An Australian Builder's Mission to Revolutionize the Construction World
Takeoffs.io Founder and CEO, Chris O'Halloran gets himself ready for a busy day with a cup of coffee.
The life of a tradesman is challenging. Work starts with planning, followed by plenty of physical labor. And at the end of a long day, a mountain of paperwork often awaits. At Takeoffs.io, we're eliminating much of the deskwork required to start construction projects by streamlining construction estimating software.
This mission began just a few years ago with our CEO and Founder, Chris O'Halloran, who is a tradesman himself.
I Started as a Carpenter, Building Things is in My Blood
If you ask Chris how he got into construction, he will confidently reply, "I started as a Carpenter." And given his family history, Chris's comment is not surprising. "Something inside me always knew I'd end up in construction, my dad was a Carpenter and my grandfather was a Stonemason. Building things is in my blood," says Chris.
But it would seem that technology also holds a place in Chris's heart, he went on to say, "Before I became a carpenter, I thought about becoming an Electronics Engineer." In his youth, Chris tinkered with technology but never studied officially.
Reminiscing about this time in his life, Chris recalls, "I remember when I told my father I left school. He asked me how I was going to pay the rent? I had to tell him, 'I don't know.' So my dad suggested I work with him as a laborer." Eventually, Chris became a carpenter's apprentice and soon became fully entrenched into the trade.
But First, the Army
However, another calling of Chris's youth would detour him from his career as a tradesman. A few years after becoming a Carpenter, he joined the army. Speaking about the experience, Chris says, "The army wanted me to be an engineer, but I joined to be an infantryman, so that's what I became."
Despite his time in the military, Chris never strayed far from his origins as a tradesman, "While I was in the army, I studied to be a Builder (General Contractor) in the evenings. By the time I finished my years of service, I was ready to be a licensed Builder (GC)."
The Project Management Path
Chris began working for home builders after his time in the army was complete. During this period, he had the opportunity to work with some of Australia's largest home building companies. "It was a great experience working with large home development projects and I was very skilled at the work. One time I broke a company record for the fastest time to complete a two-story home," Chris proudly comments.
Eventually, Chris moved into a management position where he supervised the construction of over 200 homes. And while he enjoyed the work of home construction, Chris found himself wanting to learn about the budgeting elements of the business. "I began to look for construction project management jobs," Chris pined, "But I found myself pulled into project management for the technology industry."
Takeoffs.io's online measuring tool allows builders and contractors to complete their estimating via the web.
When Technology Calls
Moving from construction to tech project management was not uncommon in the early 2000s. At the time, tech companies were growing fast and found themselves pulling from other industries to fill their demand for skilled talent.
As it turns out, project management in construction is not too different from technology management. Both require the wrangling of various work processes and management of people and resources to ensure a job is completed with high-quality standards and on time. Ultimately, both construction and technology product management requires establishing a framework that allows you to build something incredible from raw materials.
Chris's tech project management work primarily involved training government agencies and large companies in agile techniques. Chris says of the experience, "The last 12 years I've spent in technology has given me a lot of insight into what technology can accomplish. This work has also satisfied the hacker part of my personality. I've always been into tech and software, especially on the bleeding edge of innovation. For me, working with tech is all about satisfying my curiosity."
Memories Come Flooding Back - The Simplicity of Building
In his heart, Chris never strayed far from his first profession as a carpenter. "I had reached a fairly high point and experienced great success in my project management career," said Chris. He continues, "But I found myself missing construction work. Sometimes I would drive by a construction site to stop and watch. The smell of fresh-cut timber would hit me, you know, and all these great memories would come flooding back. I appreciate the simplicity of building a house and experiencing the satisfaction of seeing what you made that day. "
In 2017 Chris decided to get back into the construction business. One of the early steps for a contractor to bid on a project involves completing a takeoff. This is a detailed process that requires recording the materials needed, pricing them and determining a profit margin for the job.
"I looked at takeoff software for construction," Chris explained, "and I realized that the tools used were essentially the same tools I used 20 years ago. I never enjoyed completing the takeoff process. It's not taught in trade or builder's schools; tradesmen are left on their own to figure it out."
The lack of innovation with on screen takeoff software is concerning, especially when you consider what is at stake for contractors. "Completing a takeoff is a high-risk proposition, particularly when you're working with many different materials that equal hundreds of thousands of dollars with a small margin for profit," Chris explained.
Takeoffs.io makes ready with swag in preparation to attend the 2019 World Plumbing Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
The Genesis of an Idea, Realized
While the concept of construction estimating software is nothing new, Chris had an idea to revolutionize the process. "I knew there were companies out there that were doing estimating as a service. But I had a thesis that a builder would want to upload their plans into an app and have it come back with a full bid on materials," said Chris. Here was the genesis of the idea to streamline the takeoff process with a modern software solution. His goal is to develop automated takeoff software so takeoffs can be done in near real-time.
To get the ball rolling, Chris worked on the Takeoffs.io project on the weekends, finishing all the coding himself. "I remember when I first launched the early version of the site, we did about $3,000 in sales the first weekend," said Chris. After strong initial sales, it was clear that Takeoffs.io was an idea that could achieve scale. Chris hired programmers, so he could continue to build and create a bespoke automated takeoff software platform.
After making some refinements to the software, Chris began to run digital ads for Takeoffs.io and started to see real results in the form of increased sales. "Soon we were doing between $15,000-$20,000 per month in sales, it was great to grow so quickly, but it was also hard to keep up with. I knew I would need a capital injection to grow as fast as I wanted to," said Chris.
Enter the Investor
As fate would have it, famed Silicon Valley investor Jason Calacanis was traveling to Australia to host his popular LAUNCH Festival. The conference is an entire event dedicated to promoting technology entrepreneurs.
Chris emailed Jason directly over three months to ask for a meeting. With each email, Chris reported Takeoffs.io's increasing sales, which doubled and tripled during that period.
Chris's persistence paid off when Jason responded and was invited to pitch his concept on stage. "When the dust settled, I was awarded $100,000 from LAUNCH as an investment in my company," said Chris.
Chris was also invited to attend the LAUNCH Accelerator course, which is a 12-week boot camp held in San Francisco. "It was exciting to spend time in San Francisco, learning from Jason and his team and pitching to VC's. And it was especially exciting to set my sights on doing business in the US."
In the next chapter of the Takeoffs founder's story, we'll explore how the initial $100,000 investment from LAUNCH.co changed the development arc of Takeoffs.io's on screen takeoff software. We'll also dive into Chris's experience of building a team and his experiences in Silicon Valley.