Happy Birthday, Curate!

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Time flies! Today marks Curate's second birthday. We started as a napkin idea two years ago, shaped by the challenges faced by a former construction project manager and the innovative technology of a PhD computer science candidate — both former University of Wisconsin-Madison students and natives of the Midwest.

In two years, we've grown to a team of six, located just two blocks from where we began in the downtown-Madison gener8tor office, one of the country's best startup accelerators. Our technology is now pulling the minutes and agendas in seven states and our new web dashboard makes these insights more accessible for our customers.

We're excited to see what the future has in store, and look forward to continue helping general contractors, engineers, realtors, and lobbyists throughout the Midwest become local experts in their markets!

Happy birthday, Curate, and thank you to everyone who's helped build us up along the way!

WisBusiness "The Podcast" with Dale

  Co-founder and CTO, Dale Willis.

Co-founder and CTO, Dale Willis.

Last week, our co-founder and CTO Dale sat down with Alex Moe from WisBusiness to discuss how Curate uses artificial intelligence to find upcoming projects for our target customers: general contractors and vendors in the commercial space.

"[Contractors] are looking for private projects, and we see the city as a location where all of this information needs to culminate before a project actually gets executed, so that's a great place for us to step in and get a feel for what's going on," Dale said. "And we can do this across an entire state using our technology."

Listen to the 5-minute podcast here.

Public docs: Not just for finding public construction projects

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Because Curate scans through public minutes and agendas, one of the biggest misconceptions people have is we only find information on upcoming public construction projects, such as a new firehouse or town hall.

But, this isn’t the case!

While it is true public construction ops pop up in discussions during public municipality meetings, about 80 percent of the projects we get info on each week are actually private construction opportunities.

Think about it this way: All exterior projects have to go through a planning commission to get approved — everything from facade renovations to ground-up construction.

This means Curate is at the bottleneck of all early-stage projects, both public and private.

Minutes and agendas are sprinkled with what we call “half-baked” information, such as rezoning from agricultural to commercial or a request for approval of a site plan that’s 56 acres.

More often than for public projects, this information indicates upcoming private construction projects.

But, it’s easier for early-stage private projects to go unnoticed before it’s too late, i.e. before a contract has been awarded, which is why this “half-baked” information is super valuable for detecting them, like a canary in a coal mine.

You can’t spot the canaries, however, if you aren’t at their level — the actual board meetings, that is.

Planning commissions across your state approve dozens of plans for new private construction projects every week, from manufacturing facilities to business-park offices to apartment complexes.

For example, just this past week, Curate found 18 large-scale (>20,000 square feet) multi-family, multi-use, retail and office projects in the Minneapolis planning commission minutes.

These private projects were completely new in our database, meaning it was the first time the plans were discussed during that planning commission.

And since all projects go to local municipalities to get approval first, this also means the plans typically haven’t reached the eyes of newspaper readers or the ears of competing general contractors.

Lucky for us, our software spot the canary, and as the saying goes: Early bird gets the worm.

Harnessing the power of minutes and agendas in the construction industry

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When it comes to new construction projects, knowing any of the relevant information early on can mean the difference between winning and losing the contract among general contractors and vendors.

Traditionally, this relevant information makes its way across the networks of general contractors and vendors, but by the time it is common knowledge, it’s already too late.

That’s where the power of local government meeting minutes and agendas come in.

Before any wild construction plans are allowed to begin, they must first be discussed and approved by local municipalities. These discussions take place during public meetings for city, village, township, county, or school boards.

For example, people who live in the suburbs want things to look a certain way, especially when it comes to their neighborhoods.

Let’s say Mickey D’s wanted to pop a squat next to our house in the middle of our street. That’d just be madness, right? Every board member at the meeting would shoot down that request before you could say “I’m lovin’ it.”

Because everyone has to go to the city to do just about anything, Curate is at the bottleneck of upcoming construction projects, and our technology catches these projects by flagging keywords such as zoning or conditional use permit.

In fact, back in April 2017, Taralinda and Dale noticed several hits for keywords indicating water engineering projects — such as the word wastewater — in minutes for small communities of Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant. They knew these communities must be gearing up for increased wastewater needs for their business parks.

They also knew Foxconn, $10 billion manufacturing facility, was coming to the U.S.

While everyone around the country wanted to know where this 1,000-acre campus would call home, however, no one had a clue of how to guess.

But Taralinda and Dale did.

By noticing these keywords hinting at major engineering restructuring — and even keywords hinting at increased real-estate development to accommodate the influx of a new workforce — in the communities’ meeting minutes, they were able to put the pieces together.

With the possibility of building a facility that uses millions of gallons of water per day, it’s no surprise they were able to make the connection months in advance.

While Foxconn seems to be a poster child for the power of Curate, it’s not just the corporate giants our software catches in the act of plotting out their next project.

We’re also catching medium and small-scale projects that (1) don’t get any build up by the press and that (2) not a lot of people, especially industry competitors,  know about.

By looking at the minutes and agendas, we’re able to pull all this “half-baked” information together and present valuable insight — such as the name of architects involved or location of a proposed certified survey map request by a new developer — for general contractors seeking these opportunities.

And because we pull information every week, we’re also able to track the progress of projects over time and gather competitor intel, both of which are well recorded and updated in municipality documents.

Needless to say, minutes and agendas are goldmines of uncommon knowledge that our software is able to extract for general contractors and vendors. With this information, they’ll know exactly who to strike up their next project-seeking conversation with and, hopefully, win that next contract.