Ask Me Anything! with Jason Rudin, Founder and CEO of Clad

Ask Me Anything! with Jason Rudin, Founder and CEO of Clad Banner Image

Oct 27, 2023


About Our Distinguished Guest

Jason is the founder and CEO of Clad. Clad aims to help telecom companies lay fiber faster with software to bid, manage, and pay their construction subcontractors.

Before founding Clad in 2022, Jason worked at both Google and Meta, from 2017 to 2018, and 2018 to 2022, respectively. Jason also worked as a senior business analyst for McKinsey from 2014 to 2018.

Jason completed his bachelor of science in digital media design at the University of Pennsylvania; he also received a bachelor of science in finance and management from the Wharton School. 

Event Transcript

Jason Rudin: Where are you today, Jase? 

Jase Wilson: DC.

Jason: Oh, very nice.

Jase: Yeah, where are you? 

Jason: Brooklyn, back home.

Jase: Very cool, very cool.

Ben: And we're live.

Jase: Alright. Awkward silence begins.

Jason: Ready for it.

Jase: Staring contest, let's go. Yeah, We good Ben? 

Ben: Yeah, we are live, we're just waiting as people are trickling in.

Jase: Okay. Alrighty. We'll give those folks a good minute. And Jason, you're in Brooklyn? 

Jason: I'm in Brooklyn, exactly, you're gonna have a nice personal bookshelf view.

Jase: Awesome, I'm in DC.

Jason: That's great, what brought you to DC today, Jase? 

Jase: Well, the Ready Team just wrapped up a great retreat.

Jason: That's great.

Jase: Got the whole gang together, we're a remote company, but we're working our tails off and just wrapped a great week here in DC and ate too much food and stood out too late probably last night. Yeah.

Jason: So it's a good week all around then? 

Jase: It was great week, it was great to see everybody in person.

Jason: Perfect.

Jase: Yeah, alright. I think it's good to go, it's really a honor, community to get to hang out with this guy Jason Rudin, he's building Clad I know people are gonna be trickling in, but I just wanna say that, Jason, it's really cool that you're working on solving such an intricate problem that's in the way of scaling broadband projects in the United States and beyond. So, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today in the broadband community, and I'd love to start us off. We have some questions for you, but I'd love to start us off with a quick intro from you if you would.

Jason: Yeah. Absolutely.

Jase: If you could tell us about like what you've been up to and why you're building Clad.

Jason: You got it. Well, first of all, thanks for inviting me to do this. Was super excited about it. So I'll give you just brief overview for what Clad is and then I'll give you my background and how I got here. So Clad is contractor management software. We help network operators, prime contractors, RACs, anyone who's managing or building zoom network deployment. We handle all the back office aspects of managing subcontractors that are usually needed to do these builds. There's a bunch of manual work and overhead that's usually required as I'm sure everyone knows and we automate all that. The way I got here, it's a very specific, very specific problem. My mom actually worked at a fiber network growing up, and so I was, I think I was like eight or nine when she was working there.

Jason: And she was responsible for building out like one of the first versions of like a European fiber network. She'd come home with kind of complain about, oh, this contract would double their prices in the middle of a job, or someone would try to renegotiate something in the middle of a lease agreement. And of course I'd be lying to you if I was like, yeah, at the age of eight I knew I was gonna build telecom software. But what it did do is it kicked off a love of kind of construction and real estate and just building things that I've had forever. And so when I left my job at Instagram last year, I was exploring a bunch of different ideas in the space and actually met two people who work at different telecom companies.

Jason: And they were complaining about how hard it is to find subs, how hard it's to work with them and manage them and keep them happy. And that really sparked like an interest, I was like so curious. I was like, tell me more, tell me more, tell me about the problem. And it resonated a ton, knowing what I had seen like from my mom and I was like, oh, this is so strange that this hasn't changed a bunch, in the decades in between. And so I just went to conferences. I went to the Fiber Connect last year as my first show just to meet people, talked to as many people as I could, and kept hearing the same thing over and over again of just how hard it is and how manual it is to manage your subs.

Jase: Okay. I absolutely love that background, Jason. You lost over some huge things about what you've accomplished in prior chapters in your career, but the background growing up and seeing your mom working on building out a fiber network and having those specific sort of pain points. And then just like sort of going and racking up a bunch of experience in your career and then only to go in and to roll up your sleeves and work to solve that problem at pain point. That's really fascinating, man.

Jason: Yeah, it was really fun. The intervening years, just for what it's worth. So I studied engineering and business in school, went hard on the business route first. So I was a consultant at McKinsey for a few years and then the engineering me after a few years of that was getting Nancy. I was like, I need to build something. And so I went closer to the metal, and worked at Meta and Instagram for about four years and change. And then again, the I was getting Nancy, I was like, I know there's more to build. And so I took the leap to start Clad.

Jase: You got a founder's itch and you said.

Jason: Exactly.

Jase: What am I gonna do? I'm gonna do, I saw my mom work on that problem back then.

Jason: Exactly this, it is gonna sound so lame. I was home for Thanksgiving last year. I was going through like some of my old stuff and had printed out some of Paul Graham's essays, just like our startup essays of how to start a startup, kind of the basic stuff when I was like in middle school. So I think I've had that itch for a while.

Jase: That's, I've done that same thing, those through the, you just, you dust them off every fall and read them again. That's awesome.

Jason: Totally.

Jase: So, Jason, that's really badass man. And then your timing is kind of impeccable, I would say, because you got that sort of, you're like, well, I should go do this in broadband. Right around the time that the US is like putting together what would become its largest ever investment in the broadband. And in the Broadband Equity Access Deployment Act, it's underway now. A lot of state directors working really hard to get that out the door. The NTIA folks are doing amazing things to guide the money, and we've had several of those great folks on events here in the broadband community over the last year and a half talking about their journeys That one thing that they...

Jase: I tend to underestimate is the complexity of actually getting the job done. So I know that you're not building clad like specifically for any broadband grant program, but can you talk a little bit about like, what the hell, first of all, what the hell does Clad do? And why do folks that are actually deploying broadband CapEx and managing crews of broadband folks, like why do they need it? And then how did you figure out that timing to like jump into it.


Jason: Oh right is this massive inflow of construction's about to hit? Yeah.

Jase: It's cool.

Jason: So let me, I realize I'm a little blurry lemme just turn that off for a second. Lemme share my screen actually 'cause I feel like it's helpful just to stay in here, anchor the conversation a little bit. So I'll talk first at the high level of what Clad does and then we can talk specifically about BEAD and kind of all the complexities that BEAD's gonna have that kind of Clad can touch on support. So first, like a broad level, when we think about working with subs and doing deployment, everyone thinks about engineering and permitting and actually just managing the construction progress, which is super important, right? That's the core of the work. There's basically a bunch of back office tasks that I'd say that are needed to support this work from actually happening.

Jason: And these are a lot of the places where things kind of the gums up the works and slows things down. Common things that I hear are, it's hard to find subs. It's hard to get subs onboarded. So collecting and reviewing COIs, bidding out work is a pain. Like getting actual price quotes from lots of subs to make sure you're actually managing like your pricing well is tough. Tracking ongoing compliance and making sure everyone's like good and clear to work all the time is tough. And then when it comes to paying people, it's just a complicated dance of actually making sure that the work has been done, approved by the right construction or project management folks before it can actually be paid. And so this is kind of the landscape that I'm building Clad against. Clad today is three kind of core components.

Jason: One is a vendor database. So it helps you track all the info that you need to know about your contractors. Second is, it's a way to orchestrate onboarding and compliance. So you can onboard new primes, new subs really, really quickly. Clad kind of takes care of the rest of getting all the information that you need. And you specify that can be MBAs, COIs, MSAs, even down to like employee level safety certs, to making sure that everyone's good to work. And then finally it's been management. So making sure that you can unlock your pricing insights actually, like, get pricing well or done well and quickly without all the manual overhead that usually comes with that from bidding. I've seen countless like very, very, very complicated, nicely made, but complicated differently formatted spreadsheets and PDFs that folks send when you're doing bidding. That can be quite a hassle. So this is kind of like the anchor of what Clad does today. If that makes sense. I can kick over to like how we think. I think about like where BEAD fits into all this. That's interesting.

Jase: Relating broadband teams to their contractors. Right. And there's more to it than just grants and stuff. So this is awesome. This is great framing.

Jason: Cool. So yeah, that's like the backdrop of it. Maybe interesting to jump right into like the BEAD side of stuff and like what BEAD is is coming or like.

Jase: Yeah, I mean, if you would, because I think that there's more people joining this call in progress, but like we have a ton of folks right. In the broadband community, and then we have a bunch of customers already that just what's on their minds right now, Jason is their upcoming journey through the crazy nuances of BEAD and it has a bunch of moving parts that are meant to protect the public's investment that are meant to make sure it goes to highest and best use. And there are a lot of great folks working really hard to do that. There's a bunch of like, nuances around workforce. Right? And I feel like that you actually are probably among, some of the most knowledgeable folks that I've ever met in the space. On that topic space. And you're actually building to make sure that that's easy. So can you talk a bit about that for a little bit? 

Jason: Totally. Yeah, I've spent more, I've printed out more pieces of government legislation in the last number of weeks and months than I ever thought I would. But yeah, I agree. It's an incredibly exciting program. There's a ton of work and a ton of different moving pieces. But something that I haven't seen talked about a ton is like the workforce, the construction and the contractor requirements both for applications and for ongoing reporting, which in some ways is gonna be harder. I think, let me share my screen again. At a high level we can talk through each of these chunks, in more detail. If it's interesting is it comes up the four kind of core, if you aggregate, look across all of the NOFO, all of the initial proposals that are starting to be drafted, there are kind of four core components when it comes to how BEAD the requirements that BEAD imposes on your own workforce and your contractors and subs.

Jason: One is pay and wage tracking, so requirements for certain states and certain job sizes to pay all of your, make sure that everyone's paying everyone prevailing wage. Which we can talk about what that means and the requirements around that. Second is an imposes requirements about how you BEAD out work and how you procure your contractors. There's ongoing requirements for how you to report on who are your subs, who are your primes, how much has been awarded to each. The third piece is around safety certification and management. So making sure that everyone is qualified and like a highly qualified and skilled workforce. So making sure that at the company level, everyone is certified and doesn't have, and to report any OSHA or fair Labor Standards Act violations. And some states are even asking if you kind of share and track down to the employee level, does everyone working on jobs have the right? 

Jason: Which is, it gets a lot. And it's [0:12:30.5] ____ and then the final piece is the construction progress tracking. Right? But at a simple level it's what is the state of every single project every month that you need to report to the state. But different states are gonna add different reporting requirements here too. I think it was Louisiana. I was reading through their initial proposal. They asked that you report the invoice, like the total invoiced amount, the percent of project complete, the percent of project against the budget that's been done. And who's doing the work on a monthly basis. And so there's just a bunch of these requirements that kind of ISPs, RACs that any supplier need to deal with. So it's a bunch.

Jase: It's a bunch. Yeah. And I don't know if he'd said the magic word, but I threw a link in there. One thing that we hear a lot about, we had a lot of customers that are rural electric cooperatives.

Jason: Oh yeah.

Jase: And I mean, it's not gonna be everybody's gonna have to deal with this, but they have a unique situation I wanna talk about Jason and see if it's something that like, you could maybe think about a Clad as you're building towards, like making it easier and easier for Davis-Bacon.

Jason: Oh, yeah.

Jase: Yeah. Like, let's say for example, like broadband community, a AMA alumni, Darren Farin right? Is 30,000... 32,000 subscribers for internet 8,000, is it REC with 8,000 electric members.

Jason: Yep.

Jase: Right. He's won every major broadband grant program in the last 11, 12 years. Right? And there's every reason to believe that somebody like that would get a chunk of the BEAD funding. Right. But he's pausing is, and to see if there's like a way to do it, because there's so many requirements in the space that you're talking about between the workforce stuff and then the sourcing and then taking and onboarding, there's just, there's so much to do.

Jason: Totally.

Jase: Then when it comes to Davis-Bacon, every REC has that problem where their crews, okay, first of all, they're in multiple jurisdictions counties, right? So there's different rates, different. So not just like, like you're saying, Jason, you gotta track it down at the individual level, but there's all those little nuances that they have to think about. Right? And one that's like really striking for them is that a lot of their crews are, folks that have their electric line members, right? They're members of the team that are trained for going up on electric poles, taking big risks, and those folks take more training and they earn more money. And it's like Davis-Bacon mismatch, right? So do you think that you're gonna help with Davis-Bacon? Do You think you're gonna be able to help some of these rural electric cooperatives, of which they're like 860 of them in the US roughly 200 or so are active as ISPs, probably another a 100 or so could activate as ISPs for BEAD. Is that something that you're gonna help with? 

Jason: Absolutely. And I'm glad... Yeah, absolutely. I was actually, I was catching up with Darren this week.

Jase: Good. Okay.

Jason: Yeah. And it was just, we talked about it a little bit, but it's such a hassle for these organizations that don't normally deal with Davis-Bacon or prevailing wage type work. And even if you do, the way you deal, most folks deal with it is incredibly manual and super time consuming. We can talk about like, the specifics of what's needed. But yeah, high level with Davis-Bacon or prevailing wage, like you basically need to certify your payroll every single week to make sure that you're track like, that you're paying every... That not only you are paying your own staff above prevailing wage, but that your contractors and that your subcontractors are all paying their folks at prevailing wage. And you need to collect all of those certified payrolls to be able to submit to the state.

Jason: You have three options normally of how you do it. One is manual, so I'm sure you know for all the folks that have extra staff line around at the RACs, sure. That's a great option, right? You have to manually check every payroll report, compare it against the prevailing wage, sign a document... Fill out a government form, sign the document that certifies that it is actually above prevailing wage, and do that every single week. And there's all the nuances, Jason, to your point of different counties and making sure that people work on different, like, if you're working two counties in one week, you may have different prevailing wage rates for those different hours. So you need to like tie all that together. And then you multiply that complexity by contractors and by subcontractors and we haven't got time.

Jase: That's a good.

Jason: The, So like one option is do it manually. The other extreme is you rip out your entire payroll system and like swap it in for something that does Davis-Bacon work or that handles like prevailing wage tracking. Most don't like I don't think QuickBooks does it. I don't think Gusto does it, but you could do it. You could... That's another full like multi-month effort to get it done. Or the third option, which is what I'm building, is basically you keep your payroll system and we'll integrate with it, or you export your payroll journal every week and we'll basically handle the Davis-Bacon part of it. Like just, it's like you tell us who's working and where and give us the payroll and we'll like generate the forms. We'll do the checks for you. And so you just don't have that headache basically.

Jase: That is music to the ears of folks who deal with that in and out, right? They're already working their tails off to connect families and businesses to broadband. And it's just, it's really cool to see you solving such a intricate, nuanced problem that is the bane of a lot of these, what people are thinking about these programs. I mean, we've talked to some of our REC customers that literally looking at like, we're not gonna apply because all these extra requirements. That's crazy, right? Like, what are some of the best folks to go and get the money to bet highest and best use? And it's like, because of this overhead complexity. But you're saying like, you can look to Clad and instead of like doing it manually...

Jason: Totally.

Jase: Instead of like ripping out your billing system and trying to find something that does that specific thing for this one specific case, there's a better way. There's just integrate to Clad and just let it let it ride, right? Like...

Jason: That's exactly right. And I think you touched on like the high-level point here, which is what makes me so excited is like, this work is super-important, right? 

Jase: Oh yeah. It's important.

Jason: And like the construction stuff is... Should be the hard stuff. Like people are experts in getting these networks built, but there's all this like cruft and overhead that slows us down. But for me I've been subscribed to like the New York... I live in New York. I've been subscribed to the New York State Procurement Listserv for years. Just 'cause I'm like into this stuff. Like I like the complexity and the nitty gritty and that's why I'm building like, and also nobody else has to think about it.

Jase: A tolerance for pain that a lot of folks don't, but that's good, Jason and to make that, to your point like there's also importance to the rules for why those rules are in place. Let's honor and respect the fact that like they're not just there for the sake of being there. They actually are...

Jason: Oh of course.

Jase: Meant to protect the public resources and so it's they're in net Good if they're not a blocker to participation.

Jason: That's exactly right. It's like you wanna make sure that everyone's paid well. You wanna make sure that everyone's safe.

Jase: Yeah.

[overlapping conversation]

Jase: Yeah, I agree. It's like our Quest Ready is like enable providers to connect more families and businesses to better services at a lower cost. And...

Jason: Yeah.

Jase: We're really interested, like we serve anybody that is on that wants to do that. But the ones that we really seem to be the most benefit to are the ones that are small and local and non-traditional providers. And it's like anything that we're able to do to help them like not have to have a huge team. But still get access to the resources is something that we wanna do. That's where came from, but...

Jason: Totally.

Jase: When it came to this point, it's like, well this is actually a structural impediment. It's like those rules aren't going anywhere and yet we're not gonna go and solve those rules. 'Cause they're just so intricate right into it. And then when you came in and started building it, it's like, this is freaking amazing. So, yeah. Thanks for doing that. And I think that gets into the first like, community submitted questions from Drew Clark at Broadband Breakfast. And he ask the question, Jason and this is where you should help the folks understand that are going through that BEAD journey where they should be thinking about this. Like if they're applying for BEAD specifically, like what are the compliance and workforce issues that they might wanna handle themselves. And then what are the issues that they might wanna turn to another party like Clad? 

Jason: Yeah, that's a great question. The way I think about it, it's kind of like two high level chunks or types of work, on one hand there's like one-off information requests primarily around the application that may be more narrative based that don't rely on a ton of active data. That sort of stuff is probably best suited for other... Like to not rely on another platform for, or it's like you can rely on ready to help submit the application, for example. But you don't necessarily need something like Clad to like actively manage that. The places where Clad, I think shines is for the things like the ongoing reporting requirements. So things like the active tracking of wages and safety certs and who are your subs that you're actively working with. Like things where like the data changes more frequently or things where there's an ongoing reporting requirement is how I kind of think about that split of what is probably easier to do yourself versus what a platform may be able to handle and really help save time on.

Jase: Beautiful. And I appreciate that Jason. So another topic, another question for you from Adam from the community is, thanks for joining Jason. A big topic around the industry has been the potential for a big shortage in qualified workforce. And when you were showing in your intro you were showing some of the things about like lists of contractors and everything, like...

Jason: Yeah.

Jase: Are you seeing or hearing the same thing and how can Clad help the stakeholders in this particular situation? Is there anything that you're gonna be able to do to help with that? 

Jason: Yeah, so it's interesting from the conversations I have with folks, we're in this weird, from a market perspective. We're in this weird middle ground where some folks, like people I've heard like subs are like calling around like, Hey, do you have work? Do you have work? Like I'm looking for work? On the other hand, I see posts on like Dean all the time or just talk to people. It's like, yeah, I can find a sub to get this stuff done. So it's this weird like mismatch. And so against that, something that I'm early in building out, but will, is building what I'm calling the Clad network where basically subs or any contractor will be able to create a free profile on Clad, put your information on, say the type of work you do where do you work.

Jase: That's great.

Jason: And make it as a resource available to anyone who's looking for contractors. 'Cause I think this is the type of stuff that's gonna be really important to get, again to your point, Jason of like being able to actually use and leverage this funds as effectively as possible. Like sourcing subs is actually, and sourcing contractors is actually really really important.

Jase: Oh yeah.

Jason: So yeah. Building that's on the list for sure.

Jase: Okay. Good deal. That's good to hear. So the next question from Sushiil do you see Clad getting involved in the infrastructure projects directly? So how do you plan on initiating them? Are you gonna sort of get involved or is your role just as sort of like the facilitator for the automation of those complex things in those programs? 

Jason: Yeah, I mean, maybe down the line. But I think for me, the way I think about it for the short minute and even long term is Clad is meant to grease the wheels. I wanna facilitate or be the funding being distributed and applied to different folks. And for construction generally just shouldn't be so hard to get stuff done. Shouldn't take so much time, shouldn't be so like, require so much overhead and that's media enough problem that'll keep you busy for a very long time.

Jase: Brilliant.

Jason: So that's how I think about kind of Clad's role in the whole system is just easing some of this stuff.

Jase: Okay. Awesome. And Sushiil had a second question for you, Jason, and he asked considering many Telcos have quite a long history. Some of these companies are actually a 100 plus years old. How do you deal with the legacy systems that Telecom companies use and sync within their systems? So you're talking about integrations and so you're gonna have to go in and build some integrations in some places, hopefully their payrolls are probably more modern systems. But what do you think about this? 

Jason: Yeah, I think there's two ways to answer it. So one, it's again, to your point of like me liking weird sorts of pain. Yeah. If there are systems that I need to integrate with to like make this easy, like we'll do it. The second piece of this is that where I've seen systems be adopted most frequently is on what I would call the construction management side of things. So there's a bunch of like, incredible systems that are being built to really like manage your network map, manage where all your fiber assets are, manage the construction process. And a lot of people are adopting those really quickly. And those systems are new that basically are replacing manual Excel tracking, but they focus less on is kind of the pre and post side of construction, like the contractor onboarding management side, and then like the payment side of things too. And so those are also like kind of gonna be key players for Clad to integrate with to make sure that some of this reporting of like construction project status and making sure that all the invoices are stored in the same place that are easy to share with kind of the state entities, is gonna be really important. So that's how I think about some of the integration or like where Clad fits into the puzzle more broadly.

Jase: Awesome, Jason. So can we do a quick thought exercise though? And 'cause you're fresh from doing deep dives into the specific rules and you love these things, so...

Jason: Let's do it.

Jase: If you... Let's jump forward three years from now. And funding is like being plowed into underground and onto the poles and maybe some cases onto the towers.

Jason: Yep.

Jase: What is the hardest thing that they're dealing with at that point? If everything works correctly, like what's the biggest problem that they're facing? 

Jason: Yeah. From a BEAD perspective.

Jase: Just deployment, everything.

Jason: Yeah. Yeah. I think at the highest level from what I'm hearing, like there's gonna be like two major things that are gonna be tough to do. One is just like, generally there's like a labor shortage that's come up like over and over and over again. So like finding high qualified people to do this work. And making sure that they can, they're trained, they're available and they like get the work done. So that's like one core problem. And then the second piece, I do actually think this reporting stuff, particularly on the Davis-Bacon side of things, is gonna be a real pain. If folks aren't like thinking about it.

Jase: That's a good one.

Jason: Like...

Jase: I mean, how much time are you spending on that? 

Jason: Yeah. It's gonna take hours every week. If you don't... If like in the default case, like you need someone to look at the payroll, like, I wrote up all these steps, it's like, you need to make sure you're classifying your construction staff correctly. You need to make sure that you're paying them the right amounts relative to the railing wage of each county that they're working in. You need someone to actually sign off and certify that everything's good and you need to submit it to the like right state or federal entity depending on where you are. And you do that for yourself. You need to do that for all of your contractors and all of your contractors, contractors, all your subs. And that's something that happens every week. You need to pay these people every week and do this reporting every week.

Jason: And so that's one where I just think the multi-level complexity of this, like, it's not just a GC who's gonna be doing it for themselves. It's like many levels. And the fact that it's not something that folks do all the time, or even if you're like a Darren. And you've applied forever, you've like gotten a ton of different government, like different... Participated in a ton of different government programs. Like it's still a headache for you. You need something to help ease that pain a little bit. And so that's where...

Jase: Oh. Jason, like even Headachier, right? Like those prior programs compared to BEAD are like walks in the park.

Jason: Totally. They didn't have, most of them didn't have prevailing wage parts. Some did. But like...

Jase: Yeah, it's.

Jason: Yeah. It's...

Jase: Okay. This is awesome Ben.

Jason: What do you think? 

Ben: Well, what do I think? If things go well and you have succeeded with Clad and there's not as much going on with having to do behind-the-scenes reporting and hassle with all that stuff. And we've succeeded with Ready. And the grant applicants through the Broadband money system, like the reporting and compliance automation what we're thinking together, Jason, is an integration that just for folks that wanna do it manually. That's fine. But we've got over 2000 independent applicants at the starting line waiting for the states to start turning on their applicant portals. And it's like some of those folks will win.

Jason: Yep.

Ben: And it's our job is to make sure that like they don't have to do all those things by hand if they don't want to.

Jason: Exactly.

Ben: So that's where we're building that integration that if it goes well, then we both do our jobs correctly and we've helped with that behind-the-scenes stuff. Like I hope that the hardest problem is at that point, like converting passings into subscribers.

Jason: Exactly.

Ben: And then they're actually pulling fiber putting up heads, like doing the real work of building the networks. And they're not like back at the office, like filling out frigging forms.


Jason: Exactly [0:31:42.7] ____ We all have succeeded is if everybody's Friday ends at 5:00 and they can go to happy hour because like they're not digging through invoices and like payroll for that week. Yeah.

Jase: Yeah. Well, so we've talked a lot about BEAD and it is definitely on everybody's minds, but I would love Jason, like I know you're not building Clad specifically for BEAD just the same, we're not building Ready for specifically for BEAD. It's just there's this once a life kind of opportunity to help folks get their share of those resources. And we're both very passionate about that. Like, and we're both working on really interesting aspects of it that kind of fits together, like puzzle pieces. But what are you thinking about Beyond BEAD? What are you thinking about outside of the specific nuances of where Clad helps with BEAD? Like what else is there? 

Jason: Yeah, so the places that Clad's focused on today, and I can actually show my screen. I can give you like a quick, quick preview of what it looks like, if that's interesting.

Jase: Let's do it. Yeah, I would love that. That's amazing.

Jason: But like there's like three... Let me share and we can talk through it. So the first piece, to talk through is the vendor database side of things. Right now everyone stores all of their contractor info all over the place. If you're a larger organization, your East Division doesn't know what your West Division is doing. They don't know who, what contractors in Alabama that you may have worked with before. It's just, it's a a mess. It's all over the place. So Clad centralizes all this stuff, and we have a really robust filtering system that lets you say, Hey, who do I know in California for example, and it filters you down who's there.

Jason: The next piece of Clad is on the bidding side of stuff. Because getting pricing information can be really complicated, especially if you're, you want to get the best price, the best way to do that is to BEAD at work all the time. And especially if you're doing lots of quick hit plant extensions, if you're running more complex, kind of multi-party bids, it's kind of a hassle to actually get this information together. And so we've built this really easy way to actually send out BEAD requests. You just describe the details of a job, select the different rate card items that you wanna get priced out, ask any additional questions if you want, choose the vendors in your database that you wanna send it to. And that's really it. And when you get quotes back, we built this BEAD analysis tool that I think it's been really fun.

Jason: We have like high low for example, so you can easily see which bids are coming in better or worse. You can look at the price for example. And we built, what I love is this outlier, thing. So we let you find spot hotspots where people have been way too high or too low. So for example, this guy, he just, oh, everyone else is about a dollar. This guy's coming in at 10 probably just 'cause he fat fingered and missed the decimal point. And then we have a commenting system in here too, where you can comment and say, Hey, looks like you missed a decimal. Try again.


Jason: And they'll just come, they'll get a notification, come right in and be able to change it. So this kind of is a great way to, like a much more better way to analyze your bids rather than dealing with all this spreadsheets and PDFs that you get over time, so it's much faster. And then on the compliance side of things, like creating a compliance request is... Doesn't need to be such a whole process of getting NDAs and tracking COIs and all this stuff. All you need to do is just choose which... We set these up for folks easily or accustomed to you. So let's say you want everything NDA, the COI and MSA, then all you need to do is just choose who you wanna send it to, select the audience, and then send it out and Clad we take care of the rest of actually getting all the information, comparing COIs against the threshold that you set yourself, making sure that when documents expire, people get notified 90 days, 60 days, 30 days out, just kind of all that compliance stuff, is automated for you. So you can just get that green check mark, say, hey, yep, they're good to go.

Jase: That's pretty slick, Jason. You can already see how this thing is gonna be a massive help. And you're looking at that, you're saying like, well, not only are you making it easy to sort of put the power of like a BEAD system to work for these folks that you're doing it in a way that it's auditable. If a push comes to shove, like let's say they take in some federal resources and then there's an objection from somewhere down the line, like some tier one Karen that's like, Hey man, you didn't BEAD on that, it's like yep here's the proof right.

Jason: Here you go.

Ben: Yeah.

Jason: And that's the thing, it's all in one spot, you're not taking through emails from three years ago. You're not gonna have to go through that to find a thing.

Jase: Yeah, this is cool. This is really cool. That's exciting. So yeah. We got some questions coming in. We got Drew Clark is asking what are the kinds of things that ISPs need to do themselves? I already answered. Come on Drew. We already answered that.

Jason: No. But, or Drew to give you, I think maybe to the absolute essentials that they need to do. There's some certification stuff on the application side, you need to have a director or officer certify that you have like the workplace safety plan that you have disclosed all the right OSHA or [0:37:15.5] ____ I can never get that abbreviation, that sort of stuff you absolutely need to do. But Clad can be kind of be like the system that you manage all the rest with, around the reporting side, the payroll side, the safety side of stuff. So that's how I think about it.

Jase: Awesome. Jason, so Mike Houston.

Jason: Yeah.

Jase: Asked the question, does Clad have an MBE on it? 

Jason: Absolutely it does Mike. So there's two ways that it shows up in Clad. One is, as our default set of company info that we ask for. We ask if you're a diverse supplier or you're an MBE or a WBE, and we ask for certification to prove that to you. So that's stored as a part of all onboarding within Clad, anytime you onboard a contractor, they have the opportunity to select that. The second piece of where it shows up is on the bidding side. And this is maybe a BEAD specific question. BEAD requires that you do your best effort to basically reach out to MBEs and WBEs. And one way to do that is to, one, collect that info of who's who and then have the proof of, Hey, like I sent a BEAD request to, all the MBEs that I know, for example. So yeah, that's the two ways that it shows up in Clad right now.

Jase: This is cool. Are you thinking about anything it's a BEAD system. Are you thinking anything on sort of scoring and evaluation tools over the top of that where you help them make sense of who's who and...

Jason: Yeah, it's a good question. So the way I've seen most folks do construction right now is they basically get all the bids in one spot. They dump it into a very complicated, no offense to people who I've seen their spreadsheets not very nicely formatted Excel spreadsheet. And then it's like the analysis time. That's time to actually score and evaluate the bids. Most of the times, people are knocking people out. So they'll do, they'll hide different people. They'll have maybe multiple rounds of bidding have Q&A. So all of that's already built into Clad. We haven't built in the scoring on top of saying this is worth this many points or things like that 'cause it's a little less formal for a lot of the construction side of stuff. But absolutely would want to keep building out on that BEAD analysis or that build BEAD scoring thing. So it's the most robust system to handle bids.

Jase: Yeah, beautiful, Jason. Folks are on, like, reminder, if y'all have any questions, just throw them in the chat. We're getting a really wonderful crash course in those intricacies from Jason. But I want to take a quick beat to say that we have an upcoming Ask Anything with me... Actually, Jason, you should connect with Josh Broder.

Jason: Yeah, I saw it. Like, that's definitely what I'm going to join.

Jase: Yeah, it's... And you should definitely sync with him. He's definitely visionary in the space and has built a very cool career around developing information infrastructure and has a really interesting, fascinating business that is helping a lot of different places and folks and networks. And Tilson is a top name in that space and just really wonderful work. So we're going to learn a ton. It's next Friday.

Jason: Totally.

Jase: November 3rd, 11:30 to 12:30. I'll be hosting it, but probably back from on the other coast, back in the West Coast. So, but yeah Jason, I'd love to spend the last few minutes of this call together, like what's on your mind? What are you thinking about as you're diving through these rules? Do you have any advice for these folks that are getting ready to gear up to do any of this stuff? And how can they connect with you and everything like that? Like, when I go through those things, okay? 

Jason: Yeah. So I think most top of mind for me... I'll give you one BEAD thing and then one non-BEAD thing.

Jase: Perfect. I like it.

Jason: So minds, advice, and then we can talk about how to connect. So top of mind for me is the non-BEAD side of things is the... So I used to work at Instagram and worked on the small business ads team there. And so a lot of what I thought about was, how do you make complex tools really simple and how do you build basically a network of businesses working with other businesses and working with people. And I'm thinking a lot about that in terms of Clad, which is ideally people are putting stuff in once and then it just goes up and down the chain based on who you work with 'cause you're not going to get... None of this work is ever done in SILO. There's always multiple organizations that are kind of a part of it.

Jason: And so I want Clad to kind of be some of that connective tissue that makes it easier for businesses and businesses to work together and build that like kind of telecom network that exists so real and like offline, but I wanted to build it online too. For BEAD specifically, I guess the thing that I'm thinking about is a lot of this prevailing wage stuff. It's been going really deep there. I'm starting to think about how do we build this product out well. The advice I'd say for BEAD applications generally is like get ahead of some of this like tracking and reporting stuff. It's pretty easy, like once you have the systems running, to just like have the reports auto-generated or to have all of your data stored in one spot.

Jason: But if you're doing it last minute, it can kind of be a scramble to like back handle it. So I think just like get ahead early is my general advice and lay some of the groundwork that makes a lot of this stuff way less painful down the road. And then the way to get in touch with me. So website is You can just pop in your email and I'll respond pretty quick or you can email me directly. It's and would love to talk to you about anything BEAD, anything, contractor management, telecom construction, or just like hang out. That's the way to get in touch.

Jase: Cool, Jason, who should get in touch with you? Who are you talking to? Who are your customers? Like who are you going to serve in this thing? 

Jason: Yeah, so anyone who's managing subcontractors, the specific answer to that is usually like regional ISPs, RACs, or prime contractors, both like that. We're just doing lots of like smaller jobs with maybe a few contractors, or are doing many larger jobs with like huge banks of subcontractors. The specific people, I feel like talk to anyone, but anyone who is usually on the construction operations or procurement side, anyone who's dealing with those subs is probably the right people. Increasing on the prevailing wage side of things, it's going to be like HR or maybe legal too.

Jase: Awesome. Jason, I know this originated like such a badass story of observing the headaches that your mom went through and she was building out fiber networks. But at Ready, we think about a thing that our board member Brad Powell refers to as like all the utility. It's like the sort of the belief that in the future that A, broadband, it's going to be recognized as a utility. We think that's already a foregone conclusion. But then B, that it sort of goes with other utilities like cinnamon and sunshine or peanut butter and jelly or spaghetti and meatball. Like there's just a complimentary synergy. Are you ever thinking about Clad? 'Cause what you showed with even just like the BEAD tracker and that kind of system, that doesn't look like it's exclusive for telecom. Are you thinking beyond broadband? Are you thinking like that's actually useful for other utility infrastructure someday? 

Jason: Jason, are you revealing all like you reveal my hand? The way, I'm blurry again, the way that I think about the ultimate vision for Clad is to power all infrastructure construction. So that's utilities...

Jase: Awesome.

Jason: That's road construction, that's EV chargers and solar cells, basically anything that's kind of network and horizontal construction. The nature of the bidding, the compliance, all the shapes of the problems that we're talking about in telecom or broadband, I think, transcend to your point, probably utility. And so absolutely, Clad can handle it now and building it out enough to handle it even better in the future.

Jase: That's awesome, dude. I'm glad you're on the case 'cause by our math stack. BEAD is really interesting, right, 'cause it's happening now and it's broadband and there's really smart people working their tails off to get it out into the world. But then if you zoom out, that's part of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. And that was like one of three sisters, right? There's that and there's the Build Back Better and then there's the Inflation Reduction Act. And if you actually pull together all of the infrastructure, utility infrastructure programs across them, like America is using a trillion dollars of utility infrastructure upgrades over the next few years, right? So I'm thankful, Jason, that you're doing this right now because you're going to be part of that crew of folks that's, like, helping to put it to the highest and best use by making it easier to get good answers, right? And that's cool. That's awesome to hear that you're not just doing this, like, in broadband. We're in the same way already. It's like broadband is about the beginning.

Jason: Yeah, it's funny, this is going to sound cheesy, but before I even started Clad, I was still on Instagram and I was taking the subway and I was reading some article and I literally, there was, like, a moment I could tell you where I was at this moment. And I was like, oh, I know what I want to do with my, like, I was like, oh, I know it would be, like, the coolest thing in the world if I could do this, I'd be so happy. And I was like, if I could help things get built faster, like, if I can help the world, like, build stuff more quickly, that would be amazing. For me, that would be, I will have done something that is, like, worth it. And there's months before Clad, and it's, cool to be, like, a month a year into this, like, obviously a long, long road to go. But I'm like, yeah, this feels like a thing that actually could be helping solve some of that problem. So that just kind of keeps me going day in and day out.

Jase: Awesome, dude. Well Jason, it's a real honor to get to hang out with you. I know you're busy building, and you got to build really fast 'cause this money is flowing out the door right now and needs your help. But I do want to transition us into this sort of last leg of this AMA, which is let's switch gears a little bit. And let's ask you, like, what questions do you have that we didn't answer, that we didn't ask? And what didn't we get to that we should before we run out of time? 

Jason: Yeah, I think from a construction management point of view, we've talked a lot about the preconstruction side of things, right? We talked about payroll. We talked about bidding. We talked about the compliance tracking. One of the other things that I'm thinking about it's come up a bunch in, like, building out Clad to handle this is around the kind of intersection between project management and invoicing and, like, payments. 'Cause basically, everyone has their own project management system, whether it's, like, an advanced GIS-based system, or some people just use them in Excel spreadsheets.

Jason: But all the time, contractors and subs are sending in things for payments. And it's such a pain to, reconcile, hey, this invoice was for this job, and here's the different here's the as-built for it, and all right, like, this has been approved by the right people on the construction side to pass over to finance. And so a little bit of that again, it's that bridge building that I think that Clad can or that interconnection point, both between companies and then within different departments or companies or organizations that I'm really excited to think about. So that's, like, the other piece that kind of we haven't spent as much time on today, but definitely building out Clad to handle too.

Jase: Good. So, yeah, you're right, Jason. Let's think about the bigger picture here. You're talking about full lifecycle, not just pre-construction, but.

Jason: Yeah.

Jase: Okay.

Jason: Exactly. It's pre-construction. For the BEAD stuff in particular, it's going to be during construction, right? It's the payroll, like, wage prevailing sorry, wage tracking, safety tracking, stuff like that. And then, like, contractors need to get paid. And so making sure that that is tracked well but also done quickly, 'cause I know a lot of people have lost subs because they're slow to pay an invoice, not for any bad intent, but just takes a lot of time to, like, go through all these steps, and it doesn't need to. Just, like, you tie the invoice to the project correctly. It can be a quick checkmark and get it paid.

Jase: I feel like this is something that I know this is bigger than BEAD, but there's a wonderful group of folks, the state broadband directors, that are working their tails off to there's 56 of them, right? And their median handed 750 million bucks earlier this year, so it's like here's the money. Good luck. Go get them.


Jase: Do you have any advice for those folks thinking about this stuff, like how this impacts, like, the providers that might apply and how they might want to think about it in their programs? I know some of it's written into NTIA guidance, but is there anything that you would think about above and beyond that? 

Jason: Yeah, I think one of the big things, I think about how I build products, but it's probably true for how, like, these programs are deployed, too, is you want to, like, kind of meet people where they are, right? You wanna like, fit into the process of how construction happens today. One thing, for example I think I was chatting with Darren about it, but it's come up a few times, is I think there's some language that's in BEAD that basically asks you to list out the subs and contractors that you're planning on working with when you get the funding. That's great, but it is often it's hard to basically like, book out capacity for contractors, like, so far out from the application date to when you're actually going to receive the funding and start work.

Jase: Right.

Jason: And so I'd say, like, for the state broadband folks, it's just that, that one is a particular hotspot that's come up recently, is basically being flexible enough to say, like, yes, here's maybe the folks that I intend to work with or who I'm planning on working with now, but knowing that that is probably going to change 'cause folks will, subcontractors will go in and out of business. Prime contractors will, like, have more or less capacity. So it's hard to, like, put that stuff out so far out in advance.

Jase: Awesome, Jason. And Drew had a question that I missed. I think I read the wrong question from him. What are the most cumbersome BEAD requirements they're facing, right? And then are there any ways to advance the policy proposals, right? 'Cause what we haven't really covered yet is that there's still some room to get these right and to get guidance. So there's the question here I think is you just gave a great answer for, like, what should states think about? But do you think, the folks that are still finalizing the policies should think about that? 

Jason: Yeah. That's a big one that I would think about is just, like, given the way, contractors are generally hired is, like the timing and sequencing and, rigidity around that I think is going to be important to think through. Beyond that Like, looking at your question, Drew, there's probably, I'm definitely not in a position to like rank the relative difficulty of some of the different BEAD requirements. But the way that I think about it is, it's more of like a rolling series of challenges, right? First it was, getting the initial proposals out. Now it's going to be actually sub-grantees and applying, and there's all the different parts of letter of credit and cybersecurity and, like the Baba stuff. All those are right. All those are super important. The way, like my view of the world has been more construction and workforce oriented. So I know that intricacies of those problems a little bit better than some of the others.

Jase: Yeah. I like your framing of it. The rolling challenges. We, think about it at Ready as like something like, they have to go to a mall, right? And, they got to stop at every single one of the shops and, pick up something, acquire something, solve a puzzle.

Jason: That's right. [laughter] Yeah. Or it's like, the amazing race where you have like different stages. It's like a different puzzle you have to do at each different stage in order to get there, get to the end.

Jase: Yeah. It's [laughter] So, are there any key concepts though, Jason, like we should definitely make sure to leave in the minds of the folks that are in the broadband community, like key terms, like things that they should go research. Like is there anything that you have one last bit of advice before we wrap? 

Jason: Yeah. I think maybe I'll give two. One is like the broad answer, which is like, there's a lot of these like paper cut problems, right? Of bidding and then compliance and like onboarding and sourcing that may on its own not like, are painful, but collectively, like they add up to a bunch of times. So like thinking about like where are those hotspots for you and your, organization. And then with BEAD specific, like prevailing wage. Prevailing wage, prevailing wage, like that one's going to be tough, for organizations that haven't necessarily dealt with it before. Or even if you have, so just...

Jase: Yeah. Even if you have? 

Jason: Even if you have, right? That one gets like hairy real quick. So I research on that and come up with a plan probably, of how you're going to handle it. Always from, I'm always happy to chat about it, if that's interesting to folks.

Jase: Yeah. It, is. And you actually posted a really cool thing to the community, a few days ago, I think that sort of, it looked through your deep dive on the topic, right? That.

Jason: Yeah. And more to come on that one. I was just like, I was like, I was reading through all these government documents, I was writing stuff up for myself to like, synthesize. I was like, oh, this may actually be helpful to other people.

Jase: It's extremely helpful to sort of see a... Jason so, thanks for doing that and...

Jason: My pleasure. So more on prevailing wage and Davis-Bacon coming soon. [chuckle]

Jase: Folks, thank you Jason for making time. Like, this has been awesome dude, and thank you for building Clad and getting it in a spot where, these hidden problems, the paper cut problems, like avoiding paper cuts and helping them through the sort of gauntlet that you... It's like American gladiator. That's, how it is. It is. Like they got laser up there and I forget some of those guys names. Like ice, and like...


Jason: I know exactly what you're talking about.

Jase: And they're like, I'm here to build broadband. It's like, the a 100 million in BEAD is on the other side of this obstacle course, right? 

Jason: Exactly. Exactly. That's...

Jase: You can help on that. Let's, and then focus in the community like broadband money. Like you go there and get a bunch of resources, like look for, a really cool integration between that platform and Clad and in the coming months because, there's no doubt that like, folks are going to need a ton of help on this space. So you'll always be able to do all those things manually if you like paper cuts. But if you don't and you want like, to get it right, like definitely check out Clad. All right. But Jason, again, thank you dude, and thanks for everybody for making time to hang out in the broadband community. It's, cool to see everybody.

Jason: Yeah, this looks Great. Thanks Jase.

Jase: Yeah. You have wonderful, happy Friday. All right?