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Reflections from my Construction Tech Startup Journey

Justin Levine

Justin Levine

Co-Founder & CEO

June 29, 2021

Today marks three years since we sold TradeTapp to the incredible team at BuildingConnected. Looking back, I can say without a doubt this was the right decision for us, our team, and for the industry. I'm certainly proud of what we built together, but even more proud of the lasting relationships made along the way.

Here are 3 things I've been reflecting on today as I think back on our short, albeit impactful, journey.

On building great teams...

Trust is everything. As a founder, nothing is more important than establishing trust across your teammates and partners. Trust can be a gateway to so many things, but to me it's the foundation for individuals to truly do their best creative work. Without trust, it's impossible to allow for the necessary space to fail — we end up with the "safest" outcome.

This only gets harder at the larger scale - where the stakes are so much higher. Finding the balance between shipping quality product (stable, bug-free) and continuing to push creative ideas is a balance we struggled with everyday. I'm thinking about this a lot the second time around.

On building products for contractors...

Building for construction is still really hard today, despite a huge surge of venture investment into the industry in the last decade.

When we started TradeTapp in 2016, there was already momentum to embrace new workflow tools for contractors. The space felt incredibly wide open: a bit of a wild west at times. Things are a lot more crowded these days, and the bar is higher for getting attention from contractors. You also can't just be a point solution anymore - where you integrate in the big picture is critical.

What I find often is that new entrepreneurs in construction don't realize how important it is to not only sell your product, but also to define the process for how customers can assess your value. I learned so much about how to define a sales cycle and implementation plan from our leaders at BC.

On second wave opportunities...

I believe wholeheartedly that technology makes construction safer, more efficient, and more productive.

The future of this industry is one where every worker goes home to their family at night, and where projects outcomes are predictable (and therefor sustainable). But to make this future a reality we need to stop asking contractors to carry the burden of investing in technology alone. It's time for the core services which support construction: finance, insurance, legal, and more to start re-thinking their own models to create incentive around using technology. In the end, everyone benefits.

We're entering a second wave of innovation in construction - a path only made possible by the important work of startups that began in the last decade. It's humbling to be a small piece of that puzzle, and my experience at BuildingConnected (and later Autodesk) has only inspired me to dream bigger.

Final thoughts...

There's so many entrepreneurs building in construction today, it's hard not to feel optimistic about the direction this industry is headed. We're hoping to do our part at Shepherd. If you're interested - come join us - we're here to do the best work of our lives.

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