able to address so many, obviously there’s so many people working on different projects and it’s great that you’re able to help multiple stakeholders as opposed to just the developer. So I know you’ve sort of mentioned that the old school approaches sort of Excel, and email, and storing things here, there and everywhere. Obviously the construction industry I think we all know is slow to adopt, although it is getting better. Do you find a lot of hesitation when you pitch your product to whether it’s developers or contractors or anyone, and how do you overcome that?
Sure. So before I dive into agreeing with the fact that real estate as a whole is a laggard industry as it relates to tech. With that said, especially for development construction, just to give ourselves some slack there, it is a wildly complex industry to be in with multitudes of stakeholders I keep mentioning that we’re talking about now that are from different companies. So it’s definitely not an easy solution or an easy thing generally speaking to solve. So I’ll just leave that. I’ll let that sit there. With that said, there’s always different conversations when, for example, the person I’m talking to or the company I’m talking to has technology implemented. So then it will be a matter of saying, “Hey, the technology you implemented was from the late ’90s or early 2000s, you’re not using the same iPhone, you’re not using the same computer as you are today.”
So it’s the same kind of a dynamic where here’s new technology built on what we call this new tech stack, which is simpler in terms of UI, UX, which is simpler in terms of rolling out organization wide, simpler in terms of your budget for tech, simpler for integrations, simpler for your retention of data and ability to understand how you leverage that data, so on and so forth. So that’s kind of one angle of conversation. So in many ways that’s an easier discussion. I’ll put that aside as well. And now more so addressing your question for those that are still on the email chain and Excel file, I’ll break that conversation that category into two. One is people in our general age demographic are more and more becoming decision makers and that’s allowing for this process and this conversation to be more, I’ll call it relevant and easier to have because they understand or we understand that this is going to be our problem for the long term.
So it’s either, “All right, we’re going to rip the bandaid, change how we’re doing things internally now to better ourselves…” I mean, quite literally tomorrow, I mean our onboarding time, and again, this is kind of a differentiator between us and legacy products. Our onboarding time is 45 minutes and you’re up and running and going, back to that concept of, “You know to use a smartphone, you’re good with Jet.” Right? So with these people, meaning if I’m having a conversation with someone in our age demographic that understands the necessity of tech, that understands that they’re here for the long haul, then it’s a simple conversation. It’s a matter of, okay, understanding what project we’re going to start as a POC, proof of concept, what does pricing look like? What does scaling look like? Now for those that are on an older generation that are not necessarily so concerned about implementing technology, not necessarily I guess aware of or wanting to be aware I should say of its benefits, it’s definitely not an easy conversation.
I try to angle it less so on a kind of day-to-day nitty-gritty of what happens and focus on what I was alluding to before in the sense of, “All right, when a problem happens, how are you going to address that? Where are you going to go to fix that?” So granted for those people, if they’re not using on a day-to-day, they might not feel the impact on a day-to-day. A lot of this kind of risk management perspective. And in addition to an issue occurring, which is just inevitable in our industry over time, I also touch on things like employment risk management or change management, I’ll call that. And what I mean by that is recognizing both internal and then went on an active project. We keep mentioning this multi-company stakeholder scenario, highly likely if not, I mean I would suggest it’s almost a hundred percent likelihood that somebody in one of these parties is going to have an employee leave for either going to a new job, going for a vacation, maternal leave, sick, whatever it may be.
So when that happens across all these stakeholders, how is slack picked up? How do you pick up slack, understand where their information is and not lose time and not lose a budget. So schedule and budget, how to not get hit in that capacity. And Jet allows for, first of all, central centralized data, centralized operation, centralized accountability. So in terms of understanding who is accountable for what and when, I mean that’s a matter of one click, you could understand that. So to pick up… I don’t think slack’s the right word, but to pick up when somebody is out, if somebody leaves, if there’s a gap, it’s way simpler than continuing in this siloed environment, which is in this context, Excel files and email chains.
That’s good. I think it’s a good point that as our generation becomes decision makers, things like this are going to become more available in the market and more frequent, which is great for everyone. But it’s interesting how you pitched the older generation as well because obviously a lot of them are still around right now too. So for Jet Build, is there a company or a project that really stands out to you as a major success story that you could share with us?
Yeah, definitely. So without naming names, because I just don’t like to do that, I want to go back to that origin story and one of our, I’ll call design clients who still builds with us today, I always like to use then as our kind of case study story, reason being because I have so much appreciation for their willingness to jump on before we really had a fully ready product. So with that said, this is a company a developer at S&B general business who builds high-rise in the northeast. They came on board from that concept of before Jet from that concept of email chain and Excel files, trying to manage projects, having minimal internal team to do a lot of building, a lot of management as it relates to construction value and external teams. So that’s coming from the place of having a few people internally to this developer consolidate all of these files and all of this information coming in from all of the contracting trades, all of the design trades, the lenders doing manual entry, which inevitably will be a case for potential error.
I remember ramping up in terms of our product offering and onboarding their kind of use case in terms of consolidating budget means, allowing for these external parties to enter their numbers in their dedicated portal, meaning they weren’t seeing the full budget, meaning they being the contracting teams or the design teams rather than they were seeing their own budget. And then for this developer, our client, to receive all of this information in one place to reduce the amount of manual consolidation that they were doing, which in turn created tons of extra time for them to focus on what I call proactive decision making. So looking forward rather than being stuck in what has happened or what is currently in the second happening. So in this kind of scenario that I’m describing here is really, really nice memory… Sorry, really nice memory to remember how we shifted this company, one of our earlier adopters from this madness of manual entry consolidation of Excel files onto Jet in a consolidated platform for them to log in and view a project budget in one live page versus the multitude of Excel files.
Yeah, that’s awesome that you’re sort of able to keep those early adopters and grow them with you guys. I know there’s always early adopters are a crucial part of building a business.
But it’s great that you’re able to keep them and grow with them as well. So I know there are like Jet Build is obviously a slightly different project management software, but there are numerous, both big and small tech companies with doing a project management softwares. Can you tell us how Jet Build sort of differentiates from some of those?
Totally. And so we touched on a few of these points as we were talking. So the easy differentiator as I’ll call it from the legacy products, first and foremost, legacy products typically will have a really crazy price point. When I say crazy, I mean we hear this feedback, that was my experience when I was working for developers, Joseph, my co-founder, is his experience, and then something we hear on a daily basis. So we really remove that friction of pricing and price to scale at a point that’s very cost-effective for everyone. So that’s one.
Second is, as it relates to the product being that we built a product as the end user, as the operator, we were able to create something that is very intuitive, the tools that are literally needed on job sites coming from that angle, that perspective and understanding and consolidating needs from stakeholders that are involved. So a lot of legacy tools focused specifically on enterprise GCs, whereas what we’re doing is focusing general, generally speaking on the S&B market, main reason that sales cycle and ability to make a decision is quicker, which is very important for an earlier stage company.
However, what we’re doing is we’re bridging this collaboration gap and saying, “Hey, GCs get on board, design team gets on board and developer owns this license and gets on board and enable everybody to work collaboratively as is needed on a construction or development project, remove this finger pointing.” And then also as we mentioned before, allow for the developer to absorb this data and then leverage that as reporting. So what I’m saying is we’re creating this wedge here where we’re saying the developer should own the license, but then also everybody needs to be involved and it start from ground up essentially.
So that’s kind of the differentiator in terms of angle that we’re approaching versus it being one set of stakeholder or one division, one bucket, however you want to call it, whether that be the contracting team, design team, developer team, we’re saying, developer own it, mandate it, top down, everybody get on board, most intuitive product that you’ll find on the market. And that’s feedback that we hear, again daily at a cost-effective price point that’ll scale to your organization size. So similar to a lot of other SaaS companies, you could be a small company building one home, you could be a enterprise company building across the US and Canada and it’ll work for you.
Yeah, that’s great. I think the value proposition obviously differentiator there, having it for the entire project, not just per client is a great approach. So can you tell us a little bit about what Jet Build is working on right now and some things if there’s any new features or milestones that you’re working towards?
Yeah, definitely. So first and foremost, our product roadmap is always populated with client feedback. So we’re very serious about, first of all hearing them out in case that they have any feedback on how we can improve our product based on their best practices in terms of how they operate. And we also reach out to ask if there is any questions or any feedback in that regard. What we also do is look at our backend as it relates to data in terms of how our clients and how our users are using Jet Build as a product. And then we could also take that to understand how we can better what we’re doing. So that’s first and foremost. Beyond that, what we’re building for and what we’ve structured our backend to enable us to do is this mass collection of data to create a handful of things.
One is the near future. We’re going to be able to have essentially market rates, market commodity rates I’ll call it. So you’ll be able to go in and say, as you’re starting a project, you could understand what by cubic yard, what your concrete should cost because you’re building in X area for X asset class. And then once we have sufficient data, we’ll be able to scale that model in terms of what I just said, take it beyond just a specific material or a specific function and say, “Hey, your entire project should be at X amount of days at X amount of price.” Generally speaking because we understand how everybody else is building in terms of asset class and size and area, et cetera.
So we’re going to really leverage this pool of data to enable our clients to understand in a… I don’t want say predictive because there’s so many nuances here, but at least on a general scale to say, “Oh yeah, this project makes sense for me to build based on information which otherwise is very hard to grab in our industry or is incredibly costly.” So that’s one angle. Another angle is, oh I guess I mentioned too there, that was the difference between our product roadmap, which gets basically implemented on average biweekly, and then the second angle was that data recognition or that future data play that we’re going to move toward.
That’s awesome. That’s great. I mean obviously as a technology software company you’re able to adapt quickly and release updates as to biweekly and based off customer feedback. That’s awesome. As well as other bigger projects you’re working on. So you mentioned obviously with all the data you’re collecting, starting to use that and to help companies. Can you sort of touch on artificial intelligence and machine learning? Are there any other applications that you see Jet Build using these new tools for?
Definitely. So today in terms of what automations we have, it’s a lot of your basic essential automations that a lot of products do have and push out for our clients, like reminders, automated entries, et cetera. But on a next level, I’ll call it an AI per question, first and foremost, the way that we get implemented for companies is if you could imagine a smartphone and then that enables you to leverage an app store and then integrate. So what I mean by that is Jet is kind of your backbone structure and then you have now the ability because of one, how simple we are for people to understand to use Two, because of how agile we are in terms of ability to integrate.
And three, because of a price point that we’re offering allows for companies to now look for third party specific niche AI products to now integrate into Jet. And what I mean by that as another example is let’s say a GC has our product, GC is a license holder. Now they could go to the market and look for AI concrete technology so that they could pour more efficiently, they can look for safety AI technologies so they could reduce their safety risk on a job site. So we’re focused on enabling or digitizing companies so that they could go ahead to the market and leverage what exists in those kind of niche capacities for AI in terms of us in particularly pushing out AI product that will come with that back to that data play that’ll come once we have sufficient data to create these kind of predictive analytics. So in the near future we’ll start implementing.
Awesome, that’s super exciting. So I’m just curious, I know if you’re working with all of these developers and contractors and all these different stakeholders on projects, I’m sure you come across lots and you also have extensive experience in the industry. Is there technology you’ve come across recently other than obviously Jet Build that sort of excites you and that you think is really going to change the industry in the near future?
Yeah, definitely. I’ll touch on I guess two sides of… Or even three sides, I’ll touch on three sides of it. So first is there’s a few new technology platforms that have entered the industry for the stages prior to when Jet is relevant. So I’ll call it for the financing side of things. I think that’s super important to leverage that and then plug into Jet and then after Jet for example, new technologies coming in for your asset management needs and tenant relation needs. So I think those two sides, so the before and after are super important to have this ecosystem of just better managing what’s going on in all of the complexities that exist in this process, all of the external stakeholders that exist in this process. And then actually retaining that data, retaining that information, which is very valuable for decision making. I mean definitely for the future, but to go more today and urgently.
I mean it literally will help you tomorrow, you implement it today and by one week later you should expect to have some information that you could leverage especially when you have this full ecosystem that I was noting. And then on the more kind of, I’ll call it Jet market, demographic, et cetera, I’ll touch back on what I alluded to before as it relates to AI and I’ll say the new safety tech that’s coming out. I think that’s super important and I love seeing how many of them exist. So I definitely encourage that. And then in terms of sustainability tech, I’ll call it. So whether that’s ESG reporting, whether that’s managing materials better, like concrete pouring, like I mentioned before, also so important and they’re really pushing the industry forward as it relates to reducing our carbon footprint and it really doesn’t take much and it allows you to be more efficient, productive, it probably reduces your costs a lot by implementing these technologies just naturally. So in terms of what they’re doing for you and then how you build.
Yeah, absolutely. I know ESG and sustainability is a big thing we focus on here at Geotech as well. And the concrete and cement reduction in particular is something that we’re working on every day. And as you mentioned, any little impact, any little reduction you can have makes a big difference in savings of both emissions and cost as well. So when I was looking into, you have one of the more interesting back stories I’ve seen someone who’s been on the show. So you have a wide range of experiences from sort of special forces, which you touched on. I know you’ve done an MBA, I think you’ve also been trained as a yoga instructor. Can you tell me how you decided to go through all those things and how those have helped you in your role now and in starting and growing Jet Build?
Definitely. So I think what’s really interesting in terms of how all of these ended up having similarities, all of these things that you mentioned for success in them and then outcome or results and how I take this communal approach and implement it in my day-to-day life, which is one is realizing how to collaborate with people. So whether that’s military, you have to be able to communicate with people you might not have otherwise come across in intense environments. So the understanding that being stressed and pushing that onto others is not going to accomplish much for you and for the team and for the greater goal. I’ll take that into MBA as well, which I happen to have done while working. So that’s understanding how to manage time, which also relays into what you learn in military training as it relates to organization and then into yoga training that’s doing something that would otherwise seemingly be so simple and so easy yet is so difficult.
And the only way to achieve that goal is patience and breathing, being calm. And these are all kind of similar characteristics that I’m mentioning in terms of it’s a dedication towards something. It’s the recognition that only when you are in a, I don’t know, prime state or when you are in a calm, collected mindset, are you able to then produce, whether that’s for yourself or I should say that will be for yourself, but that’ll also naturally in turn support those around you in the ecosystem that you’re trying to create, build, improve, et cetera. So they all have a very similar… In a funny way, very similar kind of dynamic in terms of, I’ll call it baseline necessity in order to achieve or strive for good or have good outcome. Does that make sense? I was speaking very broadly there.
No, absolutely. That’s really interesting. I mean when I’m just sort of looking at it on a list form, I’m like, “Oh, seems like a pretty drastic jump.” But when you talk about it like that, it’s really not that crazy. So yeah, I think, so just lastly before we wrap up, if people are interested in getting started with Jet Build and learning more about you guys, can you let our listeners know where they should start or what the process is like to get started?
Yeah, absolutely. So first of all, our website, which I’ll have information and if you did want to look that up, is Jet.build. So the .build is in place of a .com, so literally just jet.build. And that’ll get to our site. You could always reach out to me on LinkedIn as well. Beyond that, in terms of the getting started scenario, like I mentioned before, once you sign up or once you reach out to me, I’ll support you through the getting started process. The typical onboarding time has been 40 minutes, 45 minutes for onboarding. Reason being for a few things.
One is again, you know how to use a smartphone, you’re going to understand Jet real quick, hence that quick onboarding time. Two is we support with creating your account, setting up your project. And what I mean by that is we’ll onboard all the users, whether that be internal or external teams, we’ll set up all of your information, so all of your data, whether that be a budget, a schedule, meeting minute template, file management, whatever that is that you have ready, we’ll do that for you. And then we’re always accessible for training, questions, feedback, implementation, like I said. So we really created this seamless and easy ecosystem of starting with a project while addressing everything that we’re doing as operators. That’s what we’re addressing. So there’s not a lot of confusion there because you’re doing these functions somehow, somewhere, and we’re just bringing that all into one place in an intuitive manner.
That’s great. Thank you so much and thanks again for coming on the show. It’s been great talking to you and really interesting to learn more about you and also Jet Build as well.
Thanks so much for having Stephen, really appreciate it.
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