The start-up of the day: BulldozAIR, a SaaS solution for the monitoring and collaborative management of construction sites
Frenchweb invites you today to discover Blockbase, a Parisian start-up which develops BulldozAIR, a SaaS and collaborative solution for the management and monitoring of construction sites between the various players. More details with Ali El Hariri, the co-founder.
Frenchweb: How did you get the idea for your company?
Ali El Hariri: After ESTP, I worked for six years as a works engineer on large Parisian construction sites at Bouygues construction. During this period from 2005 to 2011, I also participated in the implementation of the first site monitoring software still on tablet PCs. The idea had a lot of potential but remained technically confined to the end-of-work phases and could only be used by a handful of people. So I looked for a way to extend it to all the actors of a construction project and to benefit from it throughout the duration of a project. I realized that there was no satisfactory solution. So I embarked on the entrepreneurial adventure from there, convinced of the need.
Then in 2012, I met Maxence Lerigner during a Startup Weekend won with the BulldozAIR project. Maxence had been developing mobile applications for four years. The combination and complementarity was perfect, we teamed up, and created the company Blockbase in 2012 to launch BulldozAIR in 2013. The idea was then refined with feedback from the first users.
What need are you responding to?
Many companies intervene on a site, there are sometimes more than 40 actors on certain projects. This creates problems of coordination and transmission of information, causes delays, revisions and sometimes requiring reconstructions. According to a study by the firm Gartner, the mess, the reconstruction and the repetitions would correspond to a third of the final cost of the construction of a work.
To solve this problem, a universal system is needed, easily accessible, and which makes it possible to solve the problems of its sites in real time and in mobility. Our BulldozAIR site monitoring solution allows all the trades involved in a construction project to connect: engineers, site managers, but also architects, design offices and project management. We facilitate communication and decision-making between different companies and departments, to reduce waste and optimize deadlines.
It is moreover this new approach to collaboration in the construction industry that made us win the Batimat 2013 innovation prize, a benchmark event in the profession.
Very simply, how do you make money?
Bulldozair is the first SaaS (Software as a Service) solution for site monitoring. We are working on a simple formula, one subscription per month and per user. They can then connect to any terminal to access our application: PC, smartphones or tablets, on Apple as well as on Android or Windows 8.
Until now we had sold a lot of services, now the succession is ensured by the online subscription service: available for pre-registration on bulldozair.com
Who are your competitors?
Our main competitor is PlanGrid, an American startup from the YCombinator accelerator. They offer an interesting solution and target the same market: construction SMEs with collaborative online service.
But in the construction industry, old uses (mails, paper notebooks, etc.) have good resistance because they are simple and easy to access. They are the biggest competitors, but people have realized the usefulness of digital to increase productivity. Uses are changing. It is in particular thanks to market education that some service companies have had to finance for several years.
Another competitor on large projects: BIM, to simplify it is a new working methodology based on a digital model of the building on which everyone collaborates in near real time. We see BIM not as a competitor, but as a necessary step in the medium term, and we are already working on the subject in collaboration with experts in the field.
What or which companies are you being compared to in error?
We are often compared with knowledge corp or Resolving, which are service companies offering site monitoring tools on iPads sold as a site service. These are companies that are well established on the large business market, to which they offer manual cutting of plans, turnkey site configuration… This is a good offer for large general contractor sites that generally require configure everything. But this type of offer is ill-suited for all companies that work in multi-sites, subcontracting, or simply who do not have an iPad set up by the service company.
We started with service to large groups, but above all we are targeting a different market: the 40 million SMEs in various construction trades around the world who also need a collaborative, simple, online, flexible and autonomous tool. Our market is global, not regional. The business model (monthly subscription vs site offer) and the sales channel (SaaS vs direct sales) are different for two reasons: the majority of customers do not have only one site to manage and cannot afford to pay a flat rate each time to be able to collaborate; finally, these customers prefer to keep control of their internal project without going through a service company: a question of reactivity.
What was one of the first issues in your development, and how did you deal with it?
We already had an urgent request from potential customers, and in particular Eiffage, whose projects were starting soon, and who had responded favorably to our prototypes while our technical roadmap was still young.
In agreement with the client, we therefore set out on Lean Development : every three weeks, we visited their site and presented them with a new version, including the functionalities requested the previous time. It took a lot of work and a few sleepless nights, but it was a highlight of our start.
What is your main asset in this market?
I would say our team: Maxence, with his skills as a mobile software engineer, allowed us to quickly think of a multi-platform solution technically set up with our mobile developers, while I brought my knowledge of the construction industry into the software .
What is the best advice you have been given and by whom?
We met Bob Dorf when he was in Paris last year, and he repeated this famous phrase to us: “Customer feedback drives the product! ”, Which could be translated as“ It is customer feedback that determines the product ”, implying“ not your unverified engineer / dreamer assumptions ”. This is a maxim that we have followed during all phases of Blockbase.
Who is the personality you admire the most?
In the business field, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, for having succeeded in democratizing the online software sales model (SAAS), particularly in B2B, which was not won. He has succeeded in establishing Salesforce as a standard in the CRM world. Aron Levie, CEO of BOX.com is also shaking up the aging lines of B2B software in cloud storage for businesses. All this motivates us to do the same in the field of construction where the potential for improvement and savings is enormous.
Founders: Ali El Hariri and Maxence Lerigner
Investors: SNCF Développement, TEKTOS,
Creation date : 2011
Team: 10 people
Sales figures : NC
Company based in: Paris and Calais