The inspiring story of Tracy Young and PlanGrid

Tracy Young

Tracy Young sold her 7-year old startup for $875m.

From humble beginnings as the daughter of Vietnamese refugees to a Silicon Valley icon.

Here’s her incredible story:

Young’s parent’s fled Vietnam after the war, leaving on a fishing boat with hundreds of others.

After a temporary stay in Malaysia, her family was sponsored by a Lutheran priest to live in a church in California.

Even without speaking the language, Young’s parents worked a number of odd jobs and eventually started a wholesale food supply business.

Fast forward to 2011, they had put all 3 children through college, and Young was working as a construction engineer.

Frustrated by an industry that operated on paper, she was uniquely positioned to notice a business opportunity involving Apple’s latest innovation:

The iPad.

At the time, paper-based building plans were brought onto building sites, reprinted constantly, and worked on by many collaborators.

This was expensive, inefficient, and a headache for construction teams.

Young saw a gap in the market and started PlanGrid – a suite of mobile-optimised, cloud-based tools for digital construction blueprints.

To give you a sense of the founding team’s grit, urgency, and willpower, here’s 2 awesome stories from their early days:

1. Serving customers no matter what

In order to get their product in the hands of customers, Young had to buy as many iPads as possible.

At the time, Apple limited the number of tablets you could buy at a time.

Young and her team wore disguises and maxed out their credit cards to procure enough devices to load up with their software for their early customers.

2. Force-feeding product adoption

Young’s team knew construction conferences were a value-dense market to attack, but renting a booth cost over $5,000.

Instead, they bought $60 tickets and went up to strangers saying, “Hey, wanna see something cool?”

Whether they answered or not, they’d run the demo.

To this day, 2 of PlanGrid’s top 10 customers are from those early conference efforts.

Over the next 7 years, Young scaled PlanGrid so flawlessly that their story is now considered the Silicon Valley playbook to crack big, established industries.

Boiling the playbook down to a few key pages:
• Call every single lead.
• Prioritise predictable growth.
• All staff can demo the product.
• Get the product in customers hands.
• Attack core B2B personas and expand.

In 2018, PlanGrid was acquired by AutoDesk for a whopping $875m.

Today, Young runs TigerEye, software that tracks and predicts future performance of sales teams.

She also runs a newsletter coined “Predictable Growth” where she interviews female leaders driving revenue for their businesses.