Changing the game: A conversation with Katerra’s Michael Marks

Publisher: Global Infrastructure Initiative
Author: McKinsey & Company

As Katerra strives to digitally disrupt the construction industry and “productize” the way we build, CEO Michael Marks discusses lessons learned and aspirations.

Katerra has made the news with its unorthodox approach to construction and backing from investment firms. Believing that the construction industry was long overdue for disruption, co-founder and CEO Michael Marks set about integrating tech, design, manufacturing, and construction to make building projects faster and less expensive. With a focus on selling products as well as end-to-end services, the company is challenging convention while also finding its way in a historically under-digitized industry.

McKinsey: As the former CEO and then chairman of Flextronics, you are bridging Silicon Valley and the construction industry. Until quite recently, that was an unlikely pairing. What has surprised you as you’ve gained ground in construction?

Michael Marks: I’ve been surprised by how long things take. It’s a two-year cycle from an initial bid on a project to completion. Coming from an electronics background, where the cycle is measured in hours, the construction project duration is something that’s hard to get used to. And there are several influencing factors when it comes to the length of projects, including the fact that there are many unknowns in construction—weather, for one, and land use. Forecasting in this business is much more difficult than what I’ve experienced in the past, so the uncertainties also contribute to how long things take.

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