Our Founding Story: The Origin of Relay's Pre-Construction Management Software
We started working on the idea for Relay Construction Solutions in early 2020 with the vision of advancing the world of pre-construction through the power of technology. We discovered just how painful – and expensive – the lack of connected modern systems is for construction firms of all sizes. We wanted to solve that problem. Today, Relay is the industry’s most advanced pre-construction management software solution. We are proud to partner with firms to digitize pre-construction processes, helping these firms deliver on-time and accurate bids, while learning from historical bids.
The Initial Idea
Adam Wolf spent several years as an estimator, including nearly three years at one of the nation’s largest construction firms, McCarthy Building Companies. He quickly discovered that despite technological advancements in nearly every aspect of our lives, the pre-construction process seemed left behind.
Adam struggled with seemingly endless back and forth phone calls, information scattered in disparate spreadsheets, and disconnected digital documents, not to mention the lack of historical bid details. To move faster and with greater accuracy, Adam and his team came up with ad hoc solutions to keep things moving, but the same old way of doing things seemed to slow them down. What they needed was a sophisticated system, a way to standardize processes no matter what the bid called for.
Discovering Parallel Challenges
Adam began talking about his idea for a construction bid software with Mark Bahorich. Mark had previously built and sold an oil and gas tech company. As the two connected, they began to recognize parallels between the obstacles facing contractors and trade specialists during the pre construction phase and the obstacles facing oil and gas companies during the exploration and production phase.
Both industries had to make expensive decisions in the face of multitudes of unknown risk factors. Unfortunately, professionals in both industries also struggled with large gaps in data, as well as legacy workflows that made it difficult to stay on track in light of rapidly-changing details.
Mark had successfully built software to solve some of the oil and gas forecasting issues. The two discussed pre-construction workflows in depth and came up with some initial concepts for how to bridge data gaps.
A vision also began to form: if a highly complex and legacy industry like oil and gas could change legacy workflows and data silos through innovative software, the pre-construction industry could too. Like Mark had done for the oil and gas industry, Adam and Mark saw an opportunity to drive more predictable outcomes, help estimators better manage their workfload, and ultimately reduce costs for the commericial construction industry.
Emphasizing User Experience
One of our initial core tenets was to build software that felt accessible to a non-technical audience. We knew that we’d have an uphill battle as we sought to transform a primarily paper and spreadsheet process into something tech-first if we didn’t find ways to optimize the workflow that felt natural and intuitive.
We turned to a friend of Mark’s, Eric Hope, who had experience in another fast-paced and data-heavy industry for inspiration - video game development. Similar to other forms of software, successful video games have to pack thousands of data points and snippets of information into a intuitive, actionable user interface (UI). The details and presentation matter. Small decisions can dramatically impact the usability of the end product.
After a surprisingly short conversation, Eric joined the Relay founding team. He believes the future is applying the lessons he’s learned in his roles at Apple and Valve to real-world industries. The Relay team sees Eric’s expertise in product definition and design as a key element that sets it apart from existing tech solutions sold to the construction industry. Relay is deceptively easy to use for the complexity of work being accomplished. The industry no longer needs to settle for dated, competitive systems that mostly accomplish the task at hand.
Forming a World Class Team
With the founding team in place - Adam on business development, Mark leading strategy and partnerships, Eric on product, and Lauren Bahorich on operations, we set out to identify and recruit the right team members to turn our vision into a reality.
Since few of us had deep technical expertise in the construction industry, we wanted to find an industry expert who could help us refine our concept and offer guidance along our journey. We have since joined with Jay Snyder to offer us the expertise we wanted. With 15+ years of construction experience, Jay has witnessed transformations in the construction industry first-hand and believes it’s still ripe for innovation, especially on the pre-construction side. We were thrilled when he agreed to join us as an advisor.
Today, Relay is a team with roles across business development, customer success, research and development (R&D), marketing and operations. We’re dedicated to listening to our customers and trade specialists in order to continue designing a better, faster, bolder approach to pre-construction management.
Partnering with Industry Leaders
The Relay team is finding a hunger for process improvement within the commercial construction industry. We honestly have been surprised by our hit rates with both cold calls and warm leads. We are finding that owners and management are actively seeking solutions to their current inefficient workflow and fragmented data environments, motivated in part by the difficulties in collaborating in remote-work environments. Challenges with collaboration are really only the tip of the iceberg for contractors; we hear time and time again of labor shortages, decreased bid turnaround time, increased owner expectations for bid transparency, and constantly shifting market dynamics. We are in a extremely difficult time for an industry that was already well-practiced in navigating difficult situations.
As one Director of Pre-construction told us, “I wish I could celebrate winning a bid. Instead, I immediately start worrying about what we missed.” A CFO at another frim told us his team recently uncovered that they were underpricing a particular division by 40% repeatedly and had no idea how long that had been happening. This does not need to be the status quo for contractors today.
Relay starts as a workflow transformation tool to allow estimating teams to work efficiently and effectively. In creating a single environment for all pre-construction data, however, Relay also cuts down existing data silos and unlocks a contractor’s access to historical bids. For the first time, contractors can easily and continuously learn from past projects to improve future ones.
We will continue to develop our product with the aim of enabling our clients to plan more predictable projects and prevent margin fade, and we're eager to learn from industry leaders in construction. If you have some thoughts or interest in shaping the future of pre-construction technology, please contact us to schedule some time to connect.