San-Francisco based PlanGrid, which helps contractors manage their blueprints, launched a new iPhone app today, and announced integration with cloud storage company Box. The company offers cloud-based storage of project drawings for construction professionals, which allows them to upload PDFs, take notes in the field, and get updated versions at the touch of a finger. Since participating in startup accelerator Y Combinator’s winter 2012 program and launching in March 2012, the company has added over 15,000 users, and added $1.1 million in seed funding.
COO and co-founder Tracy Young said in an interview that PlanGrid is meant to solve the paper problem for the construction industry. “Two of us lived the problem, we were the engineers chasing foremen and superintendents to make changes on the blueprints,” she said. “Construction projects print a lot of paper out. During design, we use very cool software like Revit and AutoCAD, but when we go out in the field, it’s like we’re transported back to the fifties and we’re still using paper, and each project can have 10,000 sheets of blueprints.”
PlanGrid users upload project plans and blueprints to their online account, and they’re delivered as PDFs directly on the iPad and iPhone. Project managers and others in the field can then annotate and easily mark up the documents to note down errors (even if they don’t have Wifi access), take photos of the project’s progress, and share with architects in a dashboard. The architect or project administrator can then make the necessary changes, and instead of printing documents and distributing them again, can have them updated and pushed to other app users, with past versions easily accessible.
The iPhone app was a feature often requested by users, and has similar functionality to the iPad app. Today’s Box integration means users can access documents associated with their blueprints, like legal documents, that are already saved in Box, and it means users don’t have to download a blueprint from Box and then upload it again to their PlanGrid account.
PlanGrid offers a free account that lets users upload up to 50 sheets per month, with premium monthly subscriptions available for $19.99 (up to 550 sheets per month), and $49.99 per month for up to 5,000 sheets. There’s also a custom-priced enterprise option that can be tailored to a project’s needs.
Although there are big names like Dropbox that already provide cloud document storage with version control, where PlanGrid sets itself apart is the speed at which users can access, zoom, and render the massive blueprint documents. “These PDFs are humongous, they are 40×32 inches on average with 400 DPI, they’re huge, PDFs weren’t ever meant to scale for this,” CTO and cofounder Ralph Gootee, a former Pixar rendering engineer, said in an interview. “Almost no reader is as fast as ours, there’s nothing out there that views PDFs as large as this, at the speed we do.”
PlanGrid has an Android app in the works, a strong customer base in the U.S., and the company also has customers in Australia, Mexico, Spain and the U.K., having just finished filming their first Spanish app demo video. They are also looking to have their website available in multiple international languages to build a bigger international presence sometime next year. With customers ranging from big name developers working on hospitals and office buildings to small sub-contractors, like cement masons that use the app to work out of their trucks without a central office, PlanGrid is building a presence in an industry known for its late adoption of technology.