Tracy Young

For getting everyone on the same page.

Tracy Young
[Photo: Flickr user Timothy Allen]

The problem

Every year, the construction industry spends $4 billion on blueprints, which are expensive to print and must be reprinted each time an error is found or update is made. One day in 2010, at work on a construction site, project engineer Tracy Young was the only person in a large meeting with a current set of blueprints. She was annoyed by everyone taking it and marking it up, so she decided to order a set for everyone. She was the hero of the meeting–and got stuck with a $27,000 printing bill.


The epiphany

That night, Young met her friend and fellow project engineer Ryan Sutton-Gee for dinner. “I’m telling him the story and he slams his hand on the table, knocks over a beer, and says, ‘That should be in the cloud, and it should be on this iPad I just purchased.’” They quit their jobs, recruited two more cofounders, and PlanGrid was born.

The execution

The team wanted their app to be simple and intuitive–atypical in enterprise software. The finished product allows a large team to share a master set of blueprints, plus attached photos and reports, and each team member can add their own markings and see their changes reflected in real time. “There are no set workflows,” Young says. “It’s just a tool to help [construction teams] do their job better.” Cost varies by usage, from free to $100 per month.

The result

By the end of 2014, PlanGrid–which has seen year-over-year growth of 200%–had been used on more than 200,000 projects, making it the construction industry’s number-one app. Construction companies are saving money, reducing their paper waste, and updating their plans in a way that minimizes risk and maximizes efficiency. Says Young, “It’s incredibly rewarding to hear a superintendent say, after 28-plus years in the field, that PlanGrid was the best tool he’d ever been given.”


Bonus Round

Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

I tend to seek out creative inspiration in nature–but since I don’t actually see the sun very often, I find that inspiration in nature documentaries and interacting with our employees’ dogs.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

My morning routine consists of listening to flash news, having a quick shower and drinking coffee. I’m up and out of the door in under 20 minutes.

What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?

I think it would surprise most of the team to find out that I’m an introvert. Public speaking, presenting, and meetings would indicate otherwise, but it’s true. Outside of work, I keep to myself.

What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?

My favorite Twitter accounts are @brainpickings and @nasa, because they remind me that there’s a whole universe outside of my PlanGrid bubble. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that and get absorbed in my own world.

Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?

Wes Anderson. He’s a genius.