Transect helps developers reduce infrastructure project backlog

By Iris Gonzalez
pipeline construction. Photo credit: Mike Benna on Unsplash.

A water main breaks every two minutes in the U.S.

Bridge collapses, dams past the end of service life, deteriorating public roadways and more reflect the poor condition of America’s infrastructure, according to the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE). Their most recent annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s 17 major infrastructure categories in the ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Card show the U.S. overall infrastructure grade is a borderline failing C-.

One San Antonio startup has been working to address the massive number of U.S. infrastructure projects requiring permits, thanks to its streamlined technology solution. Transect streamlines the environmental due diligence process for developers working in the energy, infrastructure, and real estate industries.

The Transect team has over 25 years of experience managing environmental compliance and permitting built into their technology. CEO Robin Laine started her career as a field biologist in Austin, Texas. She spent over 15 years managing natural resources compliance and permitting projects across the U.S. before launching the San Antonio-based startup in 2016.

Experienced in navigating federal, state, and local permits for her clients, Laine and her team focus on balancing the conservation of the natural world with our nation’s need more infrastructure projects. 

Any major infrastructure project using federal funds must undergo a host of reviews and authorizations under federal environmental laws — a  process known as “permitting.” These laws range from the well-known (the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act) to the esoteric (the Geothermal Steam Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act). In addition to federal permitting rules, projects are also subject to various planning requirements, including reviews at the state and local levels.

Robin Laine is founder and CEO of Transect, courtesy photo.
Robin Laine is founder and CEO of Transect, courtesy photo.

Public spending on physical infrastructure has persistently failed to keep up with economic growth. The U.S. spends only 2.3% of its gross domestic product on infrastructure, while European countries spend about 5% and China about 8%, according to a 2021 Brookings Institution study.

The study also pointed to the outdated permitting processes in the U.S. as a major contributing factor to infrastructure project backlog. “It’s the archaic U.S. environmental permitting processes that are holding us back when it comes to infrastructure development,” Laine said. 

Typically, environmental consultants manually produce a report for the developer. Transect’s software pulls relevant data into a report that summarizes environmental concerns, anticipated permitting pathways and timelines, and recommendations for next steps reviewed by an in-house environmental expert in just minutes.

“What we can do in minutes takes a consultant weeks to do,” Laine said. “Consultants can’t tell you what the environmental permitting process will cost or how long it will take until diligence is completed. Using our tool, developers can find project sites 10 times faster, and with our federal, state, and local permitting guidance, save years of permitting delays and hundreds of thousands of dollars on survey and permitting fees.”

As CEO, Laine has had a front-row seat to the shift in our nation’s energy industry.

“In 2019, half our customers were traditional energy and maybe 40% were in renewables,” Laine said. “Now, 80% of our client base are in renewables. The pandemic has impacted the traditional energy industry, as solar, renewables, wind, and battery storage are becoming our customers.”

Transect’s customers span across the U.S. and include several of the country’s largest pipeline and renewable energy infrastructure companies, such as Plains All American Pipeline, GE Renewable Energy, and Origis Energy.

The business-to-business software-as-a-service (SaaS) company has successfully secured venture capital funding to accelerate it growth. Transect has received to date $4.5M over mutiple rounds in seed funding, said Gary Fortin, Transect’s vice president of marketing.

Its latest funding round in May 2020 for an undisclosed amount was led by Blue Bear Capital alongside existing investors, including Holt Ventures. Gary Horn, CEO of Horn Solutions, Inc. and a return investor, has joined the Transect founding team. Vaughn Blake, a partner at Blue Bear Capital, also joined the board.

The company has grown to 22 employees who since the pandemic work remotely across the country, with some based out of the FineSilver building in downtown San Antonio.

“The environmental permitting sector is ripe for disruption,” Laine said. “Finding the data is time-consuming and expensive. That’s where Transect can make a difference.”

The featured image is of pipeline construction. Photo credit: Mike Benna on Unsplash.

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