Startup of the Month: 811spotter

Ticket management software for contractors’ efficiency, safety

Back Web Only May 10, 2024 By Russell Nichols

This story is part of our May 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Ever wonder why your utility bill went up? According to Marc Krichman, co-founder and CEO of 811spotter, one culprit is the 811 ticketing system.

811 is the national toll-free, call-before-you-dig number. Homeowners, excavators and contractors must call 811 before excavating to have underground utility lines marked to prevent accidental damage. It helps ensure safety, prevent disruptions and avoid expensive repairs by providing information about the location of buried infrastructure.

But the system is flawed and inefficient, Krichman says, creating $76 billion worth of waste, damage and societal costs.

“That cost is passed onto contractors and utility ratepayers,” Krichman says. “And with natural disasters, the problems with this system are just getting more extreme.”

Krichman has been in the construction business for more than two decades, but it wasn’t until 2019 that he realized how flawed the 811 system truly was. A client asked him to make a report using data from hundreds of 811 tickets stored in an Excel sheet. He learned contractors used wall calendars, sticky notes, relied on their memory or neglected the ticketing process altogether.

“The more we looked into it, the more we realized that this process could not be covered with just a report,” he says. “It was way more complex and interesting, and needed user interaction. So we just kept pulling the thread and learning about this side of the industry.”

Seeing no comprehensive solution, Krichman decided to build one. 811spotter helps contractors track, document and communicate 811 ticket information to their respective teams. According to Krichman, this technology eliminates manual data entry to create an automated process that includes renewals, real-time updates and time-sensitive action items, so contractors know when it’s safe to work. 

Used by contractors across all construction sectors, Krichman says 811spotter customers are seeing, overall, an average reduction in damage claims of 90 percent and $200k in annual operational savings. For customers like Scott Silva, who relied on Excel spreadsheets, the benefits of automation have been significant, saving his company hundreds of hours a year in data entry and organization, he says. 

“We were in the Stone Age with paper calendars, multicolored highlighters, reminders to update tickets and to keep things in order,” says Silva, vice president of Navajo Pipelines. 811spotter “has amazing organization, holds everything together and gives it to you in concise, clear format.”

Having policies and procedures in place for safety is critical for excavation work. But Silva also acknowledges the construction industry’s slower pace in adopting technology compared to other tech industries.

“We’re kind of cowboys, so to speak,” he says.

Despite this, he says, adoption hasn’t been an issue. The ability to automate previously manual tasks, such as generating reports and managing renewals, has streamlined operations.

“The organization and ease of access, mapping, automation — all of that are things we never had before that allow for a much smoother existence,” he says.

Krichman continues to oversee his construction technology company, but he notes that a pivot has been underway for the past three years. He describes this shift as allowing customers to “expire organically.” 

With a team of three full-timers and consultants, 811spotter bootstrapped initially, then received an SBA loan. Krichman says they plan to start a second round of seed funding for $1 million, primarily to expand nationally. The startup currently has 43 customers across five states. The system is built to accommodate all 50 states.

“We primarily have an awareness problem,” Krichman says. “When customers find us, we move from demo — some need a trial — to conversion in less than 30 days. The biggest challenge for us is simply getting on the radar screens of our customers.”

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