Published with permission from UK publication AV Magazine.
Once a music producer in high-end studios, Paul Dexter founded Jetbuilt which develops AV proposal and project software for global system integrators.
Paul Dexter is the founder and CEO of Jetbuilt, a cloud-based quoting system that is designed to make the lives of system integrators, AV consultants, distributors and manufacturers easier. In short, it allows the user to put together more professional and detailed AV proposals in a fraction of the time it normally takes. Jetbuilt also allows the user to create, revise and complete any proposal from the initial quoting stage, right through installation to completion and beyond.
At a time when the system is attracting increasing attention from major, multinational integrators, AV Magazine sat down with Dexter to find out more about his unusual background and current career path.
AV: Before we get into more specifics around Jetbuilt, can you tell us a little more about your career path prior to AV?
iPD: Growing up I just wanted to be a rock star, as many others in the AV Industry did. I taught myself guitar and played in rock bands long before I could even drive a car. I loved writing and recording my music, which gave me an edge.
Whilst many of my musician buddies were trying to scratch together money to record a simple demo, I was recording song after song in my own studio. I started with a basic 4-track cassette, then moved up to an 8 track reel, two inch 24 track, and ultimately Pro Tools. This helped me not only record my own demos, but also helped me fund that studio and hone my skills as a music producer.
Those recordings helped land a number of record deals and you can see more about the group at mayfairlaundry.com. We got to tour the world with our music, but I was always more skilled behind the console than I was with the guitar.
The offers from labels to record their artists ultimately became my career. I produced some respected work. A project for Patti Cabrera which I had co-written, recorded and produced was nominated for a Grammy in the early 2000s. While we didn’t take home the gold, it was a true honour to be recognised.
AV: You must have worked in some high-end studios. What would be your favourites?
PD: There are a couple in particular: EastWest and Record Plant. EastWest was developed 80 years ago by Bill Putnam, Frank Sinatra’s engineer and inventor of the modern-day recording console. Mic’ing up a drum set in that huge studio is a humbling experience. The whole time you are imagining all the sessions those walls have seen – Frank, Elvis, the Stones and more. Tracking drums through the 80 channel Neve 8078 which was commissioned for Michael Jackson is amazing, and if you mic up that room in varying distances, you will add no reverb to your drums – it’s all there. I’ve recorded piano tracks in their Studio 3, “The Beach Boys room” as it’s called, on the last of three remaining Trident A consoles. That’s an amazing room in a building of amazing rooms.
Recording at the Record plant in the 90s was fantastic, during what I think of as its heyday. Grabbing tea with Celine Dion in the lounge between takes. While we were tracking half an album of songs, David Foster had her working on one single bridge to a song the whole day. I have always obsessed in the studio, chasing that elusive perfection, but I’ve never spent eight hours with a singer working on just eight bars of music. Even if I did, I could always blame it on the singer.
AV: So after all, this success and excitement, what made you get into the AV industry?
PD: I had gotten married the same year as the Grammy nomination. My wife was the singer in my previous band and incredibly talented. However working in the studio creating music night after night for other musicians and being away all the time wasn’t exactly the ideal way to build a family. Whilst I began to get offers for even bigger albums, it was just too hard on the family. I began to crave another challenge.
At that exact same time a pair of friends approached me. One who had bad sound issues at their new 1,000 seat rock-style church, the other with a chain of upscale restaurants (Houston’s Restaurants). They were both musicians who had been through my studio and they wanted me to transform their venues to sound like the studio they knew. I had great fun remodelling the church system to give it power, clarity, and depth beyond a typical concert system. And I found a way to make every single table in a restaurant feel like they were sitting in my studio. It turned out I had a knack for AV.
I didn’t plan to become an AV integrator, but that’s exactly what happened. Those two clients were both very high-profile, so calls just started coming in. I found that having a very strong audio background is a huge advantage against a lot of other AV teams. When you install video or lighting it’s easily measurable. However due to all the variables acoustically in any venue, getting a great sound still requires a human ear to get it right, even with all the latest computer-aided tuning tools today. So I won a lot of projects based on this expertise and the strength of my proposals.
AV: How did you end up founding Jetbuilt?
PD: In the early days and like many others, I used Excel and Word to quote my first few jobs. Manually looking up the items, costs, sell prices was very time consuming. I had a background in Apple Filemaker and so developed a database-driven quoting platform. I populated it with all of my price sheets so that I could easily search for an item, drop it in, give it quantity, and move on. I even hosted this on the web so that my small team could access the same projects and we could collaborate. It worked really well, but with some obvious drawbacks: I had to continue to maintain the application, and manually keep the data up-to-date.
Every year I would go back to the trough to try other AV-specific sales quoting platforms on the market. I tried them all, and bought many of them, but I’d have to install Windows on my Macs, setup VPN routers, and still not be able to collaborate on projects. Months later we would never be able to take it live, and we ended up staying with my own custom solution.
So in 2014, I bit the bullet and hired a developer to recreate my solution in the cloud, so it could be easily updated and worked on wherever you were in the world. My vision for Jetbuilt was always to be the first global solution. I could see that AV and IT companies were acquiring other companies or expanding to become global and the same with system integrators. Global brands, global businesses, global banks – they all wanted global solutions. However, none of the other quoting platforms seemed to be responding to that challenge. We then hired a team to help create a database of everything in AV and launched at InfoComm in 2015.
The response to Jetbuilt at Infocomm 2015 proved that the industry craved this type of solution. The thing about Jetbuilt is that it is a platform designed for system integrators by a system integrator. We take the pain and cost of developing your own custom system away.
I have seen so many companies spend fortunes bringing on top level IT consultants and using costly software costing hundreds of thousands, but the client is still having to explain every little thing they want the system to do. With Jetbuilt they don’t have to because it is highly likely we will already have it in our system. The other massive advantage is limiting your ongoing costs. At Jetbuilt we offer all-in pricing and so even the smallest SI can afford to use our light version for a small monthly fee. We also don’t charge for training or tech support.
AV: What are the main differences between JB and the other platforms?
PD: Other than being cloud-based, Jetbuilt launched with several inventions that had never been seen. Things like Dealer Pricing Integration. Dealers can search our two million item database of all things AV, IT, and security, drop an item in, and if they are an authorised dealer, they can see their cost. This was a game changer as you can imagine. It also took some doing among manufacturers and distributors who couldn’t get their heads around the concept initially. However, after $10 billion dollars of AV projects having passed through our platform, I really believe that the manufacturers, distributors and of course our customers really see this as a major benefit.
Another side to this same feature is Price Increase Alerts. When you open up a project that is in development, you instantly see red alerts letting you know that your costs have gone up. You can bring in those new costs with a click – and make your decisions regarding increasing sell prices. This was powerful before Covid, but in this current inflation climate, it is a lifesaver for margins.
AV: Can you have multiple users working at the same time?
PD: Yes, we bring true collaboration to AV quoting. Large offices with teams around the world can be populating and editing a project at the same time. One designer can be working on the lighting system,while two others work on the automation system. You can share projects with nominated partners, such as AV consultants or sub-contractors. They can collaborate on your project in real-time. This also makes a huge difference for any revisions, which happen all the time in our industry.
We also took away the back end. There is nothing more frustrating than having to leave your project, dive into the back end somewhere to set up a new item or design a new report, just so that you can keep working on your project. In Jetbuilt, nearly every action can be done inside your project. Build and manipulate a bundle of items, customise a report group, create a new custom item, or push new values from this project to your database. You never leave the project, thus saving you hours and hours per week.
These are only a few examples. But it is probably easier to compare similarities than the differences. The only thing that is similar between us and other platforms on the market we feel, is that we are used by AV integrators to sell projects. We just believe we do it better and more efficiently than our competition and that seems to be showing via our growth.
AV: You’ve recently made some appointments to help grow Jetbuilt in the UK and EMEA. What changes has this led to?
PD: Firstly the addition of new languages. We have now translated the program into German, French and Spanish. Our dream is to provide the best user experience possible, wherever you are in the world. We have also added all the currencies across the globe and dealt with any time/date issues. In addition, we’ve opened a UK business hub.
AV: Any have there been any other recent changes?
PD: From the start we made sure that Jetbuilt could work with other platforms. With our Client API our users can seamlessly connect their existing CRM, stock and accounting packages up to Jetbuilt. However, many of our core US users really wanted to be able to do everything as much as possible inside Jetbuilt. To that end you can already send and receive mails inside Jetbuilt, share all project documents, images and more. We also created our sales-CRM Funnel, which tracks early-stage opportunities into projects. If you are already using Salesforce or some other CRM, then our API allows easy connection.
We recently launched Stock, our inventory and warehousing module. Stock allows integrators to track their items from purchasing, receiving, warehousing, to trucks, and onto the project. Project managers can easily see where every item is across each project or companywide. Part of this means you can create QR codes inside Stock that not only help track the items, but become long-term asset management tags that end users can scan for support needs. We also just released a new Engineering feature and next we aim to launch Service, our service and support ticket module. This will complete the circle of products which our customers have mostly been asking for. Putting those tools all inside of their Jetbuilt environment is what they are asking for most.
AV: You’ve talked a lot about being global. Do you have any high-profile clients using you globally?
PD: As you can imagine a lot of our work is under NDA. However we have a number of the top 20 global SIs using Jetbuilt and we recently signed and rolled out with Electrosonic, who are well known in the UK and US. There are many others on trial and so we plan to announce more in the near future.
UK and EMEA AV industry professionals can learn more about Jetbuilt via the website at www.jetbuilt.com, at the ISE 2022 trade show in Barcelona, Hall 2, stand 2K400, or by contacting head of EMEA sales Dave Gledhill at [email protected].
Published with permission from UK publication AV Magazine,