Bricks and Mortar on the Web
Burton, Jonathan, Chief Executive (U.S.)
Nobody feels the heat of an upstate New York summer more than a carpenter working on a home, and Carl Bass has spent plenty of hot, humid days hammering nails and sawing lumber around the college town of Ithaca. Originally from Brooklyn, Bass used his carpentry and cabinet-making skills to pay the freight at Cornell University, and in 1978 he traded in his hammer and saw for a degree in mathematics.
Today Bass, 43, is still building. He's president and CEO of Buzzsaw.com, a San Francisco provider of Internetbased project management tools and services for the construction and design industry. Buzzsaw.com was conceived and incubated by Bass while he was chief technology officer at design-industry software giant Autodesk.
It would have been easy for Buzzsaw.com to remain a unit of Autodesk, where most customers are architects and engineers. But Autodesk chose to spin off the operation, keeping a minority stake for itself and inviting outside investors to shoulder some of the risk. The move enabled Bass to reprise his role as a start-up entrepreneur (six years earlier Autodesk had acquired Ithaca Software, a successful graphics software firm he co-founded).
In October 1999, armed with Autodesk's branded clout plus $15 million from Autodesk and influential venture capital firm Crosspoint Venture Partners, Bass launched Buzzsaw.com with the promise to bring high-technology to the oftentimes antiquated and traditional $3.9 trillion global construction industry.
"Our biggest competition is the existing way people do their work," says Bass, who knows his way around both a spreadsheet and a blueprint. Construction jobs are joint efforts between property owners, general contractors, subcontractors, architects, and engineers. Yet these projects frequently become disjointed, plagued by miscommunication and mistakes that lead to cost overruns, lost time, and other frustrations. Buzzsaw.com aims to solve that by acting as a virtual conference room and storehouse for these collaborators to meet and view each other's work. Its technology covers each step in the construction process, from design to ribbon cutting. In this way, Bass says, project managers and contractors can monitor developments at a building site without ever leaving their desks, saving them time and money.
Buzzsaw.com features several innovative communication and collaboration services for subscribers who pay a monthly usage-based fee. Professionals can produce, transmit, and store digital blueprints; exchange plans, forms, change orders, loans, and other legal documents; and bid out specific work to qualified subs. "Project Folders," for example, allows users to post drawings and discuss them online with the project team. …