Architect Turned Entrepreneur: The Story of Jose Cruz, Jr.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
By: Tatiana Rodriguez

Jose Cruz, Jr. (BDES ’12) has always been an entrepreneur.

Back in high school, he designed a custom webpage on eBay and would buy sneakers from China and put them on the site to sell them and stand out from the crowd. Five and a half years ago, he started a business by teaching his younger brother how to 3D scan buildings while he would convert them to 3D models. This two-man operation has since expanded to a workforce of 17 people and about 50 contractors who work with the company daily.

He grew up working with his parents at a pizza shop in Florida and said that it helped him understand the basics of business. He also had a mentor, a family friend who was an architect and took him under his wing to show him how to use AutoCAD.

Cruz is the founder and CEO of Integrated Projects, a building intelligence company that combines 3D laser scanning and 3D modeling to bring buildings online in an accurate way.

When Cruz had the opportunity to study at the University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning, he fell in love with design and the fundamentals of architecture. After graduating from DCP with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, he furthered his education at Columbia University, where he got his master’s in architecture. Then, after a few years of working as an architect and construction manager at large design or construction firms, he said that he decided to pursue his own thesis about where the industry is going.

Cruz’s experience as an architect and construction manager inspired him to start Integrated Projects. He explained that when he was an architect, he would spend long nights redesigning apartment layouts based on the floor plans he received from building owners but would later realize that the plans were inaccurate to begin with. Then, as a construction manager, he realized that building owners tend to have outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete information about their building.

That was when he had his “light bulb moment,” where he decided that there needs to be a company that can help answer what actually exists in a building and visualize it accurately in the form of floor plans, spreadsheets or 3D models.

Integrated Projects now converts about six buildings a day, from homes to schools to hospitals to skyscrapers.

“Seeing customers use your service and come back to you not just once or twice, but 10, 20, 30 times over, is really validating that what I’m working on and what my team is working on is meaningful and impactful.”

Six out of seven continents are using their platform, and watching the team grow over time has also been humbling.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to wake up and work with people you truly admire and want to work with and working on a problem that you think is worthwhile.”

PBS has recently reached out to the company to include them in a segment on the future of real estate. The documentary explores what it means to bring buildings online and how it impacts building owners, architects, and engineers.

Integrated Projects also raised $3 million earlier this year to digitize the built environment, which Cruz said will be used to grow the team, expand current relationships with customers as well as landing new customers and partnerships, and focusing on marketing.

Reflecting on his time at UF, Cruz recalled how he wasn’t accepted to UF at first and transferred after two years of community college. He worked at Architrave, the school’s student publication, and was the president of the Studio Culture Committee. He then graduated near the top of his class.

His favorite memory at DCP was getting to watch ideas come to life and learning the value of building a community and creating excitement.

“When you have this microcosm of people who are so passionate about learning about architecture, it’s just so contagious.”

Cruz felt that DCP did an amazing job in preparing him for his career. He recalled a professor who said that undergrad is for learning the ingredients, while graduate programs are for putting those ingredients together.

“I think UF was able to do a great job of teaching students the ingredients of what makes great architecture in our case.”

In terms of what he wishes he had taken more advantage of while he was at DCP, Cruz noted the resources of the professors. He still stays in touch with one or two professors when they come to New York, and he said that he treasures those connections and relationships.

For prospective students considering DCP, Cruz said he would advise them to “get ready for the ride of their life.”

“Definitely take advantage of your time there to soak up everything your network and colleagues and friends and professors have to say in the moment. It feels very overwhelming. And yet, when you’re out, you kind of look back and you kind of wish you could replay it all over again. And so just be in the moment and kind of appreciate where you’re at.”

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