Most startups feel tremendous pressure to grow fast, get hot, and be the next big thing. But when Matthew Hudelson founded Inertia, he spent years focusing on nothing but the product.
This is one of the big advantages to bootstrapping, he says. “Through the years, it gave us time to understand teams and problems, and the focus wasn’t financially driven. It was solution driven, problem solving and relationship building, and just going and proving something.”
On this edition of UpTech Report, Matthew talks about his first efforts to solve problems for construction teams, and his steady, gradual approach to building a company around those solutions.
More information: https://www.inertiasystems.com/
Matthew Hudelson is the Founder and CEO of Inertia Systems. Since 2010, Matthew has worked alongside builders, owners, inspectors, architects and project teams to learn and solve the challenges they face on complex construction projects with technology.
The Inertia Platform is a location-driven construction management software that fosters seamless communication throughout complex projects, connecting construction teams from field to office on a visual and location centric platform.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Matthew Hudelson 0:00
A lot of times, you know, keep it simple is, is the answer. We’re doing the opposite. We’re actually trying to go to be the most comprehensive solution. So we can actually solve the biggest problems. And the biggest problems are all the disconnected people and parties that have all their independent agendas.
Alexander Ferguson 0:22
I’m excited to continue my conversation with you, Matt, we heard in our first part around your construction management platform. 10 years you built this? Obviously, over this time, there’s a few insights you’ve gained. I’m kind of curious, how did you get to where you are today even go beyond before the 10 years? Tell me what’s your story?
Matthew Hudelson 0:43
The story. The story, as it’s typically told, is used to build software web applications. And I got approached by some, you know, internal network, and they said, Hey, can you help us solve this problem in construction? And it sounded really appealing? And so I said, Yeah, I’d love to try teach me and, and so they, they taught me what it meant to build a hospital in California, they taught me all the regulations. And I set off to learn more like what, what are the emerging trends in software, what are concepts and construction, those were building information modeling at the time, which was going to be big and still working to be big, and IPD, integrated project delivery concepts of shared risk and reward construction teams work towards a common goal, and don’t battle each other for liabilities type things. And so learning all this stuff, you see, like, there’s some really cool technology out there, you see how there was like this really neat, 3d emerging concepts and how all these really skilled people have problems connecting with each other, and so set out to build inertia to solve these problems. First, by that, you know, single click on something to access information, click on a wall to know about that wall, click on a mechanical system to know about that system. And in learning those trends, we set out to build inertia to be like, a complete solution that connects all these different teams, which is an ambitious goal, because a lot of times, you know, keep it simple is is the is the answer, we’re doing the opposite, we’re actually trying to go to be the most comprehensive solution. So we can actually solve the biggest problems. And the biggest problems are all the disconnected people and parties that have all their independent agendas. But you can solve those problems with a truly connected platform that understand their unique points and connects it organically. Naturally. If you don’t ask him to change, he’s asking to use this tool, this tool lets them do their thing. And so in taking that approach, we’ve, we’ve just we got to learn, like I got to learn, you got to see the problem from your users perspective. And you got to like walk the jobsite and see like, Hey, I’m clicking this button, this button doesn’t go fast enough in that it, you make me you know, it makes me sad, it makes me frustrated, it makes me this that the other thing. And so you get to learn, like what matters to the teams and how all that stuff goes. And anyway. So that was the journey was we set out to build a comprehensive platform connected to interactive maps that solves bigger problems in construction. And over the years, you just learned like, agility matters in software, a lot of times these users will come up with great questions and great like, features that as long as they’re sort of universally applicable, we always try to put them in, we’ve been told about like some legacy tools that had existed in construction, that didn’t adapt, when people were asking to and didn’t innovate, they just sort of stayed put, they stayed with what was working, and they just kept trying to grow with what they had. And our users expectations were rising, and they wanted more or faster or better, or just different, who knows what. And so one of the initial things we set out to do was to just, you know, maintain agility, like, take the feedback, if it’s really valuable to put it to the top of the roadmap, get that feature out. And, and we’ve had a lot of success in identifying what are actually valuable requests to our users, and incorporating them in a way that’s universally applicable to our platform, and to construction in general. And so I would say, agility was a big one. Another concept was relationships. I mentioned before, like, you’ll get projects that will run three, four or five years. And what’s neat about that is you get to know the people on these teams that you’re working with, and you’ve formed bonds and friendships and you know, there’s times that you’re going to be wildly successful in your tools kicking butt, and they just love it. And there’s gonna be times where totally crashes and bombs and everyone’s frustrated. And you don’t want to show up on the job site because everyone’s just like, like, Hey, I lost this information, press Save, it didn’t save and it was an hour’s worth of work. And I’ve faced those meetings too. But through relationships through showing up all the time and through knowing that you’re going to get through that problem. Make up for it. Just get get it done. Like understand, like people learn to not just trust your application, but trust, you know, the team, the people that are behind that application, and that that’s been a really important one for me too. So my biggest sort of Lessons for Success, agility in the software and relationships with the with your teams.
Alexander Ferguson 4:57
powerful insights to to have learned over Over the years, we were talking earlier, another, maybe something might have done differently is on the funding side when you began bootstrapped, you were you knew how to build software, and you built it, but then trying to grow from that. So tell me a bit more dive into like, why would you how do you view funding now? And is there anything that you would advise another individual who’s who’s looking to grow or get funding?
Matthew Hudelson 5:27
Yeah, it’s interesting. So we’re also we’re in business to business, and we compete against some really well funded organizations, we’re, you know, we like to see ourselves, I’m biased, of course, but on par with some of the biggest guys out there, and we do get co deployed alongside of them. And we even went over business, more often than not from from some of the bigger, bigger companies. One of the advantages of not funding was there was no pressure to earn or grow early. And I’m not gonna pretend that we set out to be this this rockstar company, when we got started, it was more like, Hey, can Can I can? Can we do this? You know, can I solve this problem? Can you just click on the thing and make it go, and it slowly gained traction. And for years, we didn’t have even a marketing site, like it was just word of mouth, and you went to our website, and it was just a client login, you wouldn’t know anything about anything that you’re doing, you were actively using our product or platform. And through the years, it gave us time to like, understand teams and problems and the focus wasn’t financially driven. It was solution driven problem solving, and relationship building, and just going and proving something. And so that was nice, like, I’m told by a lot of people to get early funding, there’s a lot more pressure to succeed a lot more rapidly. And you’re making your decisions are driven differently by different motives. And we didn’t have that problem early, which I think was lucky. We got to really understand the problem take time to, I think solve it. But there’s also a con if you’re not making any money, you’re not going to survive. So you got to make enough money to survive. And we had a lot of projects, we were successful, we’re doing good. But we weren’t huge. And you see a bunch of other companies that they have nice and good tools, sometimes even great tools. But they were funded well, and they just exploded. And now all of a sudden, they’re they’re knocking on doors, they’re there, they have a budget to wine and dine your customers then pick their brains to learn about what we’re doing. And little things like that. And hey, you know what, they’re on to something, maybe if we get some backing to we can grow a little faster. And we eventually decided to go that route. Also.
Alexander Ferguson 7:29
You mentioned earlier team also is very important. And having that to be able to to grow? What are some lessons learned of building the team where you are today? Anything that you can share?
Matthew Hudelson 7:42
Yeah, it’s that’s critical. Team, and we’ve had some really long time developers who’ve been really committed to our efforts. So early going, you know, budgets always an issue when you’re getting started, especially if you bootstrap. So you cut corners where you can, and one of the ways you can cut corners is an overseas development teams. And so I’ve established a relationship with different overseas developers that we’ve had for years. And we’ve had different teams in different regions and zones, and we’ve had us based and you name it, we’ve done it all. And what’s neat about this is we actually form you for like a bond with your team, and your team stays committed to the problems and like, you can throw really challenging, you can go into some really challenging scenarios with some really complex problems. And everyone’s just, like, committed to getting it done, like the bond is there, like, Okay, we’ll push through this, you know, we’ll find the answer, we’ll find a way to commit it, we’ll put in the extra hours, we’ll work together, you know, everyone, I’ll stay up through midnight, they’ll stay up to their midnight and everyone’s the it’s just, it’s just nonstop effort to get things done in through that you form really strong bonds, and I’m really happy with the team that has been committed to getting us where we are over all the years. And then since then, it’s been a really neat learning lesson for me to to build up a US base team with season, you know, pros from other companies and other industries, even that have been able to come in and form like what our initial team is now. And it’s neat to get you know, someone who really knows finance to help on the finance side and someone who really knows marketing help in the marketing side and someone who’s running like a big development organization before and it’s not like this spaghetti code, bootstrap approach. It’s like a really structured process and you learn all these lessons from everybody and you try to give people the power and the freedom to do what they do well and then learn from them. And so I think I don’t know I don’t know if I’m answering this right but it’s it’s choosing the right people having the right culture having like common attitudes, like we’re problems are fun to solve and you want to take them on and when you when you can, when you can gel there it is it’s really neat to like build a team that’s all aligned and working towards common goals.
Alexander Ferguson 9:54
Definitely can see then that comes together. How big is the team today?
Matthew Hudelson 9:58
We are up to I believe it’s 30 One. Yeah,
Alexander Ferguson 10:01
gotcha. And those latest ones you’ve been looking for what? What qualities do you look for? When you’re hiring someone?
Matthew Hudelson 10:08
Interesting. Um, you know, I think attitude is, is a big one, like, it’s hard to say skills. I mean, obviously, you want people to be skilled at what you’re asking them to come in and do. But if you don’t align, you know, culturally, or if you can’t have the same like fun or enthusiasm or like, you just want to just want to go and do it, you know, you got to get people that have that common sort of attitude. You want to balance a little too, like, we have we have. Me personally, I like to balance like someone if I’m incredibly optimistic, and I think we can accomplish anything we set out to do. And we’ll always bite off a little more than we should. And we’ll find a way to get there. And it’s nice to have a counterweight to that sometimes, too. So I do try to make sure we have teams in that our team will say, hey, check is maybe we shouldn’t do that, or a fresh approach or different attitude or so I think a balance to the team building is good. But also that same like enthusiasm, the the the concept that okay, let’s set a plan. Let’s get this done. And let’s go do it. And we all complement each other well, like support each other, get along with each other, all that
Alexander Ferguson 11:10
switching areas now looking at clients. So one thing is okay, build the team. The other is acquiring a clients, going from the first one to then a few. And then going beyond that, what tactics have you found that have worked to be able to scale your clientele and those using your platform?
Matthew Hudelson 11:32
Yeah, that’s a good question. So our background was, we spent just a lot of time in the job site trailer working with the teams. And if there was like a pain point, like, oh, I can we can whip this up, my team can code something in like a month to solve this problem. And so that was that agility concept was their heads down, get it done, put it in front of them and say, Hey, if you think this will work, and then they said, Yeah, we think it’ll work and we pay a sport, and then okay, we’ll pay for it. And so they did. And that has worked nicely for us initially. And what we have been able to do is establish relationships with those projects that have grown sort of organically, and spreads sort of organically, because now you get this project team that refers you to the other projects, and we don’t have marketing. Like I said, we didn’t have all these other ways for people to learn about us. So it was the people who use this referred us out to their other projects and teams or took us with them when those projects ended. And so our approach, up until recently, has been that it’s through our success on existing projects with existing clients to push us in grow organic. Yeah. Which has been kind of, it’s been great. And you people know, you trust you and know that you’ll come through and all that kind of stuff. But now we’re trying to be, you know, a more proper organization, and we brought in some season, you know, people who know how to run a sales organization, and they’re setting us up, we’re having proper marketing campaigns, and I’m not really, I’m not seasoned in this stuff. So I’m not gonna pretend like I’m an expert in any of it. I’m, I’m lucky to be surrounded by really talented experts now. And they’re, they’re pursuing the more traditional approach to getting the word out, getting the message out, connecting with the right target audience and getting some exposure. Yeah.
Alexander Ferguson 13:12
What? What challenges do you see coming up for yourself, you’re going to need to face in going into 2021, in order to address
Matthew Hudelson 13:21
you know, so interesting, when you say challenges, there’s a couple there’s traditional business challenges, but then COVID, which is for everybody, travel was a big thing for us like getting out. And spending time with people, showing them software in person, like, connecting on human in person and human way, was always really advantageous. And in the way, I’d like to do things. I think the way most of our people in this industry like to do things. So challenge, one challenge is just the the new norm of doing things through zoom, doing things remotely, we will succeed there will we can achieve the way everyone else is working through it, we’re going to find a way to make that go. But adapting to that the new norm. That’s one of the challenges, but that’s for everybody. A specific challenge for us is ICD. So we have a pretty comprehensive platform for construction management. But ICD is really is the future. And so ICD is what connects all of our different tools and concepts and makes it proactive predictive and fun and cool. And just, it’s it’s a really great solution. But what will be really neat about it. And also challenging is we’re going to start to offer these ICDs to our other solution providers out there to be like an underlying technology in their platforms, so that they can start to connect the dots of all their records through our interactive location based maps. And so I see some initial challenges are getting the licensing agreements going finding the best ways to integrate our tool with all these other really robust tools and finding ways to make it you know, mutually beneficial and a win win situation for everybody. So that’s that’s what we set out to do this next year and it’ll be Gonna be a fun challenge there to tackle.
Alexander Ferguson 15:02
Where do you go for insight and knowledge and to learn any books, audio books, podcasts, blogs that you can recommend.
Matthew Hudelson 15:13
You know, my, my wife does all of the reading and audio books and she she goes through so many. And then she refers all the best ones to me. And then I try to listen to them when I can. I’m not nearly as proactive as she is at this stuff. One of the one of the fun ones that helped it’s inspirational to me and it’s a simple one, it’s a fast reading, it’s probably why it worked for me, tools of the Titans. It’s a really neat collection of stories of it’s a couple 100 You would call them successful people across different industries, and fair affairs, Tony Ferriss, and it’s just neat because it’s a it’s it’s concepts in health and motivation. It’s concepts in business success, it’s concepts in just across the board. And I don’t know that one was one that I enjoyed very much. Harvard Business Review sends out some neat stuff to like, you just get cool little lessons, there’s, there’s, it’s interesting to, for me to read all these takes, and then try to apply them in real life. That’s the, there’s a lot of there’s great theory out there and you try to introduce it in real life. And sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t, or you realize you’re not connecting the dots, like the things that you thought were gonna work, don’t quite work. But you find a way, when you learn agility, that’s when you go back to agility. You know, you try something, if it works great, you stick or you adapt it or if it’s not working, you just got to pull it. Finally, well. Last question
Alexander Ferguson 16:45
for you, Matt. What kind of tech innovations do you predict we will see in the near term, and next year or so and long term, next 510 years.
Matthew Hudelson 16:57
I will only stick to what I think I know is the construction side. And so I like to say our tech is useful now and embraces emerging technology. There’s some really cool tech coming down the pipeline in construction. It’s not quite there yet, but it will be soon and it will be game changing. One of the neat ones I saw was robotics, like just the automation of assemblies. It’s It’s really neat. I saw this, this TNR convention, they have this dog, I think it was Boston electronics there they make they make this robotic dog, they can walk through a construction site and with its four legs, it can properly navigate all the obstacles and maintain a perfect level balance. And then they could put 3d cameras on it and a bunch of sensors on mechanics. I
Alexander Ferguson 17:42
think Boston Dynamics awesome. Anyway,
Matthew Hudelson 17:43
that’s it. Thank you. Sorry. Thank you. Really, really neat. And so one of the GCS piloted this tech and it looks like it’s going to work. It’s a little expensive, it’s hard to reproduce, but they’re not quite there yet. But it’s really cool. It’s probably it’s gonna catch on and it will be the way of things in the future. So I think seeing robotics, automation, 3d printing, I think that’s going to be some game changing stuff. Absolutely. And hopefully we can partner with those those games and help help make them successful too.
Alexander Ferguson 18:10
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