Setting our sights on the future of construction finance
Today, Siteline is proud to announce $18 million in seed and Series A funding to expedite construction payments and empower contractors. This investment marks a real milestone for us: it reflects how far Siteline has come as a company, the positive impact we've made for commercial trade contractors, and what we aim to achieve as we grow.
As we look ahead, I also want to make note of how we got here.
Why we started Siteline
The construction industry has long been rooted in cumbersome processes, delays, and slow payments to its many specialized subcontractors (also called trade contractors) — the teams who actually do the work of building. My dad was a trade contractor, and I grew up seeing the challenges of working in a very traditional industry, including the impact of constantly waiting months for payment. On the whole, construction hasn’t caught the wave of fintech and cloud computing as quickly as we’ve seen in other sectors.
I’ve seen firsthand the power of well-designed financial systems, which arrived to serve the needs of millions of people at the right time, as smartphones and cloud-based applications have become powerful tools. More than a decade ago, I was part of a team at Apple that conceived of Apple Pay, because as smartphones grew more sophisticated, they became replacements for our wallets. The end result was a simpler and more secure product for consumers. At the payments giant Stripe, where I was the first product manager, we served businesses who desperately needed to sell products and services online while managing security, compliance, fraud, reporting, tax, and other toilsome aspects of financial operations. Stripe’s genius was in creating easy-to-use workflows and interfaces for customers while enabling incredibly complicated systems under the hood.
When I came to realize that construction payments had not evolved much beyond what I had heard 20 years ago around the dinner table, I saw an opportunity to build a better way for millions of hardworking people like my dad. Around the same time, my co-founder Joel Poloney bought a house and undertook a major remodeling project. Everything took twice as long as it was supposed to — and cost twice as much as budgeted. As a serial entrepreneur with exits to Google and Zynga, Joel thinks about things from the perspective of first principles: to break down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassemble them from the ground up. That remodeling experience made him wonder why construction is so inefficient.
Applying real-world understanding to a real-world problem
Our experiences led Joel and me to the same conclusion: one of the reasons construction is so inefficient is because billing and payment is such a manual, error-prone, paper-ridden process. For context, most large construction jobs use “progress payments” — paying trade contractors based on jobsite progress tracked against the overall contract. Each month, complex billing packages called payment applications need to be produced by trade contractors, usually with myriad compliance, documentation, and general contractor- or owner-specific requirements. (If an amount is off by as little as one cent, payment is further delayed while people have to spend time adjusting spreadsheets and billing paperwork manually.)
This is a huge drag on the industry’s productivity as a whole, because when money doesn’t flow, jobsite progress can stall and create a cascade of downstream schedule delays. While many contractors can handle the physical work on larger projects, they are too often bottlenecked by their inability to reliably produce the copious billing paperwork required by owners.
Fixing this is the big challenge that drove us to build Siteline (we even did a deep dive on our decision to team up). Drawing on our previous experience, Joel and I discovered a huge opportunity to build a best-in-class system for contractors to manage the money side of their business. Companies with salespeople have CRMs like Salesforce at their disposal, and companies that hire people rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to keep the whole team in the loop and maintain accurate data. The majority of contractors, however, still rely on email, phone calls, and outdated spreadsheets to make forward progress. We found an enormous opportunity to create a similarly efficient tool for contractors with billing and payments.
Our company name, Siteline, is a play on the word sightline, an architectural term for an unobstructed view between a person and a subject of interest. Since we are increasing visibility and efficiency in the construction payment and billing process, Siteline fit.
Creating efficiencies where there were none
A lot of what we do comes from staying close to customers to see their pain points, and then applying good design and code to their problems with a first-principles approach. Two examples here: We’ve worked closely with AGA, a leading architectural curtain wall builder who has worked on iconic projects such as San Francisco International Airport, Griffith Observatory, and Microsoft and Apple campuses. As Operations VP Jeff Scalisi notes, “What used to take days or weeks, now takes hours.”
Another customer, a large mechanical contractor, tells us that with Siteline:
“The efficiencies are built in, and it's dead easy to train someone to use the system if I'm out of the office. I took vacation for the first time in two years!”
This is our dream: freeing up our customers to grow their business by offering them an easy-to-use product that handles most of the complexity under the hood. By creating building blocks to abstract complexity, Siteline works for both smaller teams and can handle more complicated workflows for larger customers. Of course, to achieve this, we need a stellar team. We’re lucky to have great people on board already (and since we’re in growth mode, check out our open positions).
One of our key leaders is Claire Wilson, Head of Construction Solutions. When working on mega-projects like Hudson Yards in New York City, Claire saw firsthand how difficult it was for contractors to manage their billing and get paid. She joined Siteline because she wanted to be part of the solution for those front-line teams.
“This used to be a handshake business, but contracts are getting more and more complicated over time. All of the risk is on the trade contractors, who actually do the work in the field. They track everything manually with phone calls, emails, and spreadsheets, and don’t have any modern tools at their disposal.”
“It’s incredibly difficult for contractors to hire right now, so throwing more people at all the paperwork will not scale as businesses grow. I knew there had to be a better solution, and I wanted to be part of that change.”
Senior Software Engineer Oliver Manheim joined Siteline largely because he was impressed by the company’s investment in user experience. In his words,
“Enterprise companies often deprioritize design, because the standard for software in the industry is so low. Siteline's commitment to building a top-tier, consumer-grade product really differentiates the platform—and it's what makes it connect so well with our customers.”
The promise of a purpose-built platform
The industry is long overdue for a real-time, collaborative solution like Siteline. Trade contractors need access to real-time financial data, since things can change daily or even hourly on the job. And since they work collaboratively across trades and with multiple back-office teams, manual processes just don’t scale. This is the first time anyone has made a purpose-built construction finance platform putting the needs of trade contractors first.
We see an immense opportunity in construction tech, particularly by helping the contractors who are the backbone of the industry. Over time, we hope to expand to more constituencies and more products, based on our vision of building a modern construction finance platform that provides a better way to expedite, track, and process trillions of dollars that flow through the construction industry every year. We’re grateful for the trust we’ve received from Menlo Ventures, First Round Capital, Brick & Mortar Ventures, Designer Fund, South Park Commons Fund, and our awesome angel investors, and look forward to building a better future together.