We first encountered BuildersCloud at GeekWire’s Startup Day last fall when 28-year-old co-founder Andrey Nokhrin took the first place prize in the Elevator Pitch competition. Well, the Bellevue startup continues to make headway, landing an investment from construction services giant McKinstry and attracting interest from other investors.
Nokhrin actually knows the challenge of sharing building plans and construction documents first hand. Prior to founding the company, he worked for six years as a construction project manager. “I had to use existing construction software application(s) … day-to-day, and I thought that we could do it much better,” he said.
We caught up with Nokhrin for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight:
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “BuildersCloud is a software service that makes sharing, accessing and working with construction data incredibly simple.”
Inspiration hit us when: “In 2010, I was training a new construction materials estimator – a very sharp fellow with a masters degree in architecture. It took him almost one week to figure out how to make a major construction software plug-in work right on his computer. The same software provider is still offering eight-hour training classes for the software. It shouldn’t be so difficult, but the other software solutions in construction were even worse. Every construction manager I knew was complaining. They are frustrated of not having better options for delivering critical information in real time. After doing some more research, the basic idea for BuildersCloud was born.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We have chosen venture capital. With BuildersCloud, we see a unique opportunity to grow fast and scale nationally. The construction market is huge and growing. There is a very strong demand for new generation cloud apps. Top construction companies want to be a part of the “cloud” trend. It’s the most important to grow faster than competition, and to gain a significant market share quickly.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “File optimization process that takes place in the cloud. Hundreds of computing instances are processing documents once uploaded to BuildersCloud. We have invented our own patent-pending algorithms to do this. So now, instead of waiting for documents to download – you can start viewing and working them instantly. Right now we optimize PDFs, images, and photos this way. These documents are 90 percent workflow in the construction industry. But we also support sharing other document, we just don’t optimize them yet. The optimization gives a dynamic nature to our product and it makes us very unique.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Finding a strong technical co-founder and creating a great team. I’ve being highly selective and saying some hard “No’s” was very difficult. As it’s impossible to carry all tasks alone, it is especially hard to say “No’s” to people who are talented and experienced. But most of the people are not a good fit for the team and don’t put a priority to the startup company needs.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Sometimes we think that having a very clear focus in the early days could have saved us a lot of time and waste. But at the same time, it’s impossible to create something new and innovative without some level of inefficiency and waste. If you know what you are going to create from the beginning, you’re unlikely to have something new and unique. The key is to have a great team that is capable of trying, measuring, and learning very fast.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “I personally do my best to learn from all of them – they are all great leaders and entrepreneurs. But if I have to choose, I’d rather have Bill Gates in my corner. He is the absolute role model as a businessman, family man, and philanthropist. In my opinion, Bill, his business team, and family have produced the biggest positive impact on the world.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “I think we already started our world domination by creating a unique and innovative product. We just need to keep up this good work and scale it.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We have a very strong team, and we are capable of doing things faster, better, and cheaper than most of the software providers in the construction industry. But we don’t want any rivals to fear us – instead, we should look for ways to co-operate together. We should all work harder to create better solutions for the industry, and our cloud-powered file-sharing can already benefit most of the existing solutions.”
We are truly unique because: “We share a very strong construction industry background, business, and software/technical expertise between our two co-founders. It’s a very difficult mix to find. Most of the talented IT startup-minded people are not interested to solve construction problems. And most of the construction experts are not capable of building a successful IT company that can scale very fast.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “The middle of the Beta development stage was very scary. We’ve spent a lot of time and money, but still didn’t know if there is going to be any demand for our solution. It was a pure vision guided by potential customers’ feedback. It’s much easier right now because we have many companies that are very enthusiastic and supportive about our software service, and we now have paying customers.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Look for the best teammates possible. Prepare ahead for a very long marathon(s). Read “Pitch Hack” and “Venture Deals.”