Thoughts from a new CEO – BuiltWorlds’ exclusive interview with Josh Mallamud, CEO of Cartegraph

In July, Cartegraph brought on Josh Mallamud, a seasoned veteran of the SaaS world, as the company's new CEO. Just a week after assuming his new role, Josh sat down with BuiltWorlds' Journalist, Jim Lichtenwalter, to talk about everything from his goals for Cartegraph to the CEO he tries to emulate the most.

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In one sentence, can you describe what Cartegraph does?

 Cartegraph is a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that local government agencies use to manage their physical infrastructure assets and related maintenance work—leveraging data and best practices to guide decisions, improve processes, and increase productivity.

What problem in the industry is Cartegraph addressing?

As a nation, we're really good at building new things; and not necessarily as good at maintaining what we already have. I think this is a big problem. My team feels passionate about this as well. What we focus on is coaching Cartegraph users to track their work and asset data, and analyze that data to optimize the useful life of assets. In doing so, they maximize the return on their infrastructure investment, which is good for government and citizens alike.

For example, the city of Pittsburgh has some unique challenges. Its infrastructure was built at a time when the population was twice as large as it is today. That creates a budgeting and maintenance challenge.  So, it's particularly important for them to be very thoughtful and data-driven in the way they prioritize maintenance activities and allocate tax dollars. Using Cartegraph and the data that they track within our platform, they're able to create equitable paving plans that optimize the use of funds to deliver high-quality roadways in a smart way.

As a nation, we're really good at building new things; and not necessarily as good at maintaining what we already have.

You've worked in both the private and public sectors of business. What do you see as the primary difference between the two?

The government is the largest employer in our country, and an enormous purchaser and owner of assets.  But, the government does not have the same natural market forces at work that drives efficiency as you see in the private sector. With increasing transparency, I think citizens are focusing more and more on how their money is being spent.  It's critical for governments to rise to this challenge and focus on being good stewards of their budget and infrastructure, and start to drive data-informed decisions to improve efficiency in the way that they manage and steward those assets.

What are your short-term plans for Cartegraph?

My number one goal is to help Cartegraph continue to grow. I plan to work very closely with our sales, marketing, and product teams to first understand our market, refine our focus, and then look to put strategies in place to position the company for continued healthy growth. I do that with a tremendous amount of care and deference to the reasons that we have been successful so far: we’ve built a very high-quality product, that's very stable, that we continually innovate on to drive more and more data into the hands of the decision makers, so they can make better and better decisions over time. We do that with a high-touch, collaborative approach to serving our clients.

Interested in seeing more BuiltWorlds content centered around smart cities? 

Here are three premium videos featuring insights from industry experts:

Building Smart CitiesPaul Doherty, The Digit Group

Revitalizing Detroit's Neighborhoods Panel

Reconstructing American Cities - Peter Ellis

To watch, login to our Member Portal or apply to join the BW Member Network.

What are you most excited about as you assume this new mantle?

I think it's a number of things. I'm excited about sharing my experiences, both from private and public sector-focused SaaS platforms. There are very strong similarities between the two and I think many of the lessons I learned and playbooks I employed specifically when I was focused on private sector software will work well here without too much modification.  To be sure, there are some unique challenges ahead for us but they are all surmountable especially with the strong team I have behind me and I spend the most time thinking about all of the opportunities we have to grow.

The other thing that's energizing about this role as opposed to my private sector background is that I really do feel like if we do better, governments do better, and in turn, society does better. Not only from the thought of stewarding our infrastructure assets and spending our taxpayer money more wisely, but also from a sustainability perspective. If we can preserve assets longer it's just much, much easier on the environment.

What are your hopes and goals for the future?

I want to have every local government agency in the U.S., and even those beyond our borders, using Cartegraph: from maintenance crews in the field tracking their tasks on our mobile apps to the city managers using data to guide ever-improving strategic decisions and initiatives.

If we can preserve assets longer it's just much, much easier on the environment.

Now on to some questions about you. Who's your CEO spirit animal? What CEO do you most want to emulate and why?

In my past experience, as a consultant and attorney, I've had the opportunity and honor to meet several CEOs and work with a few of them.  One who I did not have a chance to work with, but who I have met and, who I admire and would love to emulate is, Satya Nadella of Microsoft.

What he's done with Microsoft since he took the helm is phenomenal. I mean, it's just an incredible transformation in terms of that company's financial performance, credibility, market presence, and the businesses that they're in. He made a massive investment in the cloud, which is a big bet. And then the glimpses into his personal life that we've seen in the press, it just seems like he's a remarkable human being, father, and husband. That is really admirable.

Having spent a little bit of time with him in person, he's one of these people who is just so impressive. He's smart and articulate across so many different subjects. He relates to you when you speak with him in a very sort of equal and humble way. I just couldn't think more highly of him.

I love watching him interviewed. He takes these high-end concepts and really makes it easy to understand. And he just seems like an approachable guy overall.

Yeah, I agree. In my limited experience with him, I found him to be very impressive.

What was your first ever job?

My first job out of school, I was a management consultant for a company called the Wyatt Company, which is now Willis Towers Watson. We did management consulting. It was a time when large companies where trying to be less paternalistic and trying to empower employees and give them more freedom over their decisions, courses, and careers. We helped them with change management, implementing those massive changes across the organization and across the culture.

What app do you use most on your phone?

To be honest, the Mail app (laughs).

Fair enough. Well, excluding Mail, because that's the one I use the most too.

I've started to use Headspace, which I think is a phenomenal app. I'm trying to balance out the workaholic apps with the other ones. I also love Spotify.

What is your biggest source of news and information?

That's a great question. Probably my wife. She's so well-read and so attuned with everything that's going on. We talk every night at dinner. She's terrific at bringing new ideas into my life. On the margin, I'm looking at things from The Economist. I’ve found I like to look at more long-form journalism versus short-form, which I believe has gotten too transactional.

I'm a former journalist before I got into marketing, so I also love reading long pieces. What's your favorite long-form publication that you like to read? You said The Economist, but is there anything else?

Yeah, like The Economist. I like Global Affairs. When I have the time to read those, they are always great.

Satya Nadella is smart and articulate across so many different subjects. He relates to you when you speak with him in a very sort of equal and humble way. I just couldn't think more highly of him.

Speaking of reading, what book are you currently reading?

I "quote-unquote" read Outliers on the drive here this morning from Chicago on audiobook.

Is that Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers?"

Yeah. I hadn't read it and have thought about some of the concepts that I knew came out of it, and I thought that was interesting. The other one I had downloaded for the ride home is Sapiens, which is a book my wife read and loved and recommended I read.

Who wrote that?

Yuval Noah Harari.

And what is it? I've never been heard of that. What is it about?

It's about the history of humanity. It's a kind of a cultural anthropological perspective on the history of humans.

What was the last movie you saw?

Wow. With little kids, I get very little time to watch movies. My kids are seven and five, so we don't go to movies much. We did go to Europe recently, and I watched “Deadpool” on the plane.

I moved to Chicago a month ago and I watched Deadpool on the plane up here. It's funny.

It is; it is really funny. Great music in it.

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