06 February 2019

Building a Strong Foundation: Step 1

While we’re still a bit away from moving into our new building in Strongsville, Ohio, it’s hard not to feel reflective. Like any change, planning, packing and eventually departing gives you a lot to think about — what you’re leaving behind, as much as what you’re growing into.

We’ve come a long way since Fred Ode, our founder, first envisioned and created our construction-specific accounting software. And now with over 5,600 active construction clients, we thought it might be time to finally put down the full story.

The birth of Foundation Software, LLC., if you will.

Part 1: 1980-1992

Founder Fred Ode at various stages as he built the company.

Though our official start date is 1985, our story begins in 1980 when, after traveling across North America and Europe, Fred landed in Northeast Ohio and put in his final year of teaching, quitting the classroom for the third and final time. That’s also when he took his first programming course at Cleveland State University and, having spent his entire 20s wandering, finally discovered his vocation. A few courses later, he was hired by a software company before joining a contractor as their programmer.

However, like many entrepreneurs, his lifelong restlessness kicked in again. “I didn’t want to work for anyone,” he explains. “I felt undervalued, and I was confident I’d do better on my own.”

So in December of 1984, he made a call to the Karl Koch Erecting Company — the erector of the World Trade Center towers. “I told them I’ve gone into business for myself,” he says. “And I asked, ‘Would you be interested in letting me support your system?’”

They were interested.

On January 3, Fred flew to New York City to visit them in person, and they hired him immediately. Yet after a month, he knew he still wasn’t stretching his potential. “I realized my primary ‘product’ was my time,” he remembers, “and I made the decision to write my own software application.”

He knew it would put him in over his head. It was perfect. “Everyone told me I couldn’t do it. Did I really think I could design and program it? How would I market, sell and support it? That fueled me!”

And the first iteration of FOUNDATION was every bit of the challenge it promised. “Of course everybody was right. I’d only programmed for less than five years and had no idea what I was getting into — so I did what I knew, which was to put my head down, take the first step and plug away.”

It would take two years to write and hundreds of phone calls to sell the first one, “Over the course of a year I talked with well over 1,000 construction companies, and finally someone bit. I had my first construction client — and then immediately hired my first employee, Chris Urban, who is still with me today.”

Foundation Software was born.