UTS team wins Virginia Tech Challenge

Each year research University Virginia Tech, located in Blacksburg Virginia in the United States, hosts the prestigious VT KnowledgeWorks Global Student Entrepreneurship Challenge; a week-long celebration of entrepreneurship, the energy and creativity of university students and their contributions to the global economy. The contest sees hundreds of entries from student start-ups from all over the world.

In 2016 Construction Cloud–a team comprised of UTS students and recent graduates Hartley Pike (Engineering) Jan Schroeder (technical engineering) and Sam McDonnell (Design) won Best Intangible Product at VT KnowledgeWorks after pitching their construction industry ‘visual documentation’ tool.

The success of Construction Cloud is a classic example of how valuable connections made at University can be. In this instance three students studying different subjects in different courses serendipitously connected and joined forces to forge new ideas and pathways taking advantage of the opportunities available to them within the UTS entrepreneurial environment.

Sam McDonnell believes making the most of the opportunities on offer at UTS has been critical to Construction Cloud’s success.

“There are people out there who have a lot more experience than us and university is the perfect place to access all of that knowledge. Part of that has been actively seeking support from different faculties since it never hurts to ask! To-date we’ve received financial, educational, mentoring and other support from UTS BUiLD, the UTS Business School, the faculties of Engineering and Information Technology and Design Architecture and Building and the Innovation and Creative Intelligence Unit. Throughout my degree, I tried to get involved in as many extra-curricular activities as I could, including entering a whole bunch of competitions.

The Construction Cloud trio founded their startup in 2015 and then cut their teeth with a win at the UTS 3P Business Plan competition. From there they were selected as finalists in the University Startup World Cup in Denmark. With computer whiz Tommaso Armstrong coming on board the team expanded to four.

Those successes prepared the fledgling entrepreneurs for the fast paced agile world of being entrepreneurs and saw Construction Cloud go on to secure a minimal viable product grant from the NSW Department of Industry so they could develop the first iteration of their tool and real world client in the form of North Connex.

Hartley Pike notes that winning competitions such as VT KnowledgeWorks helped validate the viability of Construction Cloud to prospective clients. “These competitions open up connections and opportunities from around the world … and all the little things add up.”

With plans to expand into Queensland and securing further infrastructure projects in NSW Construction Cloud saw a problem in a marketplace of wasted time and resources and with a lot of hard work and determination came up with a solution that is now paying dividends.

Image supplied from Construction Cloud.
Adapted from articles by Frances Morgan and Aaron Taylor Last updated December 10, 2016.