During the batch we invite a speaker in for every Tuesday dinner. Tracy Young and Ralph Gootee of PlanGrid joined us during the W17 batch.

Upcoming speakers this batch are: Mike Maples of Floodgate; Ron Conway of SV Angel; Patrick Collison of Stripe; Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk of Airbnb; Tobi Lutke of Shopify; and others.

If you have specific questions for a speaker, send them to Macro@YCombinator.com.


What is PlanGrid?

Tracy: PlanGrid builds beautiful, effective, productivity software for the $8 trillion per year construction industry. Our software is used by tens of thousands of contractors, building owners, engineers and architects.

How has the construction market changed since you started?

Tracy: Construction investment has changed. When we founded the company in 2011 we were just coming off a construction downturn so investment in construction has grown a lot. Currently US construction spending is the highest it has been in the last 10 years. And construction technology has obviously changed since we started. Construction field collaboration software, the space we invented, is now a whole category.

Ralph: Our initial mission was to bridge the gap between good software and the construction industry. We accomplished this with PlanGrid and witnessed a lot of companies follow us, including incumbents and startups.

Have you noticed any trends as the economy has picked up?

Tracy: Construction is literally the infrastructure of the world so we’re always building, but there are trends in what we are building depending on how the economy is doing. When things are booming we build high-rise condos, office buildings and housing. During the downturn, construction spending turned towards infrastructure projects.

Right now we see construction investment across all sectors of the construction industry. In the private sector, we are witnessing investments in housing and hospitals. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that we’re going to double in construction investment in the next 15 years just to keep up with global growth.

What might the world look like in ten years?

Tracy: I hope the world looks more like Star Trek. Not in the communist way, but in the we’re awesome space travelers and don’t eat animals kind of way.

Ralph: We’ll see a lot more international growth. The research we’ve looked at indicates the global construction market is going to be $13T by 2030. The US is only going to be about $1T of that. We’re seeing a huge amount of construction in China, India, and across the Middle East.

In terms of global trends my gut tells me that software development will continue to get easier and hardware will come back into play via automation, drones, and robotics. Software isn’t becoming commoditized, but it is becoming easier and easier to build quality products. Hardware still has many opportunities for technology innovation such as battery technology, miniaturization, sensors, etc..

What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Tracy: Best advice from my cofounder: “Never do anything that makes you unhappy.”

Ralph: When we got one of our first investments from Sam Altman, he wrote on the memo check, “Don’t fuck it up.”. There are so many ways to fuck it up so I always keep that in mind.

Ten years from now, how have you improved yourself?

Tracy: Hopefully, I’m still alive ten years from now. I’d like to be more present and aware.

Ralph: On the personal care side, I’m paying a lot more attention around eating, working out, and awareness. General well being is a trend with both of us. I’d throw a little more physical stuff in there. Hopefully I’ll be jacked ten years from now. [Laughter]

Tracy: Me too!

If you weren’t working on PlanGrid what would you be working on?

Tracy: I love bridge, so I’d like to train and compete in a regional tournament. I want to be bridgemaster.

Ralph: I’d probably be pulling one of those game dev stories where they’re doing all the development, design, and all the story themselves. They spend two years on it in their basement and then one day they release a game that is almost a piece of art. I like the complicated programming challenges of graphics development plus the art and storytelling.

Tracy: Actually, I’d be a bridgemaster and an effective animal rights activist.

What book has influenced you most?

Tracy: On The Shortness of Life by Seneca. When I read the book a few years ago, a lot of things were happening in my life. It ended up being a reality check on how little time we have in this world. I read it before going through YC.

Ralph: Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It gave me some perspective on how the challenges of the past can be relived in the current times.

What’s something you’d tell your younger self?

Tracy: Be courageous and don’t fret over the small stuff.

Ralph: What I tell most high schoolers –– this time doesn’t matter in the sense of what your grades are, but it does matter how you treat yourself and the people around you. You can end up treating yourself really poorly without adding any real value to your life.