Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy Series: Go Figure
Justin Call is the CEO of Go Figure, an app that dramatically reduces the time to provide a construction proposal to a customer, from over 3 hours to just minutes, and accurately orders materials for a job. The app was created by Meadows Construction Company, a firm in Newburyport, MA that provides residential and commercial construction services.
Tell us about your background in the technology industry.
I started at the University of Buffalo’s tech transfer office. My job was to figure out whether a technology developed by a university researcher had commercial viability and was patentable. If we felt it had potential, I would go out and try to sell it to companies. Some companies would tell me they found the tech interesting, but they weren’t interested in licensing a raw technology, or they didn’t have a research and development team, but they’d like to purchase the company that created the technology.
Why do you think these companies were hesitant to license the technology?
They wanted validation. They wanted the technology to be further down the development cycle. So, I started developing startup companies around the university technology. Sometimes I would lead a company or take a supporting role. If I was running the company myself, I would try to get funding and then find the next layer of management to continue building it.
There were a lot of failures. It was a great way to learn how to build startups, though, because in the tech transfer world you’re lucky to win one percent of the time. So even though I failed consistently with different technologies, it wasn’t viewed poorly in the office. We had a ‘dust yourself off and try again’ attitude in the office. It was a lot of fun.
How did your position in University of Buffalo’s tech transfer office lead to you becoming the CEO of Go Figure?
The cool thing about working in the tech transfer office is that they offered to pay all my fees if I went back to school. I figured I might as well take a few law classes. Then I was doing so much business, I thought I’d take a few MBA courses.
After I got my JD/MBA, I was hired by a law firm based in Boston, called Ropes and Gray. As an associate, I handled a lot of venture capital finance, intellectual property, and private equity deals. I was then hired by a tech / data company called, TravelClick, where I worked as their head attorney and in various product development roles. After that, I opened my own law and business practice where I do IP and product development for lot of companies, including some startups. That’s how I got involved with Go Figure.
Why was Go Figure created?
I joined Go Figure as the CEO in January 2018. The app was created by Meadows Construction Company, a firm that is heavily involved in commercial building, but has branched out into residential construction. They have a great production method and a very disciplined approach for exterior remodeling jobs, like siding and windows, but they noticed that their estimation process was taking too much time.
What was Go Figure’s former estimation process?
Estimators would go to a residential site with a tape measure and notepad, take the measurements of the building, write them down, drive back to the office, input the measurements into an Excel spreadsheet or calculator, type it into a proposal, drive back to the home, and hand it to the homeowner — if everything went according to plan. It would take 3 or 4 hours to complete this entire proposal process.
Often an estimator would get back to the office and not be able to understand what was written or would get busy with other essential matters, so the proposal would never get typed up.
How does the estimation process work with the Go Figure app?
Using an iPad, an estimator can go to a residence, take photos of the outside of the house, look at the pictures within the app, and then add siding or a window to the picture — whatever the client requests. Since the labor and material rate is included, the app automatically takes what has been added and calculates the price. Then the estimator creates a proposal right there at the construction site to show to the prospective customer. The whole process with the app takes 10 to 15 minutes.
What is Go Figure’s accuracy rate?
The app’s accuracy rate is 99%. But the real benefit is that because the proposal is delivered right there onsite, the ability to convert the proposals into sales goes way up. Most contractors are lucky to convert 10% of their proposals into sales. Go Figure customers increase that to over 40%.
What is your background in the construction industry?
Before he retired, my father-in-law ran a construction business. I worked there as a mason tender over several summers and vacations. So, I’ve always had a rapport with various individuals in the construction industry.
How did you hear about the AFRL Commercialization Academy?
What motivated you to participate in the AFRL Commercialization Academy?
We’ve only been selling the app for a year and are currently raising capital. While we have been in discussions with potential investors, the team needed to learn how to do such things as developing a deck and a business plan. The AFRL Commercialization Academy appealed to me because we could gain the ability to do these things and get feedback. It’s nice to have an extra set of eyes and thoughts.
Talking with Wasabi Ventures partners Chris Yeh and TK Kuegler has been great. We also talk with Michele Pesula-Kuegler, Program Director at Wasabi Ventures Academy, quite a bit. We’re definitely getting what we were hoping to out of the program.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy Demo Day on May 31, 2018?
Demo Day will be a great opportunity to refine our pitch and get feedback on it and our business model. I’m always surprised when I meet someone who is new to the construction industry or Go Figure app who sees something that we don’t see.
The team knows we have a great product. That’s not hubris. We just know we have a cool product. We have a lot of great ideas on how to expand the product to make it even better. We have a lot of people experienced with construction who also have a software background. What we want is constant feedback, though. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and get so focused on executing the product and distribution strategy that we lose sight of the bigger picture.
Favorite home improvement show?
Go-to beverage while working on Go Figure?
I don’t really have a go-to-beverage. I’m naturally caffeinated. I rarely drink coffee, unless I’m very tired.
A morning person or night owl?
I cannot sleep past 5:00 a.m. I usually don’t need to set an alarm, but this hasn’t always been the case. I remember my father mentioning the same thing when I was younger, and I thought, ‘That’s crazy. I’ll never do that’. But I can’t help it. I can’t sleep past 5 a.m. Even if I’m up the night before past midnight.
Usually my working hours start around 5:00 a.m., but I hardly ever stay up past 9 o’clock at night.
Music the team plays for motivation to keep going?
We don’t listen to a specific kind of music, but we’re all massive Star Wars junkies. On one of my first calls with the other team members, I heard someone’s phone ring and they had a Chewbacca ringtone. I thought it was funny because I have many Star Wars ringtones. My ringtone right now is R2-D2. So, the team likes to talk about Star Wars and science fiction in general, because we’re all major geeks.
Would you like to see how Go Figure is revolutionizing the construction industry? Meet the team at the Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy Demo Day on Thursday, May 31, 2018. Watch them pitch to compete for the chance to win either the Judges’ Vote of $15,000 or the live Audience Vote of $5,000 at Griffiss Institute, 725 Daedalian Drive, Rome, New York!