The building industry may not seem, at first, to be a natural fit with the Internet. However, a San-Francisco-based software firm has shown that the bricks-and-mortar world and the virtual world are a perfect fit. Bidcom has created an Internet-based project management platform called In-Site, which allows collaboration between the key players in a building project, including designers, architects, contractors, realtors, developers, facilities managers, and clients.
Most projects in the building industry pull together dozens of these key players who come and go on a project over months or years. Their paper-intensive environment includes blueprints and technical drawings, work and purchase orders, schedules, contracts, permits and other legal documents, and requests for information (RFIs). A wide variety of events can cause delays on construction projects, many of which can be avoided with the fast turn-around provided by the Bidcom In-Site software.
Well before construction begins, the Bidcom software accepts online bidding from contractors and provides planning and forecasting data. During the construction phase, it allows all the parties to collaborate through handheld devices via a project Web site. The In-Site software synchronizes all input with the Web site’s Oracle database.
Customers include Charles Schwab & Co., the city and county of San Francisco, Federated Department Stores, The Gap, Siemens, Stanford University, Sun Microsystems, the University of San Francisco, Visa, and Ziff-Davis. The company has 132 employees, and was named by Fortune as one of the “coolest companies of 1999” and by Red Herring as one of the top 100 companies of the electronic economy in 1999.
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The building industry is one of the world's largest industries. In the United States it accounts for 10 percent of the gross national product (GNP). Worldwide, it is a $3.2 trillion industry. Bidcom does have some competitors, including veteran software maker Autodesk Inc. and a handful of start-up firms.
The building industry is ripe for several things that In-Site provides: time and cost savings and the ability for all project participants to collaborate quickly via the Internet. For example, a large construction company in San Francisco, Swinerton & Walberg, is currently conducting 15 building projects using In-Site. The City of San Francisco is using In-Site to coordinate the high-speed transfer of information among 130 members of a large project.
Many project members carry Palm Pilots to access the project’s Web site, both providing and receiving information. Clients do purchase the hardware (Palm Pilots) but are not expected to purchase the software. Instead they lease it from Bidcom and pay a per-user, per-month fee for the software and its integration with their handheld devices. Advantages to this system include the immediacy of information, which ultimately eliminates inefficiencies, saves time, drives down costs, and allows projects to end ahead of schedule—all tremendous advantages in the building industry.
Bidcom is privately held. Investors include Internet Capital Group, Oracle Venture Fund, and Partech International.
- Daryl Magana, founder, chief executive officer and president
- Salvador Chavez, co-founder and executive vice president
- Larry Chen, vice president and chief technical officer
- Betty Yamanaka, chief financial officer
- Alan Cooke, vice president of sales
- George Peterson, vice president of operations
- Susan Foley Kane, vice president of marketing
- John Payne, vice president of engineering
What others are saying about Bidcom
“Construction isn't the sort of industry you'd think would make a hot market for computer technology, but [Daryl] Magana [CEO of Bidcom] believes it's ripe for Webification. Bidcom's service, called In-Site, takes the disparate, mostly paper-based elements of a project—blueprints, field reports, purchase orders, work permits, and so on—turns them into bits and bytes, and links them on the Internet. Bidcom hosts these documents on a server and lets the people who come together during a project—executives at the company that owns the building, architects, general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers—access them easily through a Web browser. Contractors can share work schedules, site engineers can file field reports, architects can amend blueprints, and executives can check the status of the whole project.”
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