Interview with Brendan Robinson '08

Posted on 4/4/2013. Interview by Howie Rhee

Tell us about yourself

I would like to be an entrepreneur because I believe it provides the best opportunity to achieve my life’s goals – A happy family and a better construction industry.  When pursuing such an important goal, hard work and sacrifice are expected.  I want to teach my daughters that it is ok to take risks and chase your dreams.  With that mental framework in mind, I will be able to remain focused and do the work it will take to succeed.


Tell us about your time at Duke, what were you involved in?

While working for Skanska Construction company I was hired away by my client, Duke Health, to manage the $650M Duke Medicine Pavilion Project.  During the same year I was accepted to the Fuqua School of Business Weekend Executive MBA Program in Health Sector Management.


What's your major/program and when will you be graduating?  Tell us something about your educational experience at Duke.

I received a MBA from Fuqua in 2008. By choosing the WEMBA program I was able to remain employed. As a result, I was able to put the lessons I learned into practice almost immediately after learning them.


Tell us about your idea.

My idea is to bring the internet of things to construction by integrating wireless sensors with analytics.  There is a black box on site relaying sensor readings of temperature, humidity, noise and vibration. Once readings are captured in the field our unique data analytics platform pairs these sensor readings with other contextual information to deliver relevant, real time, alerts, advice and predictive analytics in support of the field superintendent.


How did you come up with your idea?  When did you come up with it?

I was working on another business idea. As part of my research for that Idea I was looking at global trends and researching how those trends applied to the construction industry. When I came across the concept of the internet of things, I had the epiphany. Few things are more important to a construction manager than receiving real time information from the field.  If you can pair smart sensors with automated analytics then construction superintendents can receive reliable, real time information without relying on unreliable people.


How did you meet your team members?

I met my cofounder James through a Co-Founders Wanted meetup.  We developed a friendship and did a test project before starting the company together.


How has the Duke Start-Up Challenge been helpful to you?

My first association with the Duke startup Challenge was serving as a judge in a previous year.  It was amazing to see all the wonderful ideas created by Duke students.  The ambition of these students motivated me to put aside my own fears and take the leap into entrepreneurship.


The Duke Start-Up Challenge provides a lot of feedback from over 100 judges.  Can you talk about that experience of reviewing the feedback?

Feedback is the best part of the Duke Startup Challenge. The judges can cut through your business plan and help provide focus on the areas that need to be studied further or refined. It is a challenge to see your own weaknesses.  The candor of the judges motivated us to constantly improve our service and business model.


Did you connect with any judges for advice, and if so, who were they and was it helpful? 

I was able to connect with Chandra Storrusten The follow-up discussion we had was amazing.  Her story is motivating.


What advice do you have for Duke alumni / faculty / staff entrepreneurs that are thinking of starting a company?

Don't let fear of failure dissuade you, even if you have two kids and two mortgages. Be open and honest with your spouse about everything.  You will find they can be your best sounding board and biggest motivator.


Anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you so much for all you do to support Duke Entrepreneurs.



Want more? Watch the videos and read the other interviews for all of the Round 3 teams in the Duke Start-Up Challenge

And join us for the Grand Finale with David Cummings ’02 for the 14th Annual Duke Start-Up Challenge on Thursday, April 11th, 2013 at 7:30pm ET at Fuqua’s Geneen Auditorium. RSVP on Facebook

Not able to attend in person?  Watch the livestream on Duke’s YouTube channel

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