Bricks And Bytes Podcast
April 28, 2023

#025 – Brian Nickel- Transcript

Bricks and Bytes
Bricks and Bytes
#025 - Brian Nickel- Transcript

Show Notes

Brian Nickel

I think one of the most important things as you’re kind of entering the space is to really ask yourself if you’ve experienced the problem of what you’re developing for. It really has to be a foundation of a problem that you’ve experienced before. Rather than just tackling it as I’m going to monetise and capitalise this idea that I have, you need to go in and actually understand the pain point of the problem that you’re trying to tackle. Hello everybody and welcome to the Bricks and Bytes podcast, your go-to for all things construction and property technology. On today’s show we have Brian Nickel, founder and CEO at Allied BIM. Brian has a vast experience in the design sector as an architect, MEP designer and as a Montana State University teacher teaching BIM. His company Allied BIM enhances MEP modular and prefabrication construction firms by connecting design, fabrication and field teams. easy to use workflow and allows tracking the overall fabrication process. In this episode we talk about building a startup, design, building information modelling and the future of fabrication. If you are enjoying our podcast please check us out on Spotify or Apple or wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you enjoyed, please leave us a review. This helps us get more amazing guests to give you guys the best and most informative content on technology and the build world. to our sponsor Beta. If you want to connect with some of the biggest players in the construction tech world, including tier one building contractors, some of the biggest construction tech companies, investors and advisors, check them out by visiting and this is You are listening to Bricks and Bytes podcast, where we take you on a journey in the world construction, technology, and business. All right, let’s get this episode started. Brian, you have very mixed backgrounds. So starting from the trades as a plumber, then an architect, and now a founder of a construction tech startup, as well as a university instructor. So tell us how did you get there? Yeah, so back in 2012, my wife and I moved from Southern California up to Bozeman, Montana. My wife got the crazy idea to kind of move up there. And I said, the only way I’ll move to Montana is if they have an architecture school. school, I’m not going. Fortunately, they had one. So we flew out in the middle of February. There was about a foot and a half of snow on the ground. And I loved it. It was awesome. So what ended up happening is as I was going through school, I struggled with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in design and understanding kind of what went into a building. 

And so I was looking through a Craigslist ad in a newspaper randomly in 2014. RVs plumbing and heating, looking for a Revit MEP specialist. And I went into the interview and I was like, to be completely honest with you, I’ve been using Revit since 2004, started on Revit 6.0. I’ve never touched building systems. And he goes, that’s okay, because I’ve had eight other people in here and I need a ninth. And so you’re going to be the ninth and you have big shoes to fill, so come in and figure it out. And I was like, man, I don’t want to be the ninth one in and then the ninth one out, right? So I was like, I’ve really got to execute this thing. that his wife was one of our architecture professors. So I was like, I can’t work for you because if I get stuck in her class and I do a poor job at your company, like I’m screwed totally because I’ve got like basically two- No hedges. Double hedges. So I went in and I talked to her and she goes, it was super awkward conversation. She’s like, you know, I’m pretty outgoing so I don’t get that awkwarded out. But so I approached her and I’m like, hey, you know, I’d really like to, or I got an opportunity work for your husband. And I turned it down because I really, there’s a chance I might be in your class and she’s like, why are you even telling me this? Like, why do I need to know this? So she’s like, get out of my office. So I leave all awkward. And I come back to school the next day and she goes, Brian, I know I wasn’t going to say anything, but call my husband like, you know, you need to go work for him. Or he wants you to work for him. So I go out and I work there and long story short, basically I finished my And in working at Harvey’s, we worked on high-end residential construction up in the Yellowstone Club. So it was like 4,000 square foot homes all the way up to 40,000 square foot homes. So I like to call them high-end residential commercial construction because they’re big houses. That’s huge, yeah. Yeah. Basically, out of that, we started plumbing for the mechanical industry, or started plumbing basically using prefab. And we bought a TigerStop in 2017, which is just a linear positioner. 

And we realised there was an aha moment. We can’t pass data from Revit to this machine without using an antiquated thumb drive and communicating to the saw and having Johnny Hammerswinger on the saw hand key all the lengths of it. And we’re throwing away a bunch of material. So what’s going on here? That’s where Allied BIM was born out of was basically realising that there was a connection between the model to the machine that we were fabricating on, it was really just out of a pain point. Yeah, so fabrication wise, do you mean like steel fabrication or is it more broad than just steel fabricating? We primarily started on mechanical and plumbing systems. So we did basically like drainage waste and vent systems, hydronic radiant flooring, VRF systems, variable refrigerant flow, forced air. That’s pretty much the extent of what we did for mechanical, geothermal, radiant heat. How do you say, hydraulic radiant heat, flooring systems? Hydronic radiant heat flooring systems, yeah. Okay. Yeah. The reason I’m so confused, I think we call that underfloor heating in the UK. That’s basically what it is. Yeah. I was guessing, is it the right thing? Yeah. It’s like a way to simplify a version. How does it, what’s the name in the US? Hydronic radiant heating, basically. What? Heating and cooling. That’s awesome. It’s still technically underfloor or there’s also above floor radiant or in slab radiant. It makes sense. Brian, what was the machine? You mentioned a machine which could do linear positioning. Can you just explain that a little bit more? Yeah. So we started, if you watch a plumber in the field do his job, he’s always pulling a tape measure or writing on a sheet of cardboard what materials he needs. And then he’s going to his supply house and he’s sitting there grabbing a bag of popcorn, ordering his materials and wasting a bunch of time, forgets the material, gets to the job site, totally forgets it, throws all his fittings out on the floor, super inefficient process. So my business partner, Bob Harvey, he’s the president of Allied BIM who was originally the owner of Harveys. He basically had 40 years of plumbing experience. So he knows all the pain points in the field that a plumber goes through when he gets a job, and he’s trying to basically lay out fittings. So we bought basically a TigerStop to streamline the process, activity of what we were producing for our linear lengths. So anytime we would pull a tape measure, basically what the TigerStop does is it’s a linear positioning system. 

So think digital tape measure that basically runs along an X-axis essentially, it’s basically just back and forth. And you can load stock and cut on the machine. Out of the box, they actually come to the owner really disconnected. Like they’re not meant for the plumbing industry. They’re actually meant for the framing industry. Okay, cool. Yeah, it makes sense. So out of frustrations found in the plumbing company, here you are today, Construction Tech World, Allied BIM. So yeah, we may as well just touch on Allied BIM for a bit. Sure. Yeah, go for it. Give us a little bit, know a little bit about what Allied BIM does. Yeah, so one of the most important pieces to what Allied BIM does that has been a struggle in our start-up, kind of communicating to people, is basically model to machine manufacturing. So we are basically taking three-dimensional models of fabrication models and connecting the data from the fabrication BIM model to a machine parametrically so that we can dynamically optimise the procurement of materials on the machines and get those kitted and sent to the job site more efficiently. That’s a little bit of what we’re doing. Yeah, it makes sense. So you’re basically allowing the model to be easily transferred onto the production with the correct dimensions, length, and all of the features of the materials that are created in the 3D model. Yeah, it’s a little bit more than that actually. So what we do is we use a fabrication database, typically an ITM database. It’s dimensionally accurate content. Because prior to that, as you know, like Revit families aren’t very accurate. There’s probably about 65 to 80% of the industry now today that’s still modelling for coordination purposes, not for fabrication purposes. But there’s a big upswing on that, where we’re starting to see more and more people fabricate out of a model. And when they say they’re fabricating, what they’re doing, what a lot of people are doing is they’re just exporting schedules, and then they’ve got Johnny out at the saw, hand keying those lengths in, and they’re still wasting a bunch of material. So what we realised is when we connect the fabrication model to the machine, we can actually reduce the building construction waste which is traditionally 35 to 45% of the building down to less than a percent, just by connecting an accurate model to the machine. Mm-hmm. Cool. So who do you target? Like who uses your product currently right now? We’ve been targeting and working with general contractors so we’re working a little bit more with general contractors because they’re selecting subcontractors and subcontractors are then required to use our software with those general contractors that we work with. This is part of the supply chain requirements. 

Yeah, because traditionally, frankly, I don’t know if you guys have ever met plumbers before, but typically, we’ve done it for the last 30 years this way. Why would we change it? And so we’re trying to show them, well, do you really want to spend 90% of your time shuffling through a box for a fitting and then cutting a bunch of parts and messing up and going back and climbing a ladder and pulling a tape measure? Or do you want to kind of start doing it a little bit better? Do you want to build it better? Do you want to work a little smarter, basically? And that’s been, there are a few that we’ve been finding through this process that are really ingrained in understanding that. That’s who we partner with. Or those that aren’t closed-minded. Yeah. And it sounds like you guys are taking smaller steps. You’re not just going for like, here is a complete fabricated, whatever. It’s like, here’s a little bit, here’s one step and then we’ll go to the next step. Is that the kind of strategy you’re executing? Yeah, we have a saying and it’s, you don’t want to eat the whole elephant. Yeah. You want to kind of take bits and pieces and just kind of devour that elephant, but not all at once. Also, as you said, the industry is quite set in the way that they do things. So it’s a lot of scary stuff for them when there is new technology and construction and applied to day-to-day tasks. Cool. Yeah. What sort of advice would you give for people who are embarking in the construction tech world from that traditional construction world? One of the things that’s interesting in construction start-ups that I’ve seen, you know, I’ve sat in on a few people’s classes that like built DBEI conferences down in Anaheim, Autodesk conferences, and I think one of the most important things as you’re kind of entering is to have a clear understanding of what you’re developing for. It really has to be a foundation of a problem that you’ve experienced before, rather than just tackling it as I’m going to monetise and capitalise this idea that I have, you need to go in and actually understand the pain point of the problem that you’re trying to tackle. And then from there, you can grow and start to understand and build that business. But it takes a lot of work because you really have to have an understanding of a problem that you’ve experienced before. If you don’t have that, you’re better off just kind of waiting until you have that, I think. Yeah, so you think it’s tough for people. We haven’t, funny enough, we were having a conversation earlier where we were saying, is the construction tech industry suited for people that are not from a construction background that come from like financial or other sectors, wherever it might be? And what’s your, it seems to me that you think that they have to have a bit of background, thoughts on that? Yeah, no, absolutely. 

So what we found actually is when we were starting this start-up, we looked into what offerings were out there from, quote-unquote, competitors now. And the irony is that every single one of those competitors had a business development person or a business development background, or they were just a computer programmer from a different industry, programming to solve a problem without the understanding, I believe, of the actual problem in the field. And that’s the difference with Allied; we were born out of a shop facing the problem every day. And I think that’s what’s causing the problem with software today that people see when they’re using, as an end-user, and they’re like, man, this should be something as simple as checking multiple boxes, click every single checkbox. Like, think of the user: how can we reduce their clicks? How can we make their experience more effective with the software that we’re developing? So that’s what I would say. 

Uh-huh, cool. Nice. And we had a good chat before this, and it was about partnering in the construction tech industry. Like, basically not trying to, we’re trying to do everything. Can you give some thoughts on that? Yeah. One of the most important things as we’ve gone through this journey is to really understand the competition out there and to partner with your competition. One thing I found in the early stages of this start-up is that I used to be really nervous about speaking in front of the industry, like in the group. But then what I realised is that we’re all out there together trying to solve this problem together. And how can I be scared of that? You know, I’ve spoken at AU with Amy Marks and I’ve spoken at AU with Michael Beall and the Autodesk team. And what’s been great is I’ve been able to validate a lot of these crazy ideas off of the industry and also being able to stand in front of an audience and to like visually see them nodding or shaking their head. That’s immediate understanding of like, yeah, this is right or wow, I’m way off topic. Like maybe I should, maybe I should listen to somebody. So that’s why I choose to speak and that’s why I choose to do these podcasts is I really want people to challenge me. I want to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable. Challenge me and challenge the industry because I don’t have all the answers and I can’t solve this by myself. So we’ve got to partner together and collaborate and get this. I’m doing this for the industry as I believe everybody else is as well. It’s such a big industry too. Like everyone can have a piece of the pie, right? Yeah, right. Yeah. That’s a good segue to the next one, which is how do you see the future of prefabrication in construction, fabrication, construction? Or you can see a broader scope of fabrication within construction being applied. We have a much broader scope of fabrication being applied other than just MEP. We’re just trying to kind of hone in the engine on MEP, and then I believe the other doors will unlock or the other areas of that engine will unlock. But realistically, like NASA and JPL went model to machine in the 1970s, 1980s, right? And we’re in the construction industry in 2022, almost 2023. 

It’s kind of crazy. It scares me. So nearly 40 to 50 years later, and we’re still building buildings off of paper plan sets. Like, and I know we’ve heard this kind of go around and circulate a little bit, but I recently went to Xconn in August and I spoke to a good friend of mine, Don Jacob. He was the second founder in the development of Bluebeam, right? Bluebeam software. Yep. And he threw this statistic at me, and it has stuck with me ever since. What’s unbelievable about it is that if we can send spacecraft to the moon, and we can prefabricate everything and ship it remotely off to the moon and just let it go, why are we struggling so hard with buildings? And don’t get me wrong, our buildings are complicated. They’re not as simple as a spacecraft. And we’re not rocket scientists. Like, I get that. But, you know, if they can go model to machine, why can’t we go model to machine in the 2000s? And that’s really where I think the future is. We’re talking about LOD 300. LODs, don’t get me started on it. We’re not going to go down the LOD conversation. But in the States, we’re much different than the UK. We don’t have a standardised way. Every firm operates on their own comprehension of what they think an LOD is, just for budgeting purposes really to make sure that they’re not getting their backside handed to them on the project. 

Sorry, I’m going to ask a very silly question. What is LOD? Ah, sorry, level of development, level of detail. There’s a lot, there’s, by the way, there’s a whole contention on whether it’s development or detail. I say both because it is the level of development that you’ve progressed through the project as well as the detail that you put into it. Sounds like we’re going down the LOD hole. We’re not going to go any further than that. That’s it. And all we’re going to know is that there’s a funny chart by Jeffrey Pinheiro, the Revit Kid. I don’t know if you’ve seen him or not, but he works for Turner Construction now. And I’ve met up with him at a couple of conferences, and I love the graphic that he put together. I’ll share a link with you guys, but basically, it’s got LOD 100 to 500. And there’s a picture of a 500 and a 100, 300 and a 200, you know, it’s all out of order. Because all we put out to the field is a set of paper drawings. I think in the UK, RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects, they are doing quite well with this five or seven even stages. And this kind of defines… Oh, they have the plan of work. Yeah, and what stage, what is required to be included within the design. So that’s helpful. Well, I want to follow up with one more thing real quickly because it’s important to note that, like, just so you know, and you guys are aware of this, when you put out a set of LOD 300 drawings to a subcontractor, even to a GC, the amount of rework that has to get done on those 2D drawings, even though it’s derived from a 3D model, is absolutely insane. 

Like, so somewhere, someone, it’s spent somewhere, the client’s paying for it somewhere, it’s just a matter of are they paying for it in design? Or are they paying for it way out in the field when Johnny put the wrong line together and it’s out of code and disaster ensues and your schedule is set back months, right? Sort of like broadly speaking, because the way you describe it, I kind of like it, but the way I see it is either we automate the design process and we automate the production or I can’t see it working differently than it works now because currently it’s all manual. So automation is the only way to get out of it, the way I see it, or what am I missing? I love that you’re starting to catch on and see it that way because that’s exactly what we’re seeing. So we have a spectrum of different types of clients. We have one client that will develop a robust fabrication model and they’ll send it out to their shop, and they’re actually starting to turn their warehouse into a shop that others can use so others can send their work to that shop and produce material on his machines if they don’t have the machines. Democratising access to the machines without having to have that capital expense upfront to purchase it. Oh, they call it something like, I’m just going to start, I’m just going to have a tangent here, but when they brew beer, they borrow each other’s equipment, and they call it gypsy brewing. Yep. Yep, exactly. It’s yeah, it’s kind of like that. It’s like gypsy brewing for fabrication, kind of in a way, is what one guy’s doing, and it’s not just one. We’re actually seeing a lot of other people that are interested in doing something like that. Then we have another one that says, you know what? There’s no way I’m going to be able to change my in-the-field installer’s mindset. So we’re actually going to work backwards. We’re actually going to put the automation in the middle. And then we’re going to only design what we can fabricate and then we’re going to let them handle the rest in the field. And I think it could be a bit more efficient than that because we’ve seen it. We know it can be more efficient than that. But essentially, they’re using the BIM model to extract schedules and send that out to the machines. So everything happens in the software, right? And do we need to catch up in the industry with the hardware to it, or is the hardware kind of available and every fabricator has it? Because I remember we were chatting a few months ago with Eric Hoberg from Arco Ventures. 

And Eric was saying that there is a trend that he’s seeing in the US of the local fabrication shops, which will be, stuff will be fabricated almost on sites, because obviously the US is a huge country and that’s what he was saying. So is it something that you think about as well? Yeah. So there’s a couple of questions in there. You know, the most important piece to the accessibility of fabrication equipment is just simply like, I walked the show floor at AU this year. I don’t know if you guys had a chance to go to Autodesk University, but… Next year. Yeah. Well, you missed the fire festival in New Orleans because it was pretty… That’s a whole other conversation. But they’re moving it back to Vegas next year. And at the show, there was only one machine for the built world. There was one TigerStop. And we’ve seen the TigerStop for six to seven years. Like, it’s a linear positioner. And we’re all like, wow, we can put this thing in a container and throw it off site. Yes, you can. But we haven’t seen other machines than just that in the last six to seven years. Everything else was a 3D printer or a layout total station or reality capture, all great tools, but what we’re missing, and it makes sense because we’re a very much design-oriented community, but the reality is people are building off of our designs. So why don’t we have more equipment at these trade shows? So I just attended in November, Fabtech. Fabtech is like a million square feet. It was down in Atlanta, and there were machines, all walks of life of machines. None of them are actually connected to the BIM industry. Exception of our partners at that show. There’s a very select few that actually are aware of the BIM industry and this market vertical that we’re talking about for contact. So the way that I’ve been getting our partners on board is conveying to them that, you know, we have models that have this information. Allow us to map it to your machines, allow us to send it so we can get a progress report. You know when Johnny’s in your fabrication shop, and he’s pulling a tape measure, you don’t have metrics other than the paper timesheet that he’s filling out with a Sharpie. So your data is only as good as what Johnny’s writing on his time card. And Johnny’s getting harder to find because, you know, that’s another reason why I teach is like 95% of my students don’t even know that the construction trades exist. They’re coming out of high school without even any knowledge of the trades. This is a huge, huge problem. It’s a big problem. Any thoughts on that, Brian? Obviously, you’re quite involved with training these people as you are at Montana State. So any thoughts and ideas? Yeah, one of the things that we did at Harvey’s is we participated in what is called Hire a Bobcat at Montana State. So it was a career fair, basically. You can’t force students to go, but what I always do as an instructor is say, hey, for extra credit, if you go to this career fair and write a paper on it and find three booths that you liked and focus on the trades, find trade-related things. 

Because you can actually use your software knowledge in those trades. At Montana State, I just recently in the autumn started teaching construction engineering technology students at Montana State remotely from Boise. And one of the things that I’m teaching them that none of them were aware of is that we can use VR remotely to walk through buildings. And I can start to educate in VR of how a plumbing system goes together, how a framed wall needs to be framed. And so I think we’re going to see more of that as we spiral into the future, like I think we’re going to see more digitisation and education of the construction tech space to these students, because the reason I’m driving that is like putting an ad in Craigslist doesn’t work anymore. Like, you know, they go on LinkedIn, look for jobs, they’ve got a route that they’re taking. Yeah, the struggle I have with what you said now is that I just can’t see a point for young people excited within construction. Because it sounds to me like there is not that much that the construction industry can offer them, comparing to other industries. Where am I getting wrong with this one? No, I love, I actually love that you just said that, Martin, because basically what I’m finding is that if we’re dealing with the technical Snapchatters and TikTokers and technical iPhone users, wouldn’t you think that they would want to work with a machine control interface for fabrication in a building? Like, wouldn’t that be exciting to them to use like a HUD, right? Like a heads-up display for fabrication. Like, you’re absolutely right. The reason nobody’s interested in the trades is they don’t want to do back-breaking labour in the field anymore. Like, you know, they want to get their degree and they want to work with a computer or work in a shop, basically, you know, using automation. And so I think automation is the key to attract future students or future labour workers into our process. And, you know, we hired a straight fresh out of community college design drafter at Harvey’s, female. Fantastic. Like, we trained her up to be a digital master plumber in about four weeks. We basically trained her up and she’s digitally plumbing. As soon as she saw that she could send the model of what she was modelling in the design software to a computer that would basically automate cuts, she was blown away because now she’s contributing something digitally with her skill set. Hey, that sounds awesome. Yeah, I like the sound of that. That sounds like a really good idea. Like it’s the most original, original kind of thing I’ve heard. Of all the people we ask this question to because believe me, it comes up a lot. Yeah. I like hard questions. It is a hard question. Yeah, I ask this question to a few people and actually, you’re the most appealing to me because it aligns with the fact that I believe also in automation and the current way of doing things doesn’t make sense compared to other industries, right? So the question is how do we get there? How far are we from this point that at least 20, 30, 40% of the industry will be working on more digital models and more automated kind of designs? You know, I think we’re quickly approaching that. 

I don’t know if it’s going to be, I believe frankly that in the next three to five years, so let’s say by 2025 to 2028, possibly sooner with Allied, frankly, with what we’re doing with the machine connections and the machines that we’re bringing to the space just this next year. We’re working on a CNC tube bender for the electrical industry. Traditionally, the ranges that CNC tube benders, like in the electricians, what they bend, 70 to 90% of the material is 1.5 inch conduit all the way up to 2.5 inch diameter conduit. Some of these machines. If you watch somebody hand bend, there’s a bunch of LinkedIn. Recently there’s been a lot of people doing hand bending of conduit and it looks like the Stone Age. It is the Stone Age. Like, I mean, this guy is literally like breaking a sweat trying to bend conduit by hand. And can he do it quick? Yeah. But like how good is he, how many can he crank out compared to a CNC tube bender, right? So the CNC tube benders can do the work in seven seconds basically without any back-breaking labour. I think by introducing automation into the space, we’re not hardware people. We’re just creating a machine alliance. We’re software people. So we’re working with machine manufacturers and building up a portfolio of building construction AEC equipment through those manufacturers that these subcontractors can utilise where they could throw away their tape measure or they could throw away the old school way of doing it. And start to become more focused on this 2030 vision. Right? So I think we’ll see more of that. It sounds way more appealing. Yeah. Back to the previous question about attracting people. Like you showed them a pic, like you were just saying, you show them a video of someone like bending conduit. And then you show a university student, someone programming computers to do it. I think I know which one they’re going to choose. If someone says you got to make a choice here. I showed my students. I’m super passionate about this because like it needs to be done. Like it needs to happen. And, you know, I showed my students myself, I remote in from Boise to Bozeman, Montana into a machine. And I can actually send my model that I designed here in Boise. We actually did that on a project here in Boise with Arco Murray, where we digitally designed a plumbing stack for an entertainment golf company. And for that golf stack, what we did is we actually sent that to Bozeman, Montana. 

We digitally fabricated it. I watched through a Ring and was able to install it in one day, which would have normally taken him 14 days because he’d be going back and forth to the supply house. So that’s the kind of stuff when, when I showed the students that, answering your question, Owen, like when I showed the students that, their eyes lit up. They’re like, “How can I do that? Like, how can I, you know, you’re showing me all this building construction stuff. How can I tie into a shop and send data to a machine and, and get, how can I help someone do their job more efficiently?” Yeah, I’m sure if you show a few plumbers that stuff, they’re going to be like, “Oh my God, this is cool.” Well, it’s not just plumbers. I mean, it’s like electricians, HVAC guys, framers, concrete guys. I mean, there’s a whole slew of opportunities in our space, but it’s again, not eating the whole elephant. 

Okay, so speaking of different trades, how about different geographies? So is Lightbeam suited for the US market or are you thinking about, you don’t have to be focused on the US market, do you see this? We do not want to be just primarily focused on the US market. But as a start-up, we’re trying to really pinpoint areas regionally to us. We currently are serving from Hawaii to Florida. So, unfortunately, we didn’t get to travel to Maui when we deployed our software. But we remotely distributed our software to a guy that had a machine in place. And they basically started model to machine fabrication. And so, to answer your question, Martin, like really we see this as being a global initiative to reduce materials, to be more sustainable, to be more efficient, and to handle this labour shortage problem. I think that’s the most important thing is like getting a machine in place to do the work of 10 people. So we found through the machine automation that the average for each machine is about eight times more productive than just a standard Johnny Hammer swinger pulling out a tin and throwing away 45% of your material in the shop’s rubbish bin. Yeah. And can work 24 hours, not eight. Yeah. Yeah, they want the machine running 24 hours a day. Yeah, typically. 

Brian, obviously you are the CEO, right? At Lightbeam… I am. Yeah. Any kind of pointers on how like running a business of that type in the construction world? So I joke about this actually a little bit in my education and my formal education for my Master of Architecture. I ask people how many business classes do you think they gave me in architecture? I get like three or four or five. No, it’s one. I get zero like Martin showed zero. No, it’s one. They give us one, and it’s the same class that they’ve taught for 30 years. That’s just on the profession of architecture. So it’s basically useless for business, right? So my business partner and I talked about it, and it’s really just you can take classes on business, kind of understand it, but really it’s kind of growing as you enter that space. And just, I stand by a saying is just get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Like there’s a lot of uncomfortabilities in business. 

And I sat in on Alice Long, who I saw was on this podcast, which was awesome. I sat in on one of her round table discussions at BILT and she said, your role as a CEO is to be a salesman, right? I didn’t go to school to be a salesman. I’ve got to get comfortable with being a salesman. And part of being a salesman, I found out, is really recognising your customers or your partner’s problems and pain points and being able to address those pain points in a logistical way that shows them that you’re listening to them. So our development team, we started in Brazil developing. It eventually went to Australia. We tried India. It was a disaster. It didn’t work out. We moved it over to Egypt and now we’ve got Argentina. And the reason we did that globally for our development is while I’m asleep, we’re getting development completed. So when I’m awake, we’re getting development completed on the software. So being able to funnel in this request from our users to give us feedback, we can have a fix to them much faster than our competition here in the States that are working eight to five jobs, right? We can actually patch and deploy something at two in the morning. And when they get to work the next day, they’ve got a solution. So understanding pain points, feeling comfortable with the uncomfortable, taking some business classes, attending conferences, networking, networking, networking, bouncing your crazy ideas that are in your head as an entrepreneur across other people is the most important thing. Like you can’t come at this in an arrogant fashion. It needs to be very collaborative and you have to be able to listen to. I’ve got two ears and one mouth. I’ve got to use my ears more than my mouth. All right, good. Failing at that during our podcast today. No, I know. I think also when you said networking, it’s all about actually getting constant feedback from people who are also in the environment and in construction. So not only you can speak, but also if you can hear their feedback and kind of adjust as you go, the right way. Yeah, absolutely. Cool. All right. Looking at time, we should move on to some off-topic questions. And I’d like to start because you mentioned sales. And yeah, sales is a topic that interests me actually passionately. So you have a lot of books in your background, as do we. 

So I’m going to ask you. Yeah. Any good sales books? On the sales book side, I got a book from a patent attorney. I’m going to stand up and just grab this real quick. This isn’t necessarily a sales book, but it’s a really good everything startup investors need to know about patents, right? And in the beginning of a startup, like there are some critical things. This is by Russ Krijak. I’m sorry, Russ, if I totally butchered your last name there. But Russ is down in Denver, Colorado, and he’s a patent attorney down there. And it says on the back that the patent system is broken and a waste of money for a startup or is it, you know? And so he goes through like where your utilisation of funds up front, especially if you’re getting investments in things, whether it’s a good idea to invest in a patent or not. And I know that’s not really a sales book, but it does, having a patent or having a patent pending does actually carry a lot of weight when you’re selling your software. If you, we’ve got a patent currently pending and one of the things that we’re explaining to people is like, we own that idea. That idea is there. It’s there. And people like that. I think this is a really good book in a roundabout way to your sales question to kind of take a look at. Cool. Nice. Okay. So I got one actually. So you travelled from tradesmen to architects and now growing your startup. How has this changed in your mind? What was the driving point? Was it curiosity or like next challenges? And like if people are on the same kind of path or a similar path, they do something, go up into something else and then into something else. What was driving you there? Really, it’s been my mentor and my business partner that’s been driving me. I started working for Bob back in 2014 and he started communicating to me this pain point that he had in his shop. And I thought it was ridiculous that we were having this much struggle, you know, in the 21st century, like we’re having major problems. And one of the things that I became passionate about was solving these problems programmatically. Solving problems using software to streamline what we were facing every day. 

And what’s interesting is in today’s society, a lot of people are bouncing around. So you see stints of work that’s like three years here, three years there, three years here, but it’s all generally in the same space. What’s unique about the startup side that I’ve been really passionate about is just the freedom of creativity and the freedom of being able to pursue something. I watched or I listened to this comment by Amy Bunzel from Autodesk, where there is no reward without risk. One of the sayings that we’ve often heard is if it was easy, everybody would do it. Also in the back of my head, I’ve got nine out of 10 startups fail. I mean, that’s just the natural side of startups. I don’t want to be one of those nine. I want to be one of the 10 that succeed and we’re starting to succeed. Another good friend of mine is Clifton Harness with I mean, he’s a great, I don’t know if you guys have looked at TestFit or not, but I highly recommend Clifton actually come on here and talk to you guys, especially on the property side in real estate. But he asked me at AU this year, he’s like, how much revenue do you have? And I gave him a number and he goes like this, like he just motions like, yeah, that’s awesome. He’s like, you know how many startups I talk to that the revenue is this? Zero? It’s like, so yeah. That was kind of, he’s a really unique character and he comes from architecture as well and he’s solving this in a tech startup side. Successfully, very successfully. That’s very interesting what you said. So you’re suggesting that the larger probability of success is that when you can generate revenue early on the road, right? That’s what you’re saying? Yeah, because what we’re finding, we’re tackling this much differently than some. So you have many different types of startups, but the two that I’ve kind of learned through There’s ones like ourselves that are going through the investment phase, right? Where you’re pre-seed, seed, and then series. And then you’ve got others that don’t need to fundraise. They’ve got capital, and that’s what’s driving their startup, right? So we’re in a, there’s two different sides of it. That’s a very fortunate spot to be in where you don’t have to go out and seek investment, but it’s really exciting being in the one where you’re seeking investment because you meet all sorts of connections. 

It’s almost like networking on a different level. A conference and meeting people, but instead you’re giving all these investors your pitch and then they throw off other ideas of who you can meet. And we’ve generated a lot of connections that way. So I think the most important thing is revenue for a pre-seed seed startup. You’ve got to hit, in order to hit a series A, you need to have a million dollars of ARR, really. And some people may be a little bit more technical than me on the financial side and say, no, that’s not totally correct. You don’t exactly need a million. But from everything I’ve seen in our space, you generally need about a million ARR to get a series. And we’re on that path to do that, but it’s a lot of sales. It’s a lot of demos. It’s a lot of networking, sales, sales, sales. And with sales, I mean, I’ve always hated it. Like if I get a telemarketer that calls me, I’ve actually become. of doing a startup, I’ve actually been a lot more respectful to those that come to my door. Because it’s like, I’m now that guy calling people like, hey, I know how it feels, man. But when you tackle it as building partnerships, I think you have a much better success because it’s not just about, and I’m going to make some people friends here, but that’s okay. It’s not just about having a customer. It’s about building a partnership with those customers. And I think to find us as a startup from others is that in our space, our competitors look at, and from my perspective, right? So it’s biased, but they’re looking at who can I sell to and then move on to the next and sell and move on. And that’s great, strategically that’s great. But realistically, we tackle it with a strategic partnership. We’re working with Nica, we’re working with Josh Bone with Electree on this CNC2 bending side. And being able to have industry feedback as a partner, is so much more valuable because that will translate to sales and it’ll be a valuable sale. No, Brian, that was great. We have to wrap up because of time anyway. So one last question is, where can people find out more about you? I’m on LinkedIn very actively, so you can connect with me on LinkedIn. And then also, if you go to, we have a lot of information on our product and our software. You can check it out. Also networking at conferences. If you’ve seen or heard me, I’m super approachable. I’m friendly. Come up, say hi to me. I’m all about shaking hands and meeting face to face with people. Awesome. Okay, Brian, thank you very much. Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Martin. Thank you, Owen. Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of the Bricks and Bytes Podcast. If you are enjoying the show, please feel free to rate, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. We really appreciate it, and we’ll catch you in the next episode.

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