Amy Hutchins ’05 caught the startup bug early when she was studying computer science at Duke.

“I loved the idea of building software and having people pay for it,” she said.

Hutchins is now the chief product officer at Unearth, a company that uses drone imaging to help construction projects be completed more efficiently.

Although she worked on a few ventures while in school, nothing materialized from it. After graduation, Hutchins took a job with Microsoft.

“If I wanted to run a software company eventually, I needed to know how to build good software,” she said.

After holding different positions at Microsoft over seven years, Hutchins wanted to get a taste of the entrepreneurship world, so she joined an existing startup.

That startup eventually got acquired, so Hutchins found herself again working at a large company. But her time in startups wasn’t over.

“I always knew I was going to go back to startups,” she said. “The question was when, not if.”

Hutchins and her future co-founders had been playing with drones for fun, but they were intrigued by the data recorded by drones.

“Drones give you a brand-new view of the world you wouldn’t normally see – a bird’s-eye view,” Hutchins said. “So we began to iterate and expand to figure out which industry would benefit most from this.”

Hutchins started thinking about the idea in February 2016, and she left her job in May. After a lot of research, the team settled on the construction industry, and Unearth was founded in October of the same year.

The reason Unearth wants to cater to construction projects is three-fold. It’s a huge market, with $1.7 trillion in the U.S. alone, and it is growing. But construction also had the biggest and most interesting problems to solve – it was the only industry that had seen productivity decline over the past 30 years despite new technologies.

Many of the problems in construction schedules and budgets result from a lack of communication and information exchange, Hutchins said.

Unearth is a software that takes aerial photos of a construction site and allows users to take measurements of the site. This helps the different parties involved in a construction project communicate and collaborate more efficiently.

Seattle-based Unearth will be officially launching its product in April, with plans to focus first on Washington, California and Texas and expand over time.

Hutchins said her diverse work experience has helped her be successful in launching a startup. Because she previously worked at an existing startup, she saw behind the scenes and had an idea of how to run a company.

But she also relies on the experience she gained working at a big company.

“It’s so much easier to know how to do something right if you’ve had to do it at scale,” she said.

To learn more about Unearth, visit its website.

To read about more Duke Entrepreneurs, click here.

By Katie Jansen

Logo for Unearth