After completing his engineering degree in 2011, Doug Vincent earned his stripes managing capital works and infrastructure projects. Clocking the dearth of digital solutions suitable for use in the sector, he decided to develop his own capital works management system. Two years after teaming up with tech entrepreneur Raman Nambiar and software engineer Jamie Cerexhe, the trio’s Sydney-based start-up Mastt is flying high.
Its eponymous capital planning, real-time reporting and analytics software is being used to manage projects, programs and portfolios around Australia and the Pacific worth upwards of $10 billion. And 2020 has been busy for the company: Mastt was inducted into Microsoft’s 2020 ScaleUp program, won the start-up forum at the Oracle Construction Technology Summit 2020, and is now a finalist in St. George’s Kick Start 2020 program.
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While digital technology has transformed scores of industries and professions, it’s left the construction management sphere largely untouched. Capital and infrastructure project, program and portfolio owners typically rely on sheafs of spreadsheets and paper reports to monitor multi-million-dollar projects and programs of works.
After doing so himself for seven years, Vincent decided there had to be a better way.
“It reached the point where I was working on several projects, which were collectively worth billions of dollars, and I was tearing my hair out using spreadsheets,” he explains. “It’s amazing that you can go home and order food on your phone, download a movie instantly… in your personal life, you have instant access to all this great software and then you go to work to do really important things and you’re using a stack of crazy spreadsheets. I got fed up with it and thought, ‘I’m not doing this anymore, I’m doing something about it’.”
He spent several months working after hours on his plan for a digital capital works management system that could be used to manage large and complex project financials before packing in his day job to pursue the venture full time.
An introduction to Nambiar and Cerexhe provided Vincent with business partners who were keen to help him get his venture off the ground – and access to the engineering expertise he needed to do so.
“Raman and Jamie had worked together on a UN program setting up software engineering schools in The Philippines and we were able to use that resource to build part of the initial application very economically,” Vincent says.
In February 2019, his former employer, global professional services consultancy RPS Group, became the fledgling business’s inaugural customer. Where it went, other heavy hitters followed, including Fortune 500’s Jacobs Engineering, the Department of Defence and the Australian Army.
“The reception has been great because the pain is significant and the project owner’s market ripe for a solution,” Vincent says. “Customers were prepared to overlook the risk of partnering with a tiny, unproven start-up because they could see the benefits that result from having real-time information across their entire portfolio of projects.”
It doesn’t hurt that Mastt’s software behind the capital works management system is turn-key and user-friendly allowing new customers to start in under one day.
“Mastt is a cloud-based application and companies pay a simple monthly licence fee based on the size and complexity of the projects it’s being used to manage,” Vincent explains.
“We designed it to be a plug-and-play solution, so companies running projects can roll it out within a day and then create automated roll ups into programs and portfolios instantly.”
As customers have embraced the software, Mastt’s headcount has increased apace. The company now employs a team of 15 engineers and testers, in Sydney, India and The Philippines.
Mastt’s timing has been opportune. As all levels of government prepare to combat the COVID-19 downturn with multi-billion-dollar capital and infrastructure programs, a capital works management system that can streamline business process and help ensure funds are spent efficiently and transparently is a compelling proposition.
“A system like Mastt’s can help to accelerate the downstream flow of that cash,” Vincent says. “Mastt enables fully transparent decision-making and allows project owners and their industry partners to demonstrate exactly where, when and how money is being spent.”
Mastt’s software is already in use in the Pacific region and the three co-founders are hoping the St. George Kick Start 2020 Program will help them to take it further afield. Should Mastt take out one of the top two awards, the prize money will go towards an international expansion push.
“Following our great reception in Australia, we’re excited about the prospect of bringing the capital project owners out of the prehistoric age and into the digital era elsewhere in the world,” Vincent says.
“Extra cash would help us cover the cost of entering the UK, including some of the remote sales strategies we’ll need to employ as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The construction sector is ripe for a tech overhaul on many levels. Mastt’s user-friendly capital works management system is helping drive efficiency, transparency, accountability and better business process at a time when governments and businesses are gearing up for a post-COVID-19 infrastructure spending spree.
Mastt is a Kick Start 2020 finalist. To learn more about other finalists in this category, visit the St. George Kick Start hub.