Boston-based contractor Suffolk’s BOOST tech accelerator program is designed to bridge the construction technology gap. It gives participants access to capital and feedback from industry pros who are invested in new and upcoming solutions.
London-based Qflow, an app that helps contractors weigh material costs and waste data on site to impact a project’s carbon footprint, was one of this year’s crop of BOOST companies.
Here, Qflow co-founders Jade Cohen and Brittany Harris speak with Construction Dive about the firm’s experience in the program.
This story has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: Congrats on getting selected for BOOST. What do you think made your application stand out?
JADE COHEN: I think it was our core focus on ESG and carbon and what that data means for construction companies.
There’s a lot of information that we can take from the European market and translate that into learning about carbon footprint for U.S. companies like Suffolk and others. From our perspective, that was a big part of the reason that we ended up joining the program.
What did you learn from BOOST?
It’s a six-week, very intense learning experience to explore more on the U.S. market. Is this space ready for a product like ours? Is there an appetite for looking into decarbonization? What entry routes are available?
We’ve got a much better understanding of all those points now, having gone through this program.
I think what has surprised us is that the U.S. market is probably a bit more ready for a product like Qflow than we perhaps envisioned to begin with.
What problem does Qflow solve?
BRITTANY HARRIS: The construction industry and construction teams are being asked to deliver more with less.
Qflow helps reduce waste and improve the efficiency of not only the delivery of projects, but their long-term operation of them as well.
So the role Qflow plays is to help teams deliver more sustainably, more cost efficiently and more safely in an economic environment that is massively increasing the pressure on them.
How does BOOST play into the industry’s efforts to more quickly adopt technology?
COHEN: The BOOST program is a fantastic vehicle, because it’s based on the concept of any company being able to test fast, fail fast and fix fast.
But whatever any company chooses as a vehicle for implementing change, it is categorically culture that will drive the success of whether those innovations will work.
It’s interesting, we were talking to another major general contractor the other day, and they asked us, “do we need to open up a corporate venture arm,” or “how do we better work with startups and get ahead,” or “is the BOOST program something we should be trying to replicate?”
And the honest answer is, if you are a privately owned company like Suffolk, and you have that sort of buy-in from the CEO, then that is a really great way of accelerating tech development. But that’s not necessarily the right approach for every big company.
For many, it’s being able to identify pain points within their organization, and then identify solutions to those pain points on the open market, instead of trying to build it themselves.
But what you do need to build internally is the culture of tech experimentation and innovation.
You need to build a culture that allows you to experiment and to deploy innovations for a limited period in a safe and structured way. That’s how you will understand whether it’s a good fit for solving that problem or not.
It’s the culture that lets you do that.