While some fantastic digital tools are coming to the construction industry, one of the unforeseen consequences is the growing amount of data and documents generated throughout project life cycles. As digital documentation becoming integrated into each step in the building lifecycle, documents are being created almost continuously. All those drawings, submittals, specifications, plans, models, safety manuals, and RFIs are useless, however, if they can’t be found.
When the founders of California-based startup, LINQ, set out to form their company, they didn’t come in with a solution in search of a problem. Instead, they took on the task of interviewing more than 300 trade workers, trade contractors, general contractors, engineers, architects and owners about what was frustrating about their daily work. After months of interviews, the founders of LINQ realized they’d found a consistent thread. Getting information quickly was a problem – but not for the reasons one would think. Instead of having a lack of information, there was an information overload. Information stored in digital documents were housed in a plethora of niche systems, making it difficult to get answers to simple questions. According to Head of Growth Kevin Soohoo, this source of inefficiency became the problem that they didn’t see anyone else trying to tackle – especially through the lens of a trade contractor.
“A lot of startups entering our space focus on making a solution without really understanding the problem, or making a solution for which there really isn’t a problem. We found there is already a really big problem – and that’s what we’re trying to solve.”
The proliferation of task-specific applications has led to the decentralization of these documents, and a single piece of information can be confoundingly difficult to locate and access quickly when there are so many places in which it could be located. Without a clear workflow to get needed information, time is wasted in searching for answer in many different places.
Reducing the time to get answers
Contractors of all levels can relate to the frustration of having many types of documents in separate systems, saved as a plethora of file types, and even within email accounts attachments getting buried by new messages. This can mean that getting the answer to a question, for example, “What is the insulation thickness?” often requires a phone call, a waiting period, or a search that takes up valuable time.
“A real loss leader in construction is rework – and where the rework is coming from is bad communication and/or a lack of access to timely information,” says Soohoo.
LINQ set out to solve this problem by creating a data and documentation tool that intelligently indexes worksite documents to make them easily searchable. This can give any user the power to instantly retrieve only the most relevant and current information. LINQ pulls in information from the various “silos” of construction information and joins together the correct data at a single point. The application is unique in that it uses natural language to perform searches.
Ask the application “What is the insulation thickness?” or search within a project for “insulation thickness” and you’ll quickly get an answer. It can also understand and learn the relationships between the construction data – and can suggest documents that are related to that search that might be helpful to look at, such as an accompanying schematic. Their goal is to have their software work just as well for the “tech-pro” as it does for those who prefer traditional tools.
With their focus on the trade contractor – a target audience that is often missed by cutting-edge-tech – LINQ hopes that they can contribute to a significant reduction in rework without requiring a complete retraining of contractors already on the job.
Series A Funding, launch plans
LINQ was forged out of the Stanley Black & Decker (SBD) technology incubator in 2018, one of three projects that was selected to solve real-world construction problems through technology. They plan to formally launch their product by the end of the year, and the recently awarded Series A funding from SBD lines up LINQ for rapid growth towards that launch. Jake Olsen, LINQ Cofounder and CEO is grateful for the support of SBD as they get closer to launch.
“We are very excited to have the continued support from the largest tool company in the world – their contribution on our board, deep domain knowledge of the global construction industry and operational expertise has been a fantastic asset to LINQ.”
What LINQ’s efforts have revealed is that when you ask AEC professionals what they need to do their work more efficiently, you won’t necessarily get a wish list for cutting-edge digital tools. Instead, their day-to-day frustrations come down to something much more fundamental: finding accurate information, quickly. Combined with a dedicated focus on making the tech intuitive to use (and reducing further time on retraining), LINQ is well positioned to encourage its adoption in the AEC space.