How Livegistic’s Justin Turk Uses Real-Time Data to Transform Construction
The Transparent Collective alum on tracking trucking and winning Black Ambition’s million dollar grand prize.
By Jessen O’Brien
Here’s the thing about trucking: the proof is in the paper.
If you want to show that you successfully delivered goods from point A to point B on a civil construction site, chances are the only thing you have to back up your claim is paperwork — because the material itself is quickly buried at the bottom of a site, where it can’t be checked or confirmed. That’s a problem. Not just because we live in an increasingly digital world, but also because it makes it harder to prove that you did the work.
It’s also where Livegistics comes in. The company specializes in platforms that provide digital tracking and data for civil engineering projects — solutions that recently earned it the million dollar grand prize at Black Ambition, a nonprofit initiative started by Pharrell Williams.
“We’re all about creating a better operating environment for our contractors and transporters at scale,” says Justin Turk, Livegistics co-founder and CEO. Turk, a Transparent Collective alum, credits much of the company’s success on the early lessons he and his cofounders learned at the Transparent Collective. “That workshop completely changed the trajectory of our business.”
We sat down with Turk to learn more about his experience with the Transparent Collective, what winning Black Ambition’s grand prize means for his business, and how Livegistics is using data to prevent litigation.
Tell me about Livegistics. What inspired you to found the company?
I got my undergraduate degree in computer science and business operations, but I found myself back in construction because it was something that had always been part of my genes. My grandfather and my father were both partners in a construction company when I was a boy. I got a bachelor’s degree in construction and engineering management, and worked my way up to become the vice president of a construction company doing about $200 million a year in revenue.
I knew that I’d eventually want to go out on my own, but I had seen so many litigations and lawsuits, and it was all related to this one singular process in construction: trucking.
Everything that happens in that field happens below ground. Sometimes, you don’t leave things open long enough for somebody to prove that you did the work. I realized that if I could solve this issue in civil and demo construction, I could make life a lot better for a lot of people.
How does Livegistics work?
We’ve got three main components to the system: LTS Manifest/Source, LTS Civil, and LTS Trucking. Those are all cloud-based software platforms. We have a platform that helps the operations for a self-performing contractor, which is similar to the field I was in, then we have a platform that helps the operations for a trucking company.
Now those two platforms not only make all of your paperwork digital, but they also give you data and metrics on how to better operate your business. With all this information in the cloud we can significantly reduce the payment cycle, eliminate audits, and give people info in real time so they don’t make claims against your project because they don’t understand what’s happened. The other side to that is we have a platform called LTS Manifest that’s a 100% digital product stationed in landfills. We have five landfills right now — three here in Michigan, one in Denver, one in Chicago.
All three products are built to work independently of each other. However, I’m a big fan of Ultron; when they come together, they form a more cohesive unit — the Livegistic ecosystem — to create a more supremely efficient process not only for the contractors and transporters but also for anyone else who’s world we’re impacting.
The pandemic continues to have a huge impact on the construction industry; how is it affecting Livegistics and what do you see happening in the months ahead?
Even though construction didn’t stop during the pandemic, restraints were put in place. A lot of different states mandated that you could touch paperwork — and when you get rid of paperwork in construction, you open yourself up to even more lawsuits.
We were already a digital application. With the pandemic, we became a safety solution as well. It’s not really important to have the piece of paper; it’s important to have the data related to it. That’s what we’re proving out, and the pandemic has definitely hurried our course.
We’re in this space because we understand the market. We don’t come in and tell all these construction people to put their paper and pen on the desk; we have a natural progression in our software to get them from paper to digitizing to 100% digital. We’re going to travel this course with you as a company and make life better for you every step of the way. Then one day you’ll look up and you’ll be operating digitally in a way that makes your business run 100% better than it did before.
What was your experience like with the Transparent Collective?
It was the best thing we could have ever done.
When we showed up, James and Rohini basically lit our pitch deck on fire.They said, “Hey, you’ve got a good brain, and a great story here, but this pitch deck is not telling it.”
The hardest thing for us to do was explain our business to people. They completely reinvented how we tell our story not only to investors, but also to customers. They really had us focus on the things that matter, bringing the fact that I was a third-generation construction person back into it and talking about how the payment cycle kills 70% of businesses in the first five years.
If it wasn’t for that experience, we wouldn’t have been capable of accomplishing any of the things we have afterwards.
Why do you think the Transparent Collective’s mission of helping underrepresented founders is so important?
I was the vice president of a company. I have a masters degree. Andre Davis, our CFO, has a masters degree, is a CPA, and worked at Ernst & Young.
But when we got into the entrepreneur world, we didn’t know anything about a pitch deck, investors, or venture capitalism — and we were dealing with people for whom this was like a second language.
The reality is in our communities — and I’m talking about minority communities — these things are not common knowledge, so you never get a sense of them until it’s possibly too late. You could be the most talented person in the world, but if you don’t have the resources to grow your business, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to succeed.
That’s why the Transparent Collective is so important. They take people who have great ideas — I’ve met some tremendous people in the program — but who need guidance. You only have one time to make a first impression, so when you get that opportunity, you want to have the best pitch deck. The best elevator pitch. And you want to know your go-to-market strategy inside and out. That’s what James and Rohini and the whole team equip you with.
What advice would you give to other founders who might be interested in applying for the Transparent Collective?
First off, I say do it. I can guarantee you’re going to come out 1,000 times better than when you went into it. You’re going to come out completely focused, streamlined, and understanding your mission.
A lot of us think that we know how to run a business — that we’re going to look up, the dust is going to settle, and we’re going to be successful. The reality of it is it doesn’t work that way. There’s a step-by-step succession and the people who get successful, they understand those steps and they work the hell out of them. And one of those steps is inside of the Transparent Collective.
Congratulations on winning Pharrell Williams’ $1 million Black Ambition grand prize. Did the Transparent Collective help prepare you for that experience?
When we first won, my cofounder Andre said, “You know what, we got to call James and Rohini, because there’s no way we win this without them.” I said, “Man, you’re 100% right.”
I went to a Catholic high school. When I went to college, I realized how much more ahead I was because of the foundational things I learned in high school and middle school. It was the same thing with the Transparent Collective; when we first got to Black Ambition, we had the blueprint. We had the foundation because Transparent Collective spent weeks on top of weeks really pouring into us the things we needed to learn to be better entrepreneurs.
We couldn’t have won the the competition with Black Ambition if we hadn’t come more prepared with our pitch deck, with the delivery of our story, with our elevator pitch, with our understanding of what type of capital we needed to raise, and with our go-to-market strategy — these are all things we got from Transparent Collective.
Black Ambition also had tremendous people involved who were a great influence on us, but they were polishing something that had already been formed. They didn’t have to form it out of clay.
What does this milestone mean for Livegistics?
We’re going to grow 10 times what we did last year, and next year we’re going to do even better than that, simply because we’re just at the beginning of the hockey stick.
Our tech team is going to double in the next 60 days. What we were talking about developing in the next two years is going to be condensed because we have so many resources. That’s really exciting because we were already rolling our platform out to more than 300 facilities across the country by the end of next year.
Now, we’re going to have more enhancements tied to it. We’ll be releasing two new versions of our trucking and civil platforms in late Q3 or early Q4 of this year. And before 2021 is over, we expect to be in at least 20 landfills.
Then you look at what’s going on in our society; flooding is up tremendously this year. We take natural disasters into account when we’re talking about our platform. So we see a lot of best case uses for how we’re going to use our systems not only regionally here in Michigan but also across the United states. I’m looking forward to growing all the way out to the Pacific.