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WICHITA — A massive construction project shouldn’t be coordinated via text messages, said Chris Callen, pointing to a communications hole that’s been building since on-the-go industry professionals went mobile amid groundbreaking technology shifts.
Existing tools like Slack don’t work for many construction teams because projects typically involve team members from dozens of companies, said Callen whose Wichita company, Plot, is launching its communication platform to help all parties working on a job site converse effectively and keep track of conversations.
His goal for Plot: user-friendly access that encourages quick adoption.
“[We want to] make sure that the value is recognized as quickly as possible,” said Callen, CEO and founder of the company, as well as a Techstars Kansas City alum.
So far, the platform has 12 companies on board, and those early users are helping to refine features through their feedback, Callen said.
“Your early customers have your full, undivided attention, and they have the ability to help craft the roadmap for features, and they have their needs addressed first,” he said
Need for speed
The Plot team — Callen and three computer engineers — has been working at a breakneck pace since last fall, building the platform from scratch. Its first full web app launched this spring.
Such speed was possible by using a mockup testing process: For two to three months before even writing code, the team built mockups of the platform and tested it with 70 trade contractors and general contractors.
Callen’s team would demo the mockup and have testers share their screen so Plot’s developers could see how testers responded to the platform. This allowed them to quickly identify areas of hesitation or confusion, which the team could change to align with how users interacted with Plot.
Click here to learn more about Plot’s development.
Another strategy Plot’s team used to get off the ground quickly: examining trends in interface and functionality from social networks and other consumer platforms that users would already be familiar with and know how to use, Callen said. That results in less training for users and an easier uptake for all parties using the platform, he said.
Plot has powerful forces helping behind the scenes that have helped it get up and running. Koch Industries, also based in Wichita, made an undisclosed financial investment, and Callen said it has been “instrumental” in connecting Plot with contractors and suppliers in their network. Plot also tapped into Advanced Concepts, a company within the Koch ecosystem, to help create the mockups for product testing.
The concept for Plot came out of High Alpha Innovation, an Indianapolis-based venture studio, which Callen said has provided the go-to-market strategy and offered him access to connections with suppliers and mentors.
An ‘approachable’ option
Callen’s goal for Plot is to build up the user base through the summer and generate the proof of traction he’ll need to continue fundraising in the fall, he said. He’s looking for construction companies of any size — general contractors as well as trade contractors — to join the platform.
Whether they have implemented a lot of technology at their organization or not, Callen asks them to “try Plot or tell us why they won’t.”
“We really consider ourselves at that entry level — no previous experience required kind of adoption,” Callen said. “We’re very confident with what we have to offer and recognize that it’s not for everyone, but we do think it’s extremely accessible and therefore much more approachable than most of the software that contractors are used to seeing on the market.”
For example, Plot allows users to log in using their phone number and an SMS code so they don’t have to remember a username and password.
Each project will also have an external interface for parties that only briefly touch a job site, such as deliveries. The external site could have a map of where materials are to be dropped off and can be accessed without logging in, Callen said. The end result is a more seamless process for all involved in each project.
Click here to check out Plot’s demo job site page.
He also emphasized the benefits to contractors that join Plot early on because their feedback will help Plot cater to their workflows.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.