November 19, 2018

Pillar Technologies: Building Integrity into the Construction Industry

Pillar Technologies is a data and information services company for the construction industry. They provide a unique product combining hardware, software, and never-before-seen analytics to a space that has seen little efficiency improvements for many years. Originally formed in Boston out of Wentworth in 2015, the team has since grown by double and is now embedded in the New York ecosystem at Company (formerly Grand Central Tech).

“We use smart sensor networks to collect environmental data that can reduce risk and damages on construction sites. That data helps improve the safety and profitability of those projects and our hope is that we will be one of the first to bring awareness and transparency to this industry at scale,” says Founder and CEO Alex Schwarzkopf.

alex schwarzkopf pillar
Pillar Founder and CEO Alex Schwarzkopf.

“Our physical product is what we call a ‘pod,’ which has sensors in it that collect data about the environment; temperature, humidity, dust particulate...anything that you would be concerned to either breathe in or that could be an indicator of a potentially dangerous condition like fires, water leaks, or mold growth,” Schwarzkopf said.

The pods collect information on eight different environmental metrics in total, targeted by conditions that have historically cost contractors and builders millions per project, depending on severity. The analytics component of Pillar’s offering alerts the construction site leader to take action to address the issues to mitigate or prevent them entirely.

One of the biggest challenges facing the build out of Pillar’s product has been the “lack of infrastructure” on the job site. Schwarzkopf explains, “There’s no power, no Internet, there are no walls...we had to ask ourselves, ‘How do we build something that can live in that environment and still collect the data that you need to generate value?’ Looking at the market, there are consumer products like Nest, which we had seen construction companies use before, but we couldn’t find anything designed for construction that could scale. We had to build this ourselves from the ground up.”

At this stage, Pillar is focused on large, commercial build-outs such as apartment complexes and hospitals, citing high insurance costs as the primary driver for customer adoption. “These are buildings where if you mess up, it could cost you millions of dollars and have potential long-term health implications for the people that live or work there,” Schwarzkopf said.  

After three years of operation, two accelerators, and several rounds of funding, Pillar is setting their sights to become an “awareness tool,” scaling the technology they have built in order to embed a new level of integrity into multiple consumer outlets.

“I’m most excited that a lot of the initial walls we faced have come down, and people are starting to understand that this will work and it does work. It’s incredibly rewarding to be at a point of that isn't just focused on survival.” Schwarzkopf says. Immediate goals for the company are the growth of their operations and customer service teams, and development of strategic partnerships to help them go to market.

Schwarzkopf attributes most of Pillar’s success to the company’s decision to stay in New York after graduating from the Techstars program in 2016. “We built a home here and found fellow entrepreneurs that really wanted to support us. We had access to an incredibly diverse community that we just didn’t experience in Boston. It’s been a precious commodity for us. Plus I can get Thai food at any hour of the day, on any corner, so that's a plus.”

Kalei Buczek is a Contributor at VentureFizz