Interview with Mostafa Akbari-Hochberg, President & Founding CEO of HoloBuilder
How did you come up with the idea of your start-up? Tell us about your experience in the construction industry.
The HoloBuilder team believes that value added 360° imagery data can unlock tremendous potential for the construction industry and it is our goal to enable any jobsite team to get to know and understand this new powerful format. After winning the RICOH THETA Developer contest during our R&D phase in 2015, we introduced simple, handheld 360° cameras (such as the RICOH THETA series) to the construction industry by building a simple workflow around these cameras that contractors can easily pick up and use: they can capture 360° photos of their jobsites and organize them by location & time. All they need is a mobile device that they pair with a 360° camera via our JobWalk App.
The starting point for our success story was the founding of bitstars GmbH in Aachen, Germany. It happened with an EXIST start-up grant as a spin-off company of the RWTH Aachen University. In 2015, the founders received the support of the “German Accelerator” program. With their help, Mostafa Akbari-Hochberg, Co-Founder and Managing Director moved to a new office in Palo Alto, California.
The Accelerator program ended, but the team stayed. With the new name HoloBuilder Inc., we moved our headquarters to San Francisco in early 2016. Based on the success in the American market, the headquarters are still located there, while the entire research and development work continues in Aachen, led by the Co-Founders Simon Heinen (CTO) and Kristina Tenhaft (COO). Since then the German office is called “bitstars – A HoloBuilder company” and HoloBuilder, Inc. has evolved into a construction technology company that designs, develops, and sells enterprise SaaS software that is used by 59 of the Top 100 US General Contractors and gained the trust of strong investors, including Brick and Mortar Ventures, Tandem Capital, E.ON, Foundamental, and NRW.BANK.
How does your solution work and what technologies do you use?
We provide construction companies with the ability to create a realistic digital representation of their construction sites with 360° Photo Capture (what we call “Digital Progress Record”). Our clients are able to share their Digital Progress Record in real-time with general contractors, subcontractors, owners, and more project stakeholders. Our software optimizes our customer’s workflow, leverages collaboration, and increases transparency by allowing them to share the same information and perspective with everyone. Remote teams can visit the construction site from wherever they are by using the internet to view and navigate through the Digital Progress Record (what we call “Remote Site Access”).
On top of that, we’re innovating with cutting edge technology. For example, we co-developed SiteAI (an Artificial Intelligence solution that utilizes Computer Vision and Machine Learning to analyze materials, objects and structures in 360° imagery data for automation of construction processes) or SpotWalk (our integration with Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot that can walk job sites autonomously, capturing 360° photos that record the progress of a construction project over time) with our customers to unlock the full potential of 360° image technology. With the approach of combining 360° imagery data, machine learning and robotics, HoloBuilder is the fastest and most insightful solution to document construction projects.
Construction companies are rather conventional thinkers in terms of digitalization. Was it challenging to build trust in the sector and help constructors make it to the new level with your software?
It’s no secret that many industries are making significant productivity improvements over the recent years whereas construction is one of the last industries to be digitally disrupted. The industry often got away with “doing things as they’ve always been doing them”. But quite a few understood the value of technology, created dedicated innovation teams and now many of the leading contractors have started to digitize an increasing number of their workflows. This means that the non digitized companies start losing bids. As a result, we see an unprecedented amount of general contractors and trade partners jumping on the digitalization train, which makes the future look bright to us!
Congratulations! You are a TOP 5 Finalist of the Smart Building / Smart Construction Innovation World Cup®! How did BIM World MUNICH 2019 help you boost your business development?
We had many great conversations with new and existing customers thanks to the Smart Building / Smart Construction Innovation World Cup® and the BIM World MUNICH Congress!
What networking opportunities are you looking for?
We’re always looking for open-minded believers in technology that would like to join us on our mission to move the construction industry forward. We believe that the way to success will always be based on building together in a strong network of customers, partners, employees and friends.