My introduction to our CEO Brian Jones was a little awkward. Our wives had just met and his wife Jen invited us to their house Sunday after church. Her gift of hospitality that day launched more than a friendship. It’s been more like a series of missions.
That was 14 years ago and even back then as a young man Brian was shaving his head. I recall him offering me a Monster energy drink, which he bought by the case. Since then he has largely migrated to Red Bulls. He has always gassed up with a similar liquid fuel to help his body keep pace with his mind, which is always running hard.
Our First Foxholes
It’s profound the significance a seemingly unimportant moment can have. That day when Brian and I were talking in his kitchen, I looked out his back window and saw his swing set. Instantly I decided I liked him. His swing set was the exact one I had installed in my own backyard a few weeks prior, one of those sets sold in 5 huge boxes at Costco, made of red stained wood and brightly colored plastic. It was a sweat-fest to install in the south Texas soil, which made for a good story between us. It turns out that swing set was merely the first of many battles we’ve shared in the 14 years since. These have included triathlons, marathons, helping him complete ultra-marathons, a church start-up, his adoption of 2 children and engaging in a different kind of battle alongside 5 other good men in a group we call the Alamo Band of Brothers.
It’s rare to find a really good man to befriend, and rarer still to find a couple both you and your wife enjoy, but Brian’s wife Jennifer is sweet and beautiful and the conversation was easy on that first “date”. As men we share an alma mater (Gig ‘Em Ags) , a love for buffeting our bodies, and a faith that leads us to believe we are here to bring some light into the darker places of the world. At that time we both had only 2 kids, each with a son and a daughter basically the same age. The congruence was there from the start and we have been blessed with a deep family friendship that endures today.
20 Years in Construction
Currently we work together in an office in downtown San Antonio, about 5 blocks from the famous Alamo. It’s a growing city and at times the noise of construction across the street is a distraction to me, but Brian jokes about the number of years he spent learning to think with men yelling and machines heaving just outside his thin trailer walls. He has 20 years invested in learning the trade, starting as an intern at 20 while still a Junior at Texas A&M.
Back in 2005 when we met, Brian was on the move up the corporate ladder at Bartlett Cocke, a senior project manager whose particular spirit could be described as entrepreneurial and ambitious. He has a good story about this “brilliant” idea he chased shortly after getting married, to start an online foundation pouring business. He created a website where customers could just type in the dimensions of their slab and trucks would arrive to pour it. Despite his youthful zeal and creativity, he failed to secure any online orders, so the venture never got on the ground. But the experience was gold for him. It’s a humorous start to what would become a pattern of applying his entrepreneurial spirit to various situations where he felt a frustration with inefficiencies.
Under Brian’s supervision at BC, several beautiful High Schools have been built, along with a Natatorium and some other substantial projects which required years to complete. It was in these years with BC, working on these sites that Brian became familiarized with the way the islands of construction trade and communicate with the mainland. And it was here that Brian began to experience the dysfunctional relationship dump trucks have with their customers. It was in the fertile soil of this dysfunction the seed for Dauber was planted.
Black Kids and Baseball
Years into our friendship, Brian and Jennifer felt called to adopt 2 kids, a brother and sister, from the Caribbean isle of St. Vincent. In hindsight after enduring the expensive process of adoption, he identified an opportunity to help people give to such causes. This is where Brian might admit to entering his crazy years, because he quit his job, renovated his attic into an office, and dedicated a full time to building a company to allow the balance of donated gift cards to be donated to the non-profit of your choice.
One weekend during this same season our families went out for Mexican (food) and then walked to a bookstore. I watched him grab off the shelf a Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide to look up the value of some of his son’s baseball cards. Something about it frustrated him and about a year later he had created a beautiful app called Miracard which provided real time valuations of sports cards and a secure platform for selling and trading them. My son and I were some of its first users. It quickly engaged the interest of Beckett themselves, who bought it and buried it. But it was beautiful and ingenious. Although unaware of it at the time, the experience would leave him better prepared for the real adventure to come.
For time’s sake I’ll have to skip some great stories, like when he dedicated himself to running Ultra-Marathons to raise money for the mother of his college buddy who had just died of cancer. But that’ll help get us to the current adventure, which holds the greatest potential to impact lives, called Dauber Applications.
The Birth of the Concept
Dauber Applications was an idea hatched by co-founder and friend Ward Dow (then the owner of the now sold Ella SA Contractors) and pitched to Brian after years of their shared lamenting that dump trucks were nearly impossible to manage. Trucks were unreliable. Communication was non-existent, and tensions are always high not knowing when or even if your trucks were going to arrive. The battle for a few dollars more led trucking companies to become dog-eat-dog, a spirit which translates into situations where an agreement was made for trucks that was then rescinded because a slightly better offer came along. This was constantly leaving drivers, owners and customers high and dry with needs that were not being met. As a result, drivers in general have developed a bad reputation, even the good drivers. It’s been a bane on the industry’s existence with no end in sight.
What Ward and Brian began to see was the opportunity to develop a simple platform to bring the dump trucking industry out of the Fred Flintstone age, utilizing the tools most drivers already have in their pockets to improve communication and efficiencies. What they didn’t know at the time was that the app would evolve to be capable of changing the industry worldwide, making real profitability possible in an environment where 1% increase in profit was nearly unattainable.
Ward gets credit for the name. At the time Uber was making a killing and Ward saw the “Uber” buried in the name “daUber” which is an insect famous for carrying dirt from one place to another. Recognizing the potential, Ward bought the domain name and approached Brian with the idea. Before long they launched.
The pain was great, and it was great for everyone involved. They felt strongly that a solution to this problem could potentially affect millions of men and their families, and at the same time lower the collective blood pressure of all construction site managers nationwide. After a brief stint as a consultant with Bartlett Cocke again, Brian pitched the idea to them, as well as to Joeris, the 2 leading contractors in South Texas. They felt the pain, bought the idea, invested in the venture and Dauber Applications began it’s mission to bring positive change to the dump truck industry.
But even good change is upsetting to some who’ve grown comfortable pushing the same broken apple cart. It’s one challenge to create a tool to empower a group to grow. It’s another to convince them to change their antiquated ways. But that’s part of the challenge that makes ot worth it.
Bruce Cockburn wrote, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.”
There are few men I’d eagerly cross the battle line to fight beside. Brian Jones is one of them. He will give the last full measure to the men beside him. You can take that to the bank.
This is the result from years of
While the spirit of trucking was dog-eat-dog, customers were choosing trucking companies to save a few cents, who would then often not show up. The result is that large sums of money were often wasted paying expensive work crews who sat waiting for dirt and rock that was late or would often never come at all. It was a problem Ward and Brian dreamt about solving, until one day Ward go the idea of a system that would empower trucking companies, drivers and customers alike to share a communication platform, like an air traffic control for the movement of materials around a city.
They observed that dump trucks didn’t h is the product of years of observing the pain and frustration of dump trucks, ill-equipped with the technology to help them
So when Brian asked me to join the team and help him
In his years in construction, Brian developed relationships
I have always deeply respected Brian, as a family man and as a thinker. He’s a really smart guy, and he has the character needed to steer that gifting into good places.
I was also enticed by his passion for a problem and his creative approach to solve it. Since then I’ve driven past the gate of a major quarry half mile from my front door and have passed maybe thousands of trucks hauling their contents from here to there in the same way they’ve been doing it for the last 50 years.
Since I came on board the team I’ve come to see the problem as much more complex than most can even articulate.