Eradicating paperwork, boosting productivity
UTS graduate Hartley Pike’s startup is transforming project management, starting with the construction industry
Hartley Pike believes document management in the construction industry is overdue for a shakeup. “The majority of information is still housed within disparate systems, spreadsheets, standalone apps that don't talk to each other,” says the Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Structures) graduate about current methods. The drawbacks? Organisational analytics and performance insights are lacking.
Sitemate, the startup he co-founded offers a complete solution for capturing, organising and tracking work. Using Sitemate’s software platform Dashpivot, digital documents are built from the ground up and customised to needs, creating a standardised database to easily pull insights from. “It’s organised, structured and sequential.”
Hartley grew up around engineering; his father was in construction and Hartley remembers school holidays spent on-site. “I was always interested in the industry, but I wanted to go more down the engineering path.” UTS was a big draw because of the Practice Program: two six-month internships as part of every engineering degree.
Within the first 18 months of his course, Hartley was working at a major construction company—and that’s where the idea for Sitemate sparked. With companies increasingly governed by legislation, paperwork is overwhelming and time-consuming to process, he explains. “A lot of existing solutions are based on storage of traditional document formats like Word, Excel and PDFs, Dropbox style. There's always going to be a place for that. But when you've got hundreds and thousands of documents, we believe that the bigger opportunity and problem to be solved is by making the storage process redundant.”
If it wasn't for the Practice Program, Sitemate wouldn't exist. I wouldn't have gotten that exposure so quickly and the framework at university to give it a shot.
Founded with fellow UTS student Sam McDonnell while studying, Sitemate (named Construction Cloud at the time) was supported by the university, won the US Virginia Tech Global Entrepreneur Challenge, and was introduced to the not-for-profit investment organisation Sydney Angels for funding. Money aside, having the right attitude is essential, Hartley stresses.
“There's a lot of buzz around startups at the moment. The most important thing is to be working on something you understand both from the problem and solution perspective better than anyone else—and ideally something that you've experienced personally.”
It’s what keeps you going after the initial honeymoon period and things start deviating from plans, which can lead to weeks or months of feeling like giving up. Sitemate probably experienced “every challenge in the book,” Hartley recalls; rebuilding the product, the team and undergoing a major rebranding.
You've got to be in it for the long haul. And if [the product] is not something that you care about personally or have experience in, there's lots of opportunities to work in startups on real problems, as opposed to trying to think that you have to create something new just for the sake of it.
There were moments for celebration: being selected for Startmate, Australia’s top accelerator program according to Hartley, was inspirational. Some industry mentors he engaged with at the program had created successful companies with hundreds of staff in just a few years.
“It was a transition point. We made some serious decisions around the team, the way it was going, and set in motion the rebranding decisions.” Their customer acquisition dramatically increased as a result—Sitemate has gone from one country in August 2018 to over 120 countries in April 2019.
Thanks to $1.3 million in funding in 2018 from the accelerator and UTS connections, Hartley and his team are focused on further developing Dashpivot’s core functionality and looking to recruit new members.
With the engineering side, it's very technical and the bar is high, but we still don't compromise on that most important value: having people that are down-to-earth and willing to go out and talk to customers in person.
Regarding technology, he notes the construction industry isn’t as advanced as others like manufacturing when it comes to automation and real-time production analytics.
“Unless you've got a digital foundation in how all of your processes are run, you can't layer on levels of autonomy and complexity. There's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built before something like that is possible. And that's what we're trying to build.”
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