A student-led software development team recently won $35,000 at the annual Tiger Cage Business Idea Competition put on by the Harbert College of Business.
Flashtract Inc. was co-founded by Ben Conry and Blair Chenault. The company offers a cloud-based software that streamlines and automates the construction-payment process.
Conry, senior in civil engineering, said the current payment system used by many in the construction industry is outdated. When Chenault, 2018 graduate in mechanical engineering, interned with a bank’s online division, he saw ways to simplify the process.
“(Chenault) noticed that a lot of construction companies weren’t doing a lot of online banking,” Conry said. “So he started looking into it and realized that the payment process in the construction industry was still being largely done over paper checks, and it was a paper-bound process.”
Often times, several companies work together on one construction project, he said. This includes subcontractors, general contractors and the project owners.
“Subcontractors have to submit their invoices for the work they’ve completed. … Those invoices have to be approved up an approval-chain,” Conry said. “Once those invoices are approved, our software facilitates the payment for those invoices.”
In 2018, Flashtract was eliminated from Tiger Cage in the semi-final. Chenault said there has been a drastic change since the company started last year.
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“It’s astronomically different. It looks like a professional, well put-together website,” he said. “It’s super simple, boiled down to only what you need and really gets the point across quickly without cluttering up with too much unneeded information.”
The team won three prizes at this year’s Tiger Cage competition, totaling $35,000. The first prize of $25,000 was strictly based on the presentation of the teams’ ideas.
“We also won a $5,000 check for the people’s choice award,” he added. “The last check was a grant from the Alabama Capital Network for the most promising start-up that they saw in the competition.”
Aside from winning the Tiger Cage competition, Flashtract also won $50,000 at the Auburn Regional Alabama Launchpad competition.
“A lot of the judges told us that they saw a lot of value in our software and saw how it could make such a big impact on this Auburn area and bringing jobs to this area,” Conry said.
Moving forward, Chenault hopes Flashtract can provide contractors a more efficient way of generating cashflow without having to wait a prolonged period of time.
“There’s report after report that shows contractors getting paid 100 days after they’ve completed their work,” he said. “We would love to see that number drive down closer to the average of other industries.”
Conry agreed, and said it is time for the construction industry to modernize its payment systems.
“I just imagine our software being a tool that would be used every day by contractors,” he said. “Something that will allow them to finish on budget and on time and let them go home at the end of the day and get back to their families.”
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