Autodesk Forge Funds eSUB
Emily Pollock posted on May 16, 2018 |
eSUB’s labor-focused software helps subcontractors keep records and communicate problems that occur. (Image courtesy of eSUB.)
eSUB’s labor-focused software helps subcontractors keep records and communicate problems that occur. (Image courtesy of eSUB.)

The Autodesk Forge Fund has invested in eSUB, a subcontractor-based software as a service (SaaS) project management solution. The investment is meant to help eSUB develop a product integration with the Autodesk BIM 360 construction management platform, which both parties hope will create a greater connection between subcontractors and the rest of the industry.

eSUB's customers are subcontractors—a segment of the market thus far underserved by project management solutions. "General contractors and subcontractors have totally different roles," said eSUB CEO and President Wendy Rogers in an interview with EngCom. "General contractors act as the line between design and subcontractors. Subcontractors' make or break process is their labor, which means they need to know what's happening in the field on a daily basis."

One of the problems that subcontractors face is a communication breakdown with the rest of the team, where management isn't informed about issues with a project quickly enough, nonconstructible design forces costly reworks in the field, or scattered reporting means that contractors aren't paid for the full amount of their work on a project. Another challenge is labor productivity—the construction industry hasn't experienced the increase in labor productivity that has occurred in most fields over the past 50 years.

To that end, eSUB's software options include time card management, a mobile app that makes it easy for users to upload data changes from the field, and a project management app that allows users to construct and store things like daily reports, meeting minutes, and RFIs. For Rogers, it's important to have software that caters specifically to the subcontracting market: "You can't take a system that is written for general contractors, water it down, and market it to subcontractors."

And it's that subcontractor-centric approach that Autodesk Forge is interested in tapping. Forge is a connected developer cloud platform that lets engineering, construction and manufacturing customers make their own customized design solutions. eSUB will use that investment to develop the connection between its own software and the Autodesk BIM 360 construction management platform.

eSUB is Forge's fifth investment in a construction technology company over the past year. Its earlier investments have included Project Frog and ManufactOn. But it is the company’s investment in eSUB that represents its first foray into the subcontracting field. For Autodesk, that's a huge, untapped market share—estimated to be worth $2 billion in the U.S. alone—far larger than the market for general contracting.

“The complexity of construction projects is largely underappreciated by those not earning a living in the building industry,” said Jim Lynch, vice president of Construction Product Line at Autodesk. “At any given time, hundreds of subcontractors are hard at work on a project, which requires substantial oversight to avoid logistical nightmares. This investment represents Autodesk’s and eSUB’s ongoing efforts to reduce risk to people and the project, increase transparency, and improve job site accountability.”

Rogers is "absolutely thrilled" about Forge's investment in eSUB, and her optimism about the investment is larger than her own company's stake in it. To Rogers, and others in the subcontracting industry, the move signals an increased respect for the part subcontractors play in the building process.

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