Saturday, December 8, 2012

Current Estimating Software

I haven't posted for a few weeks, largely because I've been working with Joe at Current Estimating Software.

I met Joe through Startup Lancaster, and he and his wife also took a plot at Lancaster Community Gardens, which is literally just beyond their back yard.

Joe's a construction contractor--a regular Joe as he says-- who saw a need when he was running a team for a general contractor--to get away from paper-based estimates and streamline processes.

Sounds very much like a 90's problem, but when he started Current two years ago, that was typical contractor across most trades.

He didn't like what he found--old 90's interfaces that were hard to use, required expensive training, and were very expensive. Worse, they were packed with features most contractors don't really need--especially the smaller ones.

Ugly 90's-looking Contracting Software. Not Joe's. 
It's exactly how I described the nonprofit sector in 2002 when I started Mission Research. It was a frustrating experience trying to find a decent solution that just worked and was affordable; at the time I had just finished a year of almost fulltime volunteering for Witness.org.

I moved them over to Salesforce, which had its own issues at the time, but it was better than my custom solution--another problem in the trades industries. If you don't like what you see and don't want to pay for it, you build something in Excel or Access. Or stick with paper.

Joe developed Current to solve those problems, and it's a lot cleaner and saves a ton of time, eliminates double and triple entry, and makes a contractor's sales or estimating folks look a lot sharper in the presence of customers.

Any Services Business
Earlier today we realized it could be used for any services business. IT Services. Why not? If you're using spreadsheets or other forms to create quotes, you still have to enter the stuff into QuickBooks.

This eliminates that double entry, and gives you a quick way to add items or groups of items with a few taps of the screen.

Getting Past Zero
So I'm helping Joe go from Zero to One. Getting past zero is the toughest part of building a startup--establishing a solid base of customers. We have about 10 beta customers and are converting them into customers now.

We're building out our sales, marketing, and operations systems, and focusing on sales processes and business model. Figuring this stuff out is fun and challenging--really gets me stoked.

What Current Does
The software does a few things really well: syncs materials and contacts with Quickbooks, posts estimates to Quickbooks when the job has been won, generates crisp proposals to email or print and hand to customers, and creates take-off sheets for the crew (a list of materials and costs).

Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to use. It has some usability issues; there are some things that can be improved like navigation and a few edits here and there (sorry Joe, had to say it but it'll get there).

But generally it works really well for contractors.

I don't think Joe should limit Current to construction trades, because the exact same software can be used for programming services with no changes, or any business where you're creating a proposal and trying to get a signature.

Current Estimating Software generates crisp proposals
I also like Joe's work ethic--he's a family guy with a group of close friends, and always happy to jump to help someone, like Lancaster Community Gardens when he dug our 700-foot perimeter trench.

He's put that same ethic into what he calls Blue Collar Support. I dig that.


The niche focus on trades is important early on as we try to get traction, and I'm happy to be helping him at this stage. The first version is a cloud-based system but Windows only through Silverlight, but iPad, HTML5, and other interfaces will be supported in the future.

Help him out, will ya? Share this link, or send your contractor friends over to http://www.currentestimating.com, or if you have an interest in investing, let me know.

We have a ways to go, but it's a good start and I think he'll serve his customers well.

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