Insite IT: working on a Paperless Site
Imagine the construction site for a hydropower plant or a steel mill, situated in a remote area of India or Brazil. Hundreds of deliveries arriving on site within a week. Thousands of workers, hundreds of sub-contractors populate the place. Every shipment of material is frantically unloaded where there is room to be found. Time is of the essence, every delay can cost millions. It is positively chaotic. And, as Internet access is patchy at best, documentation is often poor and on paper only. Often, no one knows where the materials needed next have been stored.
Order into Chaos
Three young entrepreneurs from Upper Austria have designed software to bring order into that chaos. The company is Linz-based Insite IT GmbH, and their product is called Insite LMS, as in “Lean Management System“. On the market since 2011, the software has already proven its value on construction sites in India, China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Laos, to name a few.
Its major advantage and USP is that it has a clever way of doing the job even if there is only very limited internet bandwidth and poor coverage. The modules support project management as well as collaboration with suppliers and knowledge-management. The worker present when a delivery is unloaded can geo-tag the material on their tablet and thereby mark the spot on a map, with the software working on modern mobile devices.
I left for my first big construction-project in Saudi-Arabia on my eighteenth birthday.Cofounder Thomas Roithmeier about the beginnings
In spite of their young age, Insite IT-founders and directors Thomas Roithmeier, Andreas Simader and Florian Altmann bring a lot of experience to the table when it comes to managing industrial plant construction. „I left for my first big construction-project in Saudi-Arabia on my eighteenth birthday“, remembers Roithmeier, who joined a large Austrian corporation specialising in the construction of industrial plants after graduating technical secondary school (HTL) Leonding in 2006.
He quickly advanced to IT- project manager for construction sites in Saudi Arabia and India, and later left to build his own company. In 2011 Roithmeier had teamed up with Simader and Altmann, two former classmates from HTL and founded Insite IT GmbH to sell their software to the big guns in the field.
„For the three of us, traveling to exotic remote places has become pretty much normal. One time we were in Nepal, where our software was used at the site of a hydropower plant. We had to go there to train people to use Insite LMS. To reach the site we had to travel on dirt roads to the very back of a 200 km long valley, a journey of 10 hours.“
Building Trustis Half the Sale
Working with big corporations has its advantages, but also poses challenges. „It takes perseverance and patience“, says Roithmeier. „Between your first presentation and the closing of the deal, often a whole year or more passes. And then, of course, these corporations are just so much larger.“, Roithmeier only half-jokingly adds. „For us, this mostly meant we had to convince them that we know the problems they face at their sites, and that we are capable to solve them.“
Building trust, the three young software-developers had to learn, is fifty percent of the sale. Neither of them is yet thirty years old, and in the boardrooms of their customers-to-be, they faced experienced management and tech personnel of multinational companies who are used to negotiating contracts worth hundreds of millions of Euros.
Underestimation Sparks Motivation
The technology in use; Photo credit: Insite IT
Being underestimated, Roithmeier remembers, was part of his motivation to become an entrepreneur in the first place. “As a young employee I found it difficult to convince my superiors that I was capable of doing the difficult jobs.“ But he was not willing to wait in line until it was his turn to tackle the challenging tasks.
„Before we started out, we developed most of the software in our spare-time, while we were still employees. So when we founded Insite IT, we already had a finished product to market.“ They received a grant from tech2b, the Upper Austrian center of the AplusB incubation network. Apart from that, Insite IT was financed through revenue from the beginning.
Applying for a grant helped more than just money-wise – filling out the necessary forms served as some sort of checklist, Roithmeier recalls. The application process compelled the founders to keep in mind all the small, but necessary details in their business plan.
Steep Learning Curve
Despite that checklist, Roithmeier and his colleagues now admit they forgot one or two things. „If asked for advice by startups today, I would strongly recommend sales training“, he admits. „We had to learn the hard way that you have to adjust your presentation- style and contents – according to your audience. It does make a big difference whether you speak to a business person or a construction manager.“
Another advice he has for startups: „If money is your sole motivator, I think you should not become an entrepreneur. It’s quiet often that your employees makemore money per hour than yourself did.“
Next step: The U.S. Market
We had to learn the hard way that you have to adjust your presentation style according to your audience. It does make a big difference whether you speak to a business person or a construction manager.
The next targets for Insite IT include expansion to the United States, where they opened an office in 2014. „There is a lot going on there at the moment; we are currently on board witha project of Voestalpine, an Austrian steel and technologycompany building a plant in Texas.“ Roithmeier has high hopes for Insite US. „Americans embrace modern technology. During our first US project, I remember being asked a lot why we didn’t use tablet computers – unlike now, this was then not yet standard equipment for us Austrians.“
Another order of business will be making the software more suitable for smaller projects and smaller companies. By doing that, Insite IT will try to acquire a broader customer base, circumventing the dangers of working for only a small number of big customers.
Things are looking good, even if it is admittedly hard to foretell the future. „It is difficult for me to say how many developers we are going to need in 2015. We started out three friendsfrom school, now we are ten people. How many we are going to be this time next year, depends on how many of our prospects turn into actual projects.“
Asked about his work-life balance, Roithmeier says he is trying not to work on the weekends. He exercises recreationally by running or skiing, and he states: „I do not need any exciting hobbies. My job gives me all the excitement I need.“
This story is brought to you in partnership with AplusB, a programme funded by FFG.