Interview with Gari Nickson from GenieBelt: A Free Tool for Construction Projects.


UPDATE 2022: Geniebelt is now Letsbuilt

Apps and SaaS tools for construction industry will soon become a very prominent part of an Engineer’s everyday life at any construction project, anywhere in the world (if not yet).

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Gari Nickson from GenieBelt which is a new and free cloud app for construction projects that helps tidying up internal communication and progress on site.

This is what we discussed:

QIC: GenieBelt is a relatively new platform for the construction industry. How would you describe GenieBelt in 50 words?

Gari: I will give it to you in 16 words: An App for collaborating in construction and making your work life better, easier and more fun!

QIC: What’s the story behind GenieBelt and what’s your vision? 

Gari: The story is that we are a bunch of guys on a mission. We are building the future of Construction. Why, you ask? Because we are builders and we believe as an industry we can do better. Most of us come from the construction industry, and the rest of us know a lot about designing and creating easy-to-use apps. The vision is to to change the way we work and the way we work together in Construction. Above all else, we want to bring the pride back to this amazing industry we work in. We are executing on this by building a great company and challenging the status quo.

QIC: You are actually offering  GenieBelt  free foreverThis is something we’ve almost never seen in construction industry apps scene. What’s that about?

Gari: Construction needs to change. I know what you are thinking: The old way of working has worked for centuries, right? Yes, BUT. We need: Less of the blame game. Less of ’it’s not my problem. Less tea breaks caused by delays. We like a cup of tea as much as the next guy, but we like to get things done MORE! So. We are putting our money where our mouth is and giving everyone GenieBelt ’s core features for FREE FOREVER! No hidden agenda. No funny business. And yes, we are a business not a non profit. We make money from companies that need our advanced features. All we ask in return is: You tell us what else you need and help us spread the word. Now, go crazy and build great things!

QIC: At your website , GenieBelt is described as “a simple way to manage your projects and get possible causes of delay sorted before they even become a problem”. That sounds like…the holy grail in construction industry! Could you describe us a little bit how GenieBelt could help keep track of what is going on in your project? How does GenieBelt solve that problem? Is there an integration with Project Management Software (e.g. MS Project, Primavera etc)?

Gari: Well very simply. You get an App which works on your computer or smartphone/tablet, where everyone in your team can communicate into. We are builders ourselves so the design is intuitive and construction specific. We have even designed the App for thick fingered subbies standing there on a cold winter day- that’s how simple it is to use. The way to work in GenieBelt is that you create a list of tasks which turns into a Gantt chart (you can be as simple or advanced as you want). Within these tasks you can add all relevant information and communicate on them through text, progress reports or pictures. Everyone knows what they are doing and when. Any changes and the relevant people are informed automatically. Basically, when you use GenieBelt, everyone will have the right information in the right hands at the right time. And yes, you can of course import your MS Project files.

QIC: Is GenieBelt for any size of construction projects ? In what kind of projects has GenieBelt been used up to now and how did it help them?

Gari: Yes. But at the moment we are focusing on the Small to Medium guys because even though they represent a big chunk of the market, they are too often neglected. We want to make them better and they were a big part of our consideration when we decided to put our money where our mouth is and offer GenieBelt for free forever to them.

QIC: GenieBelt  doesn’t sound like one more snagging App or anything similar that we’ve seen up to now. However, there are many online collaboration tools, snagging apps and Document Management software for construction industry out in the market at the moment. So, what makes GenieBelt  different and why someone in the industry should give it a try?

Gari: There are a lot of things out there. I even made a snagging App two years ago. From doing that I learned a lot and I believe we now know where in the future lies for really improving construction. Ultimately though, the proof is in the pudding. We are giving you the best App on the market for free forever. Just remember, to be excellent in Construction we need to finish on time, to budget and to standards. Better still if everyone makes a profit and are happy to work together again. That’s what GenieBelt is for!

QIC: BIM is a pretty hot topic in construction industry lately. Is there any integration with BIM Models or software?

Gari: Nope!  We don’t integrate with BIM right now for a good reason. We are mainly serving Small to Medium sized companies. Ask any of these if they know what BIM stands for and in there lies your answer. What the industry needs is to adopt simple technologies that take 20% effort but bring back 80% value. Once we solve the basics then let’s look at agreeing what BIM actually means in that picture. Yes, BIM is a hot topic in the industry. But, it is not a silver bullet that we all hope for. I think BIM is going to be amazing in the next five years for large projects with large design teams. But the three quarters of the market served by the SME’s it won’t have any effect.

QIC: Is it possible to view and markup drawings with GenieBelt?

Gari: Within GenieBelt you can add links to your drawings files/folders. Since in GenieBelt we use the Gantt as the main point of reference, you can attach the link within the correct task. This means easy access on the go and no confusion as to which drawings belong to which task. As an extra bonus it makes it a no-brainer for the Subbies or the lads on site to see the latest information.

QIC: From what we’ve seen up to now, one of the coolest features of GenieBelt is probably the “Beats”, which is basically a facebook-type feed with everything that is happening on your project. Could you tell us how that works?

Gari:  The coolest feature is GenieBelt’s simplicity. We have made something even the most hardened guys on site can feel confident of using. I am not a big fan of comparing business software with Facebook. And for sure comparing it with Facebook will never help us convert the grey hairs of the industry. Yes GenieBelt gives you notifications of what is important to you BUT, in reality users don’t want and should not spend their time looking at GB and trying to understand it. What we do is to save them from information overload and basically give people more time to wander round site being approachable and accessible.

QIC: Does GenieBelt target on eliminating emails and ugly spreadsheets? How could it help on tidying up all the communication and data history of a project?

Gari: Now I am a big design advocate. BUT,I don’t think it’s a problem of ugly spreadsheets. Excel is an awesome tool to be fair and it succesfully managed to improve construction in my eyes by taking many away from paper take offs (yes I was a QS!). The problem with excel is that everyone uses it differently and it’s a single user system, there is no collaboration. In GenieBelt it’s all sorted for you. We make the biggest reduction of paperwork possible. We saves time filing. That filing doesn’t usually happen very efficiently – time pressures plus just not clerical-minded on site. So, GenieBelt does not just reduce paperwork, it does the filing for them, too. And, it makes it quick and easy to get hold of up-to-date information.

QIC: There is no doubt that the use of tablets, smartphones and lately wearables (like Google Glasses) has gained a lot of momentum within the industry. How far from a completely “digital construction site”, do you think we are, in general? How does GenieBelt  fit in such an “old-school” environment as construction industry?

Gari:  We are a technology startup and I still get the odd piece of paper every now and again. So I think we still have some time to go. That’s why with GenieBelt we work to accommodate. I think the old school guys will get it. They just need to see that it is simpler and better than what they do now. Just like they adapted to mobile phones on site to call people rather than running around looking for people, they will get this. Even though some are reluctant to change, if something means they can finish 30 mins earlier to get some dinner and have all their filling done then they will adapt. They are called SMART phones for a reason right?

QIC: So, is GenieBelt available at the moment? How does the future look for GenieBelt? Any upcoming new features we should be looking forward to?

Gari:  GenieBelt  is available to everyone for FREE now. As for future features: Think integrated Snagging, think the future of formal communication, think Reports, think the future of Construction…


PS: is not commercially linked with any of the products that are presented or any of the interviewees (read our disclaimer).

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Pavlos Inglesis
I am a Chartered Civil Engineer (CEng-MICE) and a Chartered Quality Professional (MCQI CQP) working in the construction industry for about 20 years. My specialty is Quality Control and Quality Assurance Management in Construction Projects. I have worked on projects in the Middle East, and Greece and am now based in the UK.

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