When Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Lake were college students at Canada’s Western University, they’d get up early and go “crane hunting,” as they called it, around southwestern Ontario.
“We’d drive around before class and spot large construction sites,” said Brodie. The two, now both 24, would interview workers — builders, managers, contractors — about what frustrations they encountered when trying to get a job done.
What emerged over eight months of research was that communication within the industry was decidedly analog.
Contractors were keeping track of to-do lists on sticky notes, and nailing scribbled plans to walls. The more organized of the bunch kept spreadsheets of different tasks, then emailed or phoned in requests to the appropriate subcontractors.
There was plenty of room for improvement. Enter Bridgit, Brodie and Lake’s technology startup, which has just raised a $1.7 million seed round.
Bridgit’s web and mobile platform acts as a digital “punch list,” to use the industry term for a document tracking incomplete or incorrect tasks on a construction project.
“With so many moving parts on a job site, so much can go wrong,” Brodie said. “Maybe drywall went up 6 inches to the right of where it should be, so needs to be taken down. Maybe there are cracked tiles.”
Since its 2014 launch, Bridgit has signed up more than 100 contractors, including large companies in U.S. markets like Miami, with its constant condominium development, and Seattle, where Compass Construction uses it on 18 active projects.
The startup’s also racked up accolades, including a big win at Google’s first Demo Day for women entrepreneurs. Brodie and Lake beat out 450 applicants from 40 countries to make the final group of 11 teams picked to pitch at the event.
Chicago’s Hyde Park Venture Partners led this month’s $1.7 million round, with Vancouver’s Vanedge Capital also participating. Existing investors include New York angel Joanne Wilson, known for investing in women-led businesses, and Rypple co-founder Daniel Debow.
While Brodie and Lake have no plans to leave Canada’s tech hub of Kitchener-Waterloo, they said they’ll use part of the funding to acquire more U.S. customers, as well as adding engineers and salespeople to their team of 17.
Both women grew up in families with roots in the steel, construction and real estate sectors. Brodie studied entrepreneurship in college; Lake focused on civil construction engineering.
Nevertheless, they’ve been greeted with the occasional quizzical look when they tell people they run a tech startup focused on the construction industry.
“We have a much higher proportion of male than female customers,” said Brodie, noting that she’s been careful that her own staff is 50% women, including engineers.
Still, she can’t remember any contractors on job sites reacting with particular shock at two 20-year-old women jumping out of a pick-up truck when she and Lake went “crane hunting” in the early days.
“They weren’t surprised that we were women,” Brodie said. “They were surprised that anyone at all was coming to help them with their everyday life. They were very open to it — and open to referring us.”Read Original Article