Why we’re building ActiveDraft

If there’s one thing the world of construction has no shortage of, it’s complexity. From the initial planning stages to the final punch list, construction projects involve countless moving parts, stakeholders, and an avalanche of documents and drawings that need constant review and revision.

As a veteran of the software world who spent over two decades working on innovative design solutions at Adobe and Autodesk, I’ve witnessed firsthand how complex problems are often met with overly complex software “solutions” that introduce as many challenges as they attempt to solve.

Training bottlenecks, expensive enterprise deployments, compatibility nightmares across devices and operating systems, workflow disruptions from endless updates, and crippling switching costs from being locked into proprietary file formats – these were all-too-common pitfalls that stifled productivity and collaboration.

The construction industry has been grappling with precisely these sorts of challenges with its existing PDF markup and collaboration tools. The software has become bloated, overly engineered, and a significant drain on resources for smaller teams and contractors.

That’s where ActiveDraft comes in.

We are bringing a disruptive breath of fresh air to an industry ripe for the simplification of its markup and collaboration workflows. Think of ActiveDraft as the “Canva” of construction – an easy-to-use, affordable (in fact, free to start!), browser-based solution that empowers teams to effortlessly markup drawings, assign tasks, and share feedback in a secure, centralized hub.

Bridging Innovation and Simplicity

At ActiveDraft, we have a relentless commitment to striking the balance between innovative, cutting-edge technology and radical simplicity of use. This is a principle that guided my most recent work at Adobe, and it remains the driving force behind ActiveDraft.

On the innovation front, our close partnership with Foxit software has allowed us to seamlessly integrate their market-leading PDF markup capabilities as the foundation of our platform. But we’ve gone much further by building an entirely new collaboration layer on top of that rock-solid markup engine.

The result? A truly groundbreaking product that transforms even the most mundane PDF document into a rich, interactive, collaborative workspace.

But what good is powerful technology if it’s overly complex and inaccessible? That’s why we’ve obsessed over maintaining a remarkably simple and intuitive user experience with ActiveDraft.

From first-time construction interns to seasoned project managers, anyone can jump right in and start marking up drawings, creating tasks, having discussions, and sharing updates – without any formal training required. It really is that easy.

Of course, true collaboration involves much more than just simultaneous editing capabilities. How do you keep everyone on the same page and aware of the latest changes? How do you loop in team members or clients who need to review or approve specific items? How do you maintain a clear record of every version, comment, and action taken?

Enter our innovative ActiveLink technology. With ActiveLink, we’ve centralized the entire collaborative context – all document links, collaborators, viewers, markup links, and related comment trails – into a single, unified hub.

Need your client to review and approve a change in the plan? Just send them an ActiveLink. A team member needs to be looped in to address a particular area you have annotated within the drawing? It’s as simple as forwarding them a link.

From that central access point, everyone can view the document, see all relevant comments and tasks, and even subscribe to updates so they’re always in the loop as things progress.

As the project owner, you also gain full transparency into the document’s entire activity history and revision timeline. It’s all meticulously logged, making version control and record-keeping a non-issue.

A Solution for All Teams, All Devices

Another key advantage of ActiveDraft is its versatility across team sizes, project scopes, and devices. While enterprise-grade construction software is often prohibitively expensive for smaller contractors and trades, our free Starter plan provides a generous set of features to empower even the “solo-preneur” or side hustler.

Similarly, while many existing solutions are bogged down by archaic desktop installations and incompatibilities, ActiveDraft runs entirely in the browser – making it instantly accessible from virtually any laptop, tablet, or smartphone, regardless of operating system.

So whether you’re an independent painting contractor working solo jaunts or a small team of roofers collaborating on a residential project, ActiveDraft allows you to leverage powerful markup and real-time collaboration capabilities without any overhead or deployment friction.

Built for the Construction Community

While we’re proud of the cutting-edge simplicity and power packed into ActiveDraft, it’s our strong user focus that truly sets us apart. We don’t see ourselves as just building software, but as active members of the construction community itself.

Our mission is to build solutions tailored to the real-world needs and workflows of contractors, trades, project managers, and all the often-overlooked teams that are the true backbone of the industry. We approach product development as an ongoing dialogue, relentlessly gathering user feedback, analyzing real usage patterns, and shaping our roadmap based on the features that will have the biggest practical impact.

That direct line of communication extends beyond just our product, too. We’re here to listen to the broader challenges facing construction professionals, to share knowledge and solutions, and to foster a community of advocacy, education, and mutual support.

The era of overengineered, siloed, top-down construction software is ending. The future belongs to lightweight, interoperable solutions co-created and tailored for the people actually doing the work. That’s the ActiveDraft philosophy, and we’re committed to living it every single day.

Free to Start, Built to Scale

On that note, I’d be remiss not to remind everyone that at its core, ActiveDraft is a free product. We’ve made our full-featured Starter plan available at zero cost precisely so that anyone – from solo contractors to small teams and large organizations – can experience the power and value of our solution first-hand.

Our belief is that once your team begins leveraging ActiveDraft for your day-to-day markup and collaboration needs, it will quickly become an indispensable part of your workflow. But we’ll let the product speak for itself and prove its worth organically. We have absolutely no interest in locking anyone into contracts, licenses, or costly commitments up-front.

Of course, as your team grows and your usage scales, we’ll be here to support your expanding needs with our more robust (but still very affordable) paid plan tiers. We’ve designed ActiveDraft to be an agile solution that grows and flexes right alongside your organization.

The Future of Collaborative Construction

I’ll leave you with a glimpse into just a few of the major initiatives we have in the ActiveDraft pipeline:

  • Expanded integrations with leading construction management platforms and file repositories to enable truly seamless, multi-system collaboration
  • Powerful new commenting and markup capabilities including advanced shape tools, measurement tools, and freehand drawing
  • Document e-signatures and approval workflow
  • AI powered automations for document management, task and assignment matching
  • And much, much more…

Stay tuned, because this is just the beginning. We’ve set out to completely revolutionize the way construction teams collaborate, review, and execute on project documents and drawings. With our foundation of innovative, yet simple technology and a deeply user-centric approach, we have our sights firmly set on making ActiveDraft the new standard for markup and collaboration across the industry.

I invite all of you to join us on this journey by giving ActiveDraft a try today – no cost, no friction, no risk. I’m confident you’ll quickly see why we’re so passionate about the impact ActiveDraft can have on your productivity and your projects.

Let’s build something great together!

Tom Jackson has 20+ years of product, program and marketing experience, with focus on product growth and data science. Most recently, Tom championed product led growth initiatives within Adobe on Adobe XD, Creative Cloud, and Photoshop. His background in product strategy and data science, coupled with AECO industry experience have become his calling card


The missing link in Construction Collaboration


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