Tooey Courtemanche is a visionary and a prophet. Ten years ago he was trooping around Sand Hill – the Dragons’ Den sector of Silicon Valley – trying to drum up investment for his crazy idea: an online platform for the construction industry. He was given short shrift: “There’s no way construction is ever going to adopt tech,” they said. “These guys carry toolboxes not laptops!” They’re not saying that anymore. “We went from being idiots to geniuses who are changing the world,” says Tooey, the founder and CEO of Procore, which does for builders and contractors what Netflix does for movies.
When I spoke to him, Tooey was sitting comfortably in an office in London (although he is often to be found in Santa Barbara on the west coast or Hawaii), but he has definitely done his share of trooping about in steel-toed boots with a sledgehammer over his shoulder. He is a rebel with a cause and a school dropout who declined to follow in the great tradition of banking in his family. “I like to do the opposite of what you should do,” he says. “It’s all gone horribly right.”
Growing up, he “lived in houses that were constantly being renovated. So I had an affinity with guys with hammers”. He started off sweeping up sawdust and graduated to teenage “gofer” for a construction company in his school holidays. When he was booted out of the University of Arizona after getting a D in his astronomy exam, he borrowed $100k (£80,000) from his granddad and started his own building company. His grandpa charged him 20 per cent interest: “You’re a high risk,” he explained.
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