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Built by Builders: Featuring Cameron Page of Clearstory
Steve Dell’Orto • 06 Jul 2023

Built by Builders: Featuring Cameron Page of Clearstory

Tune in to this Built by Builders episode with Cameron Page, Founder and CEO of Clearstory. In this interview, Cameron and Steve discuss industry challenges and the future of construction. As a former Senior Project Manager of 10 years, Cameron’s experience has given him firsthand knowledge and unique insights into the challenges faced by GCs, particularly when managing change orders and tracking out-of-contract work.

The Built by Builders interview series by ConCntric features conversations with entrepreneurs who have construction backgrounds and have started technology companies to address the pains they have experienced in their construction careers. ConCntric’s Founder & CEO, Steve Dell’Orto, chats with guests about the importance of technology in the construction industry and discusses the various solutions being developed.

Watch the full Built by Builders video featuring our Founder and CEO, Steve Dell’Orto and Founder and CEO of Clearstory, Cameron Page, here:

Steve Dell’Orto: Welcome to Built by Builders. This is our video series highlighting construction professionals who have started tech companies to provide solutions for the construction industry. What’s unique is that the individuals in this series are people who have first-hand experience, having been from the industry, with the pain points for which they’re solving. We truly believe that this kind of experience is what’s going to drive the industry forward in the most effective way possible. Today we welcome, Cameron Page, the Founder and CEO of Clearstory, formally Extracker. Cameron, you’ve been in the industry as a Senior Project Manager and an ENR Top 50 General Contractor in the Bay Area. You have a ton of experience in operations dealing with change orders and everything that you are solving with Clearstory. I want you to share a little bit about the genesis story and also how you’re different from other project management platforms. 

Cameron Page: Thanks for the intro, Steve. Clearstory is a change order communication tool that’s purpose-built to reduce risk for all stakeholders, not just the company who buys our software and uses it. We work with specialty contractors, general contractors and owners. 

Specialty contractors tend to be at the bottom of the totem pole and change orders can represent a good chunk of their revenue. Whether that be plan changes or changes that are unforeseen, they’re relying on those things to be approved in order to bill for them. Clearstory is a big cashflow opportunity for specialty contractors to take back some of their own time, and we give them tools to help them do that. Most importantly, we give them tools to help them communicate with their general contractor. 

For general contractors, Clearstory focuses on reducing risk. We’re not a replacement for whatever you’re using for traditional change order management and project financials. We’re a tool to help you capture that data and get it into the system of record faster. 

When it comes to owners, we’re really about helping them make value-driven decisions. How can we—knowing where your budgets at—act as fast as possible and give you the ability to add value to your project before the project is over? I know that ConCntric focuses on similar concepts but a little bit further upstream. How are you seeing stakeholders adopt your platform to get real-time data and communication on the preconstruction side? Ideally, so there’s less detours.

Steve Dell’Orto: Ultimately, if you think about preconstruction, there’s a whole array of different workflows, all of which are just separate ad hoc spreadsheets. There is very little served by any form of official software that’s really built for that specific purpose. When dealing with so many workflows, individual solutions may not necessarily solve the problem of unifying your data. 

We have been extremely well received thus far as a platform approach because we say that when you are doing preconstruction, we want you to have a single source of truth. We centralize everything conveniently in one place and we have the ability to integrate with any existing software that our customers use and are used to using. But at the same time, taking all of that data and structuring it and being able to do the things that you couldn’t otherwise do with disconnected ad hoc solutions. From your experience, as a Senior Project Manager, what were some of the things that you were encountering that made you really want to build Clearstory?

Cameron Page: There’s a fundamental gap that we’ve identified that we’re solving. When you think of traditional change order management software, it’s all internal facing. It’s where you forecast a PCO or PCI, a potential change order to your budget. But what you are really trying to understand is, “How is this change going to affect my bottom line?”. There’s a lot of other internal workflows you’re working with in those systems and every company that we interact with has their own system of record. And because they’re private, we don’t use those tools to align on what’s outstanding as far as what’s changed. So what happens is we rely on tools like email correspondence back and forth, reviewing the documents, or maybe even downloading it to Bluebeam to mark it up, in order to understand our risk and make sure we haven’t missed anything.

The bane of everyone’s existence is tracking extra work on T&M. The T&M process in our industry exists because people don’t want to pay a quote of 10 guys working overtime on Saturday if only 8 of them are showing up and 3 of them are going to leave early. We’d rather get an estimate and then track it on T&M so the appropriate amount is paid. There’s always going to be a need for tracking things on T&M, which it’s not going to go away. But as an industry, we can’t continue to do it on carbon copy, email and Excel spreadsheets. We are looking to get people to embrace the fact that it’s a part of our toolset to complete a job and we can use technology to help us enable it. Steve, I know you did it for 26 years, are there any particular insights or experiences that led to you creating ConCntric?

Steve Dell’Orto: Not any particular experience, the list is dozens long! I just remember being in meetings with our team and our client and observing how all of this was going, project after project, meeting after meeting. The one thing that I found very frustrating was, no matter how good of a job the estimating team did, it was very hard for them to communicate the entire story about what was going on in the project and do it in a way that everyone in the room could understand. I wanted the listeners to be able to visually see what was being reported and for the estimators to be able to explain historically, how the whole process went on that particular project. And relative to other examples, whether it’s comps or a third party estimate in play, it was just wildly inefficient. Communication was pretty ineffective and with everybody being so busy—barely able to get their tasks and their estimating work done or any of their planning work—they didn’t have time to take that data and put it in a format that is more presentable. I realized that if we can help tell that story visually, we can save time in individual meetings and help everyone better understand the process. Pulling all of this together is a significant step forward to having projects teams become far more effective, and have a much more predictable certainty of outcome for everybody. That’s ultimately why I left my career and started ConCntric, to take on these pain points and highly inefficient processes that made all of us just want to pull our hair out. What do you think of the future, Cameron? Do you have anything top of mind that you see in the future for our industry? 

Cameron Page: I think most other industries use a lot of software. I think our industry has rightfully been reluctant to use a lot of software because they’ve been burned in the past and I think right now there’s a big push to get everything on one platform. The challenge with that is if we all wind up on one single platform, we are not using technology to differentiate ourselves. We’re using traditional things to differentiate ourselves—which is great—people, quality, experience, which are really important. But I really believe that companies that are going to win in the future are the companies who are able to create a tech stack around the best tools that are available for them to leverage and create true differentiation with technology. I think a lot of legacy solutions in our industry are walled gardens that don’t have an open API or frankly, have deeply purpose-built integrations, like what I believe we have at Clearstory. I think with that mindset we share a lot of data. Something that comes to mind when thinking about ConCntric and Clearstory working together, is that we track transactions. So we track every change order that has been sent to you as a general contractor, and we are beginning to automate a reason category of the change. We can tell you which one is overtime, which one needs paint touch up, which one’s trade damage, or which one is design change. With that information, we are able to feed that back into a preconstruction tool like ConCntric as you’re building a GMP, creating incredibly valuable data that sadly, hardly anyone has because it’s so email heavy today. 

Follow ConCntric on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, to stay up to date on when the next interview will go live. To demo ConCntric’s platform, click here.

Follow ClearStory on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook to learn all about how to make change orders less stressful. To demo ClearStory, click here.

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