Prior to Textura Corp., Patrick Allin had very little experience in the construction industry. The former COO and CFO of Price Waterhouse Cooper's global consulting group once supervised a 250,000-sq-ft office complex, but that was pretty much it.

Photo: Tudor Van Hampton/ENR
Textura founders Eichhorn and Allin (right) streamline how contractors get paid.

Shortly after PWC sold its consulting arm to IBM in 2002, William Eichhorn, a former e-commerce consultant at PWC, came to Allin with an unusual idea: Having learned about construction during a consulting exercise, Eichhorn thought the Internet could remove the physical and painfully repetitiveexchanges of paper that take place when contractors receive paychecks and issue lien waivers.

It was an unsexy yet simple solution to a problem contractors categorically took for granted. As it turns out, firms using the new system have been more than willing to pay a small transaction fee to save thousands of dollars in back-office costs. Insurers, bankers and lawyers also like how Textura cuts down on risk when it's time to close out a draw.

Allin, 58, has built Textura into the construction industrys bill-pay site in just a few years. Speaking with a wisp of a Canadian accent (the Toronto native has lived in Chicago for 22 years) and standing tall at 64, Allin provided business brawn to get Textura off the ground. He lined up big-ticket investors, such as Aon Corp., and helped bring this to life, says Eichhorn.

The chairman and CEO of Deerfield, Ill.-based Textura says he could not have done it without involving clients right from the start. "When Bill brought this idea to me, one of the first things I did was call up the people I worked with on that project," says Allin, speaking of his brief stint as a construction owner. Some doubted Textura would work. Allin pushed on, even going so far as securing international patents. Herb Brownett, a veteran construction accountant, says Allin's and Eichhorns consulting expertise helped them see the way. I think the fact that they aren't construction guys is an advantage," he says. My first reaction was, Damn, why didn't I think of this? After implementing it at a major construction company, Brownett left to go work at Textura, where he is now senior vice president of sales.

Allin put prior consulting and management experience to work to tranform the time-consuming business of bank draws and lien waivers into a smooth, secure, digital process

Textura claims to serve more than 25% of ENR's Top 400 contractors, thousands more subcontractors and a growing list of owners. More than 20,000 firms are using it to get paid faster and save as much as $20,000 per project.

Textura may eventually become a new kind of social network. In the fall, it expanded into online prequalification. Already, a dozen general contractors and 6,000 subs are using it. "Textura has the potential to explode like Facebook," says Allin, who took a chance on e-commerce when contractors didn't seem ready. "We were told that 50% of subcontractors wouldn't be able to use the Internet," Allin says. "It turned out to be totally wrong."