Construction App Fieldwire Raises $6.6 Million, Led by Formation 8

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Fieldwire, a San Francisco-based mobile and web platform designed to make collaboration on construction projects more efficient, has raised $6.6 million in fresh funding led by Formation 8. Other participants in the round included Trinity Ventures and earlier backers BloombergBeta and AngelPad, the investment fund and accelerator where the company first gained investors’ attention in the fall of 2013.

The round includes $1.1 million in previously disclosed seed funding.

Because Fieldwire is part of an increasingly crowded, if nascent, group of startups that are zeroing in on the same market, we decided to talk last week with cofounder Yves Frinault to learn more. Our chat has been edited for length.

TC: One of your better-known competitors is PlanGrid. How do your companies differ?

YF: At our core, we’re a task management platform, working on tasks and collaboration, including with the foreman, the subcontractors, and labor; PlanGrid is more focused on digitizing and storing blueprints and construction documents. We’re more like Asana for construction; they’re more like Box. It’s tasks versus files.

TC: How big is Fieldwire at this point?

YF: We were five people. We’ve doubled in the last four months to meet demand, but we could have been a lot more; we believe in dense, focused teams. As for [our clients], there are currently 35,000 projects on the platform [owned by] 1,000 companies.

TC: So these are big clients.

YF: When you operate a typical SaaS company, you usually start in mid-market and go up market. In construction, it’s different. The top line, half-a-billion-dollar companies are the ones driving the projects, so we found ourselves working with those guys — the large general contractors and specialty contractors — right away.

TC: What do you charge them?

YF: Fieldwire is free for small teams of up to 15 people, who can use it for unlimited tasks and projects. When you go over that tier, which is our core focus, then we charge $20 to $30 per user per month.

TC: How big a market would you say you’re chasing?

YF: The opportunity, they say, is pretty much anywhere. There’s about $8.5 trillion spent on construction globally every year, and nine of 10 projects are late or over budget. We’re targeting the entirety of that market, and because we have bottoms-up distributed model, we can sell as easily in Australia and Korea as the U.S. We already have projects in 100 countries.

TC: How does adoption usually flow?

YF: A foreman likes what we’re doing and they set up their project themselves and it impacts 30 to 50 people who want to deploy the software on many more projects.

We’ve spent some money on marketing and search ads, but we don’t have a marketing unit. We don’t go to conferences or conventions or have a sales team. We’re 100 percent engineers, with 20 percent coding less to do other things.

TC: Do you see other distributed industries eventually using Fieldwire?

YF: We think construction will be the most impacted by mobile. Of the other large old-school industries, farming has already gone through a three to five x in terms of increased labor productivity. So has manufacturing. But in construction, that productivity hasn’t been unlocked yet.

Construction hasn’t changed a lot until recently. Now, it’s changing at a hyper rapid pace, so along the way, we’ll run into some dead ends. But we’re trying to stay close to see how people work; it’s a constant process to ensure we’re doing the right thing for them.

TC: What’s the biggest problem you’re solving?

YF: The main problem in construction, the measure of productivity, is called direct wrench time; it’s the time spent doing actual work, tools in hand, like a carpenter installing wood. But if you take the average worker on a site, 30 percent is wrench time, and the other 30 to 40 percent of their time is spent preparing for a task because they don’t have the right material or instruction and they’re idling for those things to come together.

Productivity isn’t an individual problem. The problem is managing the process.

(Update: We originally reported that, altogether, Fieldwire has raised $7.7 million, which is incorrect; we didn’t realize the company had folded earlier seed funding into this larger round.)