“Successful entrepreneurs (versus wantapreneurs) have strong, sensible convictions.”
Location: Chicago, IL
Product / Service Offering: Risk Management Platform for Real Estate Development
Co-Founder Interviewed: Cory Davis
Other Key Management Team Members: Michael McMahon, Chief Knowledge Officer; Dan Zarletti, Executive in Residence
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight Series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
I have been involved in construction for over 25 years, working in both the public and private sectors. When I was young, my parents purchased a 200 year old inn on 200 acres of land in New York that was converted into a single family house so there was never a shortage of things to do. I studied engineering and business, as well as law, to couple my practical experience with strong educational foundations.
Problems in this industry are that 35% of construction costs result from remedial work, material waste, and high accident rates. It is a large market that needs to become more efficient and more profitable.
5 questions to ask when writing a mission statement
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
I started Capital Construction Solutions in 2014. The idea grew from thinking about innovative ways that construction management companies could approach technology and differentiate them in a hypercompetitive market.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Construction companies need a way to track best practices in the field in real time and ensure that their employees are always being trained. By using predictive analytics, companies can monitor and pivot from issues quickly before the problem starts to affect the project and other strategic partners.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
We are developing a way for companies to partner on a project by project basis. This enables companies throughout the supply chain to purchase the software and share information with each other so all parties can stay on track or close to budget and time. This partnership coupled with developing a knowledge sharing platform is unique for the industry.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest problem has been educating the market in what we are building. No one has tried to aggregate best practices and put them in a way that can be used by the construction field. Most relevant information is hidden in white papers or put into a spreadsheet, which does not allow effective collaboration and continuous improvement.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
Being part of an incubator or accelerator provides companies with resources, partnership opportunities, and workshops that are very pertinent to companies that are starting out. Increased money from local governments and businesses are the best bets for emerging companies to grow. Capital Construction Solutions was fortunate enough to be part of the best incubator, the Elmspring Accelerator at 1871 Chicago’s Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which allowed our company to thrive.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We have raised money once through Friends and Family and once with an angel investor. When the second funding came through, I provided projections to my board on how many sales would be achieved with the notion that more money would need to be raised once we developed revenue of $10,000 per month. Once that milestone was achieved we still could not raise money. If I had to start over I would broaden my advisor base to get additional feedback on the investment climate.
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Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
I still have a hard time getting to the right people in large companies. When I get in, most companies like our products and want to implement them within the company. More companies should create an innovation section to their website which would provide a way for companies to recognize innovation opportunities. Great companies are already doing this.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
There is a lot to do with only a handful of employees, especially when the company is being financed by your personal 401k. The challenge is more about bandwidth. The startup will most likely not be successful if you are underutilized.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
There is a tremendous amount of lists that are available for companies to develop contacts in the industry that do not involve buying them from companies. This should be an activity done by your employees when time is available.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
I think that being an entrepreneur requires a lot of conviction.
• You have not seen your family in two days. Do you still have conviction?
• You are cashing in your personal 401k to pay expenses. Do you still have conviction?
• Your products are not being adopted quickly. Do you still have conviction?
• You are continually being rejected by investors. Do you still have conviction?
Successful entrepreneurs (versus wantapreneurs) have strong, sensible convictions.
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