Technological innovation remains an upward trend in the property sector: access to quality talent, friendly immigration policies, and a receptive venture capital and accelerator community have paved the way for proptech startups to punch above their weight on the world stage.
Proptech Collective’s 2021 report, “Proptech in Canada,” analyzes 300 Canadian proptech startups that are solving solutions for real estate and construction companies.
Some of the report’s 25 top-funded startups have raised hundreds of millions of dollars on the global stage, including Vancouver-based BuildDirect home improvement company ($183-million), Toronto-based smart thermostats enterprise Ecobee ($203-million), and Montreal’s short-term rental platform Sonder ($698-million).
The extensive report dives into myriad attributes that propel a startup to success, but essentially the recipe has two major ingredients: Bring real value through efficiency and productivity, and solve one problem very well.
That’s precisely what two recent startups in the top 25 list set out to do.
RenoRun, a user-friendly app with $26-million in funding, saves contractors time and money by delivering building supplies directly to the jobsite.
After spending more than 20 years in the construction industry in Ireland, Australia, Canada and the U.S., RenoRun founder Eamonn O’Rourke saw the need for fast jobsite material delivery.
“When I launched the company, in Montreal, in 2017, it was centered around solving a problem that I had as a contractor and home builder,” Mr. O’Rourke says.
Whenever an unforeseen material shortage occurred, he says, “it was a pain in the backside.” Not only did an hourly labourer have to leave the site, but it also slowed down the job.
“I thought, there’s got to be a better way.”
Similar to Instacart, the speedy, grocery delivery app, RenoRun does two-hour deliveries of materials from multiple suppliers in a single run.
Within two years of operation, RenoRun evolved from on-demand material provider to a full-stack digital retail outlet that offers 17,000 products from hundreds of top brands.
“We went from being the solution for ‘oh, crap I’ve run out of six pieces of lumber,’ to being a primary vendor, where one can purchase everything to build a house,” Mr. O’Rourke says.
The company counts more than 20,000 customers in a growing list of cities, including Montreal, Toronto, Boston and Chicago, and has 250 employees. “We’re adding 20 to 30 every month, at this stage,” Mr. O’Rourke adds.
He envisions creating a system that can improve a trades person’s entire business, pointing out that “If you’re a great plumber with your own company, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a great [at business]. We’re hoping to help trades people evolve into phenomenal business people by being partners with RenoRun.”
Like Renorun, Kitchener, Ont.-based Bridgit Inc. is a startup that is in constant growth mode.
Co-founders Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Lake – who both grew up in construction families – have raised $21-million in funding, primarily with the mobile work force planning program, Bridgit Bench, which launched three years ago.
Widely considered the first human-resource tool developed specifically for the construction industry, Bridgit Bench allows managers to forgo manual processes involving spreadsheets and whiteboards and nimbly manage work force data, such as skills tracking and employee scheduling – resulting in operational efficiency and improved profits.
“We are always looking for new opportunities to bring innovation to the industry – really, the questions never stop, says Ms. Brodie, Bridgit’s chief executive officer.
A few years ago, during a meeting with a large general contractor in the U.S., Ms. Brodie naturally inquired about any problems requiring solutions. He mentioned the challenges around work force planning.
As Ms. Brodie and Ms. Lake researched the issue – speaking with scores of customers and others in the industry – “it became quite clear that it was a common challenge across general contractors with companies of over 50 people,” Ms. Brodie says.
Since launching Bridgit Bench in 2019, the company has issued new features galore. Last summer, for example, it partnered with San Francisco-based construction software company Autodesk Inc. – “an amazing stamp of approval,” said Ms. Brodie, after signing the $9.4-million deal.
In the past two months, Bridgit announced integration abilities with global construction management software giant Procore and an implementation deal with Skanska USA Building Inc., one of the largest construction companies in the world.
What’s next for Bridgit? Might as well aim high: “In 10 years, we imagine Bridgit to be the leading work force intelligence platform for the construction industry globally,” offers Ms. Brodie.