Travis Ziebro of Punchlist Zero and Ody De La Paz of Sensytec talked about concrete testing technology and the future of construction.
PL0: So how did you get into concrete sensing technology?
About 5 years ago, I was in University of Houston’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship program, majoring in business. One of the assignments we had was to look up existing intellectual property and build a business case around it. I had the opportunity to work on concrete sensing technology and set out to commercialize it. I have experience dealing with concrete quality. While discussing this tech with engineer experts we made a conclusion to start the business and focus on bringing this technology to market.
PL0: Moving a bit forward, how have things progressed since those early years?
Really good! Our focus was originally on oil and gas, and we pivoted a bit more to construction in 2019. Sensytec is focusing on vertical construction, tunnels, roadways, highways, and airports. New technologies take time for adoption. Thus, education is key. We are really starting to see better penetration of the market as well as a focus on general contractors.
PL0: How do you forsee adoption progressing with the Sensytec technology?
There are many other opportunities that are untapped. The defense sector and military sector, just to mention a few. Dams and projects in renewable space. 3D printing of concrete is another growing technology that will take some time to get used to. Sensytec will be there to verify quality work is being performed.
Sensytec is focused on adoption in various industries, but we foresee building on our technology stack to allow enhanced capabilities such as monitoring a new structure for the life of that structure.
PL0: When an engineer looks at specifications and considers how to provide a long-lasting asset, how can Sensytec help with that process?
In most cases, engineers are overdesigning and baking in risk reduction as much as possible. This can only be done to a certain degree. You can’t control everything. It makes sense to add as much technology as possible to help make well-informed decisions.
There are a lot of examples where engineers failed in their design. For example, the Miami Bridge collapse killed six people. If you can mitigate human error by integrating smart cement you are well ahead of the game. The age of Internet of Things (iOT) is coming and if you aren’t on the boat, you will be left behind. We have seen this with cell phones, cameras, and logistics. Adoption of simply the nature of the beast when dealing with new technologies and its an engineer’s responsibility to be on top of these new technologies.
Technology will make you a better engineer when used correctly. You may see an increase in upfront cost but if you take time savings and risk mitigation into account, it will pay off.
PL0: As a start-up founder and a leader in the technology industry, can you speak to the career path in general for founders and want to be founders?
I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve started other businesses so being independent and not having a 9-5 job was always important to me. When you are creating something that starts in your head and seeing it happen…that’s the best thing you can ask for. You can go one of two routes as an entrepreneur: improve things or bring something new to the market. Dig deep into the problem you are solving. We all have ideas, but pick one that you want to pursue and something you really want to do. Solve a problem for you.
My approach was to interview people in the construction industry and see what issues they were having in regards to quality control of concrete. As a founder, you have to have those discussions with potential customers. Solve a potential customer’s problem and you have a customer.