The Rapid Rise of Pillar Technologies
October 26, 2016
The past four months for Pillar Technologies have been nothing short of exciting. The former Accelerate team took part in several high profile programs and became the first team to secure outside capital. Their first wave of seed funding came in July when they received $425,000 from 1517 Fund and Insure.VC, as well as angel investors Anil Jha and Sam Altschuler. Then on October 17th, the group won the Forbes Under 30 Summit Change the World For Profit competition and $200,000 from Sound Ventures and Rough Draft Ventures, and a $225,000 media grant from Forbes.
From Boston to Cincinnati to New York City, the Pillar team of Alex Schwarzkopf, Sean Iacobone and Matt Joyal, have begun to cement themselves in the contracting and construction space and are starting to expand their appeal to the insurance and reinsurance marketplace as well.
This past January, the team launched its first pilot program with Gilbane Construction and Dellbrook Construction. These programs ran for four months and seven months respectively. This proved to be the jumping off point for a year that has seen Pillar rise from a small startup idea to a full fledged pilot program with big name partnerships.
When speaking with co-founder Sean Iacobone, he points to the team’s ability to work out of Autodesk’s BUILD Space in Boston’s Seaport District, as incredibly pivotal to their success.
“In June we got a chance to speak to the Autodesk customer council and they brought in 30 of the top construction companies. We got a lot of interest in our pilot program from that and we are rolling it out next month.”
In addition to the connections they gained from Autodesk, they also had access to a variety of tools that really helped them propel their prototyping capabilities forward.
Following their time with Autodesk, the team connected with Techstars in New York City.
“They found us,” Iacobone said. “They contacted us, asked to set up an interview, I went through the interview process and here we are.”
The team is now engaged in the three and a half month long Techstars program that’s backed by companies such as SAP, Bosch, GE, Verizon and PwC. These companies are serving as partners to the program and have opened lines of communication with Pillar about how they can integrate and work together. Conversations that might not have taken place had the team not been a part of this accelerator.
When asked what connections have been most influential in their success, Iacobone is quick to reference the Wentworth community alongside the top programs Pillar has been a part of.
“Wentworth connected us to a lot of contractors,” he said, “some companies never would have taken a meeting with us if it wasn’t for the Wentworth management.”
In regards to Accelerate, he said the team’s mentor from when they were here every day, has remained with them throughout this entire process.
“Anil Jha was our Accelerate mentor and he still is today. He is continually pushing us on a mentorship level and also on new connections. Monique (Fuchs) has also been continually helpful, we still stay in touch with her.”
The team values the time they spent at Accelerate. Here they learned new ways to develop their idea and they were exposed to mentors and valuable real world situations. When it comes to advice Pillar has for new and upcoming Accelerate teams, Iacobone advises students to not be afraid of criticism and to be prepared to pivot.
“No company that was ever built is the exact same as when it was first incepted. Don’t get down on feedback that’s somewhat negative. Take it in a way that you can build on and use it to build something that has value.”
Up next for Pillar is a pilot program with six large general contractors and potential partnerships with insurance companies and major companies they’ve met through Techstars. Plus they’ll be traveling across the country attending construction conferences and working to further develop their footprint in the space.
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- June 29, 2020—Part II of our discussion with Nakisa Alborz, David Simpson, Alex Cabal, Rebecca Drossman and Aaron Carpenter on the topic of race.
- June 29, 2020—Part III of our discussion with Nakisa Alborz, David Simpson, Alex Cabal, Rebecca Drossman and Aaron Carpenter on the topic of race.