Technology Spotlight: An Interview with Digs

As part of Beaumont Bailey’s mission to connect founders, innovators and key players that make up the fabric of our industry, our latest Technology Spotlight series highlights the successes of our incredible members and wider network. In this instalment, we speak with Ryan Fink, CEO and Co-Founder at Digs.

Ryan is a serial entrepreneur with a proven track record of founding and successfully exiting two startups in the AI and AR space. With over fourteen years of experience, he is renowned for his expertise in crafting innovative, customer-centric products. His contributions have earned widespread recognition from industry giants like Wired, Forbes, and Apple, solidifying his status as a trailblazer in tech innovation.

Tell me a little bit about Digs and your role there…

My journey has been quite dynamic, fueled by a passion for innovation and problem-solving. After college, I dove headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship, co-founding my first startup alongside Ty Frackiewicz. We explored computer vision and machine learning together, leading the way in creating AI-powered solutions. Our efforts culminated in the development of a groundbreaking product, which caught the eye of investors and was eventually acquired in 2015.

Following this success, Ty and I pursued separate paths for a time, gaining valuable experience in various ventures. I embarked on my second startup venture, specialising in remote collaboration augmented reality software. Our goal was to revolutionise how homeowners interacted with contractors, leveraging advanced technologies to facilitate seamless communication and enhance project understanding. This endeavour proved fruitful, leading to its acquisition by prominent brands in 2019.

As we ventured into various projects, the idea for Digs took root. Leveraging our combined knowledge and keen awareness of industry challenges, Ty and I recognised a significant gap in the construction sector. By harnessing our background in computer vision and machine learning, we envisioned a solution that could streamline the homebuilding process without burdening users with manual data input.

Through extensive research and collaboration with industry professionals, we honed in on key areas for improvement: collaboration, project organisation, and the handoff/warranty process. Armed with insights from interviews with over 25 builders, we set out to create a platform that would revolutionise how construction communication is managed from end-to-end on a project. Our mission with Digs is to provide builders with a comprehensive toolkit that fosters efficiency, transparency, and accountability throughout every stage of the construction process.

Looking a little closer at the technology, what problem does Digs solve?

The technology and services offered by Digs address a myriad of pain points across various segments of the homebuilding construction industry, catering to the needs of small to medium-sized builders, including custom and semi-custom builders. These professionals encounter common challenges related to collaboration, both internally and externally, as well as the complex decision-making process inherent in construction projects.

Digs simplifies and streamlines collaboration by providing a platform that organises decisions, change orders, product selections, and other crucial details with the help of AI. Whether builder teams are coordinating with clients or managing internal operations, Digs facilitates seamless communication and decision management, mitigating the chaos often associated with construction projects.

A key aspect of Digs’ value proposition lies in its commitment to delivering an exceptional homeowner experience. By prioritising the needs and preferences of homeowners, Digs ensures that the collaboration interface is user-friendly and intuitive. This focus on enhancing the client experience sets Digs apart from other solutions in the market, as it acknowledges the critical role of homeowners in the construction process.

Furthermore, Digs goes beyond mere collaboration tools by offering a comprehensive single source of truth for the construction project. This digital repository, stored securely in the cloud, serves as a centralised hub for project documentation, specifications, and other relevant information. With just a few clicks, builders can access a detailed digital binder containing all the necessary data, simplifying the handoff process at the end of the project.

Moreover, the digital twin facilitates efficient warranty management, enabling homeowners to file claims within the context of the home. Contractors and subcontractors benefit from clear, organised information, enhancing their ability to provide timely and accurate service. This not only improves customer satisfaction but also enhances the builder’s reputation and brand image.

In a market where consumer expectations are increasingly centered around experiences rather than products, Digs empowers builders to deliver a superior level of service. By leveraging technology to create a seamless, transparent, and user-centric construction process, Digs helps builders stand out in a competitive landscape while driving operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

How did your partnership with Mike Rowe come about?

Our partnership with Mike Rowe stemmed from a profound admiration for his work and a shared commitment to the trades. It all began when we heard Mike deliver a keynote at the International Builder Show about a year ago. Like many, I grew up watching “Dirty Jobs” with my dad, and Mike’s message deeply resonated with me and our company.

After witnessing the powerful connection between Mike and his audience, I was inspired to explore the possibility of collaboration. Despite initial skepticism from my co-founder and others, I was determined to pursue this opportunity. Over the course of a few months, I reached out to Mike’s team and engaged in discussions about potential partnerships.

We started by sponsoring some of Mike’s podcasts, allowing him to become familiar with our product and our vision. As we delved deeper into conversations, it became clear that our goals aligned closely with Mike’s mission through “mikeroweWORKS.” Our mutual dedication to empowering tradespeople and enhancing the construction industry with technology forged a strong bond between us.

Mike has become more than just a spokesperson for Digs; he has become a passionate advocate for our mission. His decision to join forces with us was rooted in genuine belief in our ability to make a positive impact on tradespeople and homeowners alike. Together, we embarked on various initiatives, including appearances at industry events like the International Builder Show. We filmed content together, engaged with builders, and hosted events where Mike had the opportunity to connect with professionals in the field. His down-to-earth demeanour and exceptional storytelling skills makes him a natural fit for our brand. In essence, our partnership with Mike Rowe is a testament to our shared values and aspirations. By joining forces, we aim to elevate the construction industry and champion the essential role of tradespeople in shaping our built environment.

How have you seen this industry change over the years and where do you predict it is heading?

The evolution of AI represents a significant shift in the construction industry, ushering in a new era of efficiency and productivity. Previously, AI tools were often complex and specialised, making them cumbersome to build and deploy. However, with the emergence of new platforms like OpenAI and Hugging Face, alongside other innovative products, AI is undergoing a renaissance. These advancements have made it easier for businesses to harness the power of AI, albeit with a clear and specific use case in mind.

This renaissance in AI holds immense potential to transform and disrupt various industries, including construction. While there may be apprehension about AI’s impact on job displacement, it’s important to recognise that AI can augment and enhance the existing workforce rather than outright replace it. For instance, in the construction sector, AI can streamline data input, recall, and organise that data, alleviating the monotony of tasks and empowering workers to focus on higher-value activities.

Moreover, AI has become a crucial tool for addressing labor shortages, a pressing concern in the construction industry. By amplifying the capabilities of the existing workforce, AI helps bridge the gap caused by aging demographics and insufficient recruitment rates. This boosts operational efficiency and enables younger generations entering the workforce to quickly become proficient with the technology they’re already accustomed to using.

Looking ahead, the integration of AI into construction processes holds immense promise for driving innovation and productivity. As businesses continue to explore new applications and leverage AI to optimise workflows, we can expect to see further advancements that redefine traditional practices and unlock new opportunities for growth and development within the industry.

How is the funding industry currently? 

The current fundraising landscape presents its fair share of challenges, with investors adopting a more conservative stance. However, amidst the difficulties lies an opportunity for startups to refocus on fundamental principles and build robust, sustainable businesses. This shift towards prioritising healthy, repeatable, and scalable business models is a natural progression within the market cycle. It serves to weed out organisations that may not be operating as efficiently as they should, while spotlighting those with strong business economics.

For us, this environment reaffirmed the importance of honing our core go-to-market strategy and ensuring our business operates in a sustainable and efficient manner. The days of prioritising growth at any cost are fading, and rightfully so. Instead, businesses that genuinely address the pain points of their customers are poised to thrive in the long run.

While the fundraising landscape may be tough, founders need to approach it with caution and conservatism. As both an investor and a founder, I emphasise the importance of scaling efficiently and seeking funding opportunistically to extend runway. By adopting a more prudent approach, founders can better weather the challenges of fundraising and position their businesses for success in the ever-evolving market landscape.

What do you find the most challenging about the talent market right now specific to your industry?

Navigating the talent market, particularly within our industry, presents a unique set of challenges. Drawing from both my current and past experiences, I can attest to the significance of building and maintaining a talent-dense team. At Digs, we’ve been fortunate to assemble a remarkable group of individuals over the years, with many having worked alongside us for a significant portion of their careers. This continuity has been instrumental in fostering a cohesive and high-performing culture within our organisation.

However, scaling a company, as I experienced with my previous venture, brings its own set of hurdles. Growing from a team of 24 to over 120 employees in a year was an ambitious feat, but it posed significant challenges in preserving our company culture amidst rapid expansion. Protecting and nurturing our culture became increasingly complex as we expanded, highlighting the importance of having a strategic recruiting partner who not only understands our business but also shares our values and vision.

In hindsight, while we managed recruiting reasonably well, there were areas where we could have improved. As we embark on scaling Digs, finding a recruiting partner who deeply comprehends our business objectives, cultural values, and core leadership principles is paramount. Their ability to align candidates with our organisational ethos will be instrumental in preserving our culture and talent density as we continue to grow. In essence, the most challenging aspect of the talent market lies in finding the right partners who can effectively support our growth trajectory while safeguarding the integrity of our company culture.

If you would like to discuss any of the topics raised in this piece or if you need support with your leadership resourcing strategy, please get in touch with Emma Callahan on: