The ConTechCrew 189: Service Time, Not Scooter Time with Yves Frinault of Fieldwire
The ConTechCrew is back this week in episode 189, with guest Yves Frinault of Fieldwire! In this episode you’ll learn about Yves’s career throughout the tech, the military, and his strong opinions on amateur scooter riding. In ConTech News this week we cover: Uber for shift-workers, Procore embedded apps, Katerra factory, and more!
Geek of the Week
We Interviewed: Yves Frinault
Day Job: Co-Founder & CEO of Fieldwire
Joined the Podcast to Geek Out On: Yves Frinault is a true ConTech geek! A peek at his resume reveals studies in computer science and construction science management, years of military service, and a long career at Ubisoft before founding Fieldwire. Check out episode 189 to learn about founding Fieldwire, fresh-takes on scooters, embedded apps, and more!
Fieldwire’s Founder Is Solving Construction Workflow Problems With a Paratrooper’s Perspective
There are many routes toward a career in construction tech, but jumping out of airplanes is one we hadn’t encountered –– until we met Yves Frinault, co-founder and CEO of Fieldwire.
As an engineering student at École Polytechnique in his native France, Yves completed the school’s traditional year of military service. He served as a paratrooper, quickly learning that a team’s performance is only as good as the efficiency and clarity of its communications.
Years later, when he was in grad school at Stanford, he found himself working with 3D and 4D modeling technology, attempting to improve building design processes. The objective was to plan the “perfect project,” says Yves.
“I felt like the premise was wrong. Because you’re taught in the army that you can have the best plan, but it’s going to fall apart as soon as you start executing it.”
Coupled with years of experience as a product manager in Silicon Valley (and many more in DIY residential renovation), the idea for Fieldwire began to emerge.
In 2013, Fieldwire launched with a crack team of construction and software engineers from Stanford, Berkeley and MIT. By 2016, Yves was hanging with the Crew on an early episode of the podcast .
Since then, it’s evolved to become an industry favorite. Today, 500,000 job sites worldwide use Fieldwire, and the company has raised $41.2 million –– including a recently wrapped Series C led by Menlo Ventures.
On this episode, Yves talks about his journey from static line to bottom line. Read on for the highlights.
All about Yves
First things first: Congratulations to Yves, who earlier this year became a U.S. citizen.
“I came here thinking I’d stay maybe one or two years, learn English and then go back and use my skills to do business in Europe,” he says. “But I never left.”
France’s loss is America’s gain.
Yves’ story begins sometime in the ‘80s, in la République, where he grew up in a family of ingénieures.
“My parents are engineers. Both of my brothers and my sister are engineers as well. And my parents’ hobby was to buy houses and remodel them. So I grew up on residential construction sites.”
As he got older, Yves began helping with the construction work. Years later at École Polytechnique, he studied mechanical engineering and computer science before heading to Palo Alto for a master’s in construction management.
That’s where he started thinking about how the best-laid plans can go awry on construction sites, just as they do in the military. He recognized a few common problems, and started thinking up a technical solution.
But when he came out of Stanford in the mid ‘00s, “the market wasn’t doing too well,” says Yves. Plus, the iPhone revolution hadn’t even begun, and “the cloud was still very scary for a lot of companies. So I put that idea aside and got lured to work in the Valley.”
He spent five years as a product manager of video game developer Ubisoft, creators of Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon and Just Dance, to name a few.
“Working in that space, you learn there’s a really high bar for product,” he explains.
He also saw how startups were using software to organize their tasks and teams. Fast forward to 2013, and it was clear that smartphones were going to be ubiquitous and so was the cloud. Big companies like Dropbox were entering the construction market.
“It felt like the stars were aligning,” Yves says. “We were like, okay, let’s bring the next generation of coordination tools to the field of construction. And we started Fieldwire.”
Bridging the ‘labor coordination’ gap
The Fieldwire platform solves two problems, Yves says. “One is access to information –– which several other good platforms do as well: accessing your plans, files, forms and all of that. The second problem we solve … is coordination of labor at a larger scale.”
Labor coordination is “the core of what makes us successful,” he adds. “We bridge the gap between a high-level schedule and the piece of paper in your back pocket with five or 10 items that you and your crew are working on today.”
Open + agile = success
Fieldwire, the company, is powered by … well, Fieldwire.
That’s only natural, because agile project management software Jira “was a huge inspiration” for Yves and his team as they built the platform. “We actually pitched the company as Jira for construction,” he says. “That’s how we convinced VCs to invest.”
Flexibility and customization for just about any project or team is key, Yves explains. “We had an open API from the get-go … So anything you can do by hand in Fieldwire you can do programmatically.”
When the company launched, “none of our customers had developers who could do advanced things with that,” he adds.
“That has completely changed over the last few years. Now, larger ones have in-house teams that build integration constantly between this system and that system –– doubling time entries and things like that.”
Yves credits the “freemium” model for Fieldwire’s organic growth. The product is free for up to five users.
Then if a user wants Fieldwire for multiple teams, it’s a no-brainer to buy one of the paid subscription tiers. The boots on the ground, so to speak, already use it and love it.
In this way, the product has “spread from contractor to contractor,” Yves says.
At its core, this growth strategy offers great advice for entrepreneurs or anyone who manages people.
“Listen to your own employees,” says Yves. “They probably know a whole lot about what works for them. The more you listen to your team, the better your results will be.”
Construction Tech News
A sampling of the new and noteworthy headlines that grabbed the ConTechCrew’s attention over the last week. We’ve included a sprinkling of our commentary and analysis, but for full effect, you’ll have to listen in on our discussion.
There’s an API for that
If you don’t have an API, are you even pro? Integration is increasingly a must for any app, mobile or otherwise. So we’re stoked that Procore is taking its project management platform to a whole new level with its new “Embedded Experience” feature. The upgrade allows for fully functional versions of third-party applications inside Procore itself. You can natively access go-to tools like Google Sheets – as well as industry favorites like OpenSpace.ai, Earthcam, and StructionSite without leaving the Procore app. It’s the ultimate app alchemy. Look for more news like this coming out of Procore’s annual Groundbreak conference in Phoenix (where we’ll be repping JBKnowledge, of course).
Uber’s shift + refresh
It’s ubiquitous, essential –– and, well, bleeding money. With its stock tanking and regulatory agencies breathing down its neck, Uber launched a shift work finder, piloting in Chicago. It’s the “next step on Uber’s quest for sustainability,” writes TechCrunch, “both of its core business and, well, its reputation for exploiting labor.” (Oh, snap.) Will Uber Works be a boon to the construction industry? Uber has proved that there’s a massive, pent-up amount of supply and demand for gig work. Just don’t pitch anything to us as the “Uber of [blank].” Gross.
An app today keeps attorneys away
Our friends at Construction Dive took on the topic of what we like to call the last phase of construction: the Big L. You know it: the lawsuit. According to the Dive’s interview with Resolution Management Consultants, three key technologies can reduce the risk of litigation: scheduling software, 3D modeling (such as “digital twins” of the project) and data collection devices like in-building sensors. While the first two are no-brainers, Big Data is like the Wild West. Giddyup.
Room with a crew
Construction company DPR announced a new pilot program called BIM Track, designed to streamline its use of BIM technology. The web-based issue tracking platform is a “virtual big room” where multiple stakeholders can look at a 3-D model, post questions or comments, and collaborate on design. DPR reports that it’s used BIT Track for about 200 projects now. We’ve been following DPR’s innovations for a while now, and we’re pumped about the possibilities. Is there virtual pizza at these meetings?
Cross-laminated timber rising
Not a month goes by that we don’t talk about contech darlings Katerra, who just opened a cutting-edge, 270,000-square-foot mass timber factory in Washington state. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a promising technology. It’s reportedly more sustainable, easier to install and lighter in weight than concrete or steel, yet the downsides are real (wood, fire –– you get our drift). But one thing is clear: keep an eye on CLT technology and everything prefab as we roll into the 2020s.
This week in ‘add to wishlist’
Marla McIntyre’s contech column over at Construction Executive is always a must-read. In her latest, she covered everything from Austin Lane Technologies’ ALMobile Productivity Dashboard to the American Wood Council’s new calculator based on its new standards (hello, CLT!). The coolest news? We’re wowed by Sensera’s snazzy new PTZ500 jobsite camera and two new geek-magnet toys from Trimble: the X7 3D laser scanning system and the SiteVision augmented reality system. (Dear Santa…)