Construction workflow management startup Matrak has secured $765,000 in seed funding, with the lion’s share coming from former Aconex chair Simon Yencken, who has previously backed Aussie unicorn Canva and art marketplace success story Redbubble.
The $765,000 is comprised of investment from Yencken, who was a board member at project collaboration platform Aconex for 18 years and chair between 2011 and 2014, as well as members of Melbourne Angels and several other private investors.
The round represents a significant oversubscription for the seed round, with co-founders and brothers Shane and Brett Hodgkins initially looking to raise $450,000.
Matrak aims to give construction companies more visibility of the projects they’re working on, allowing manufacturers, suppliers and installers to track deliveries of materials, and to improve communication between different parties.
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The concept was born on a construction site in 2013, when Brett was working for his father’s window installation company part-time while he finished up his master’s degree in computer science.
The company was working on a highrise building, installing two-metre tall windows requiring 10 people and a crane to fit them. It was a big site but there was “no way of keeping track of what had been sent to site, aside from paper dockets”, Shane tells StartupSmart.
“For [Brett’s] own sanity, he built an app to be able to keep track of all the deliveries, shipments and materials,” Shane says.
The initial app “helped Dad’s company a lot”, and soon both the multinational supplier for the site and the construction company running the job were asking about it, as they were looking for something similar themselves.
At that time, Shane, who had been working in software development for 12 years, was having a lot of conversations with Brett about how the original app could scale.
“Construction has been left behind a bit in terms of access to data and technology and more mature ways of managing your processes,” Shane says.
“There was an opportunity to provide a lot of the services other industries have had for decades,” he adds.
“We decided that was something we could build.”
The brothers bootstrapped the company for the first couple of years, taking turns to work on the app and to bring in a pay cheque, before they officially launched the product in November 2016 and both started working full-time on the system.
Now, they have customers using Matrak throughout Australia and in China, and have recently started working with their first client in the US. To date, the app has tracked around $4 billion worth of construction materials.
“A lot of people are really excited to work a bit more sensibly,” Shane says.
The brothers started the process of fundraising about a year ago, and having closed this first seed round, Shane says he and the team have set some targets of what to do to expand into more of the Australian market over the next 12 months.
The funds will be focused on improving user interface and onboarding new customers, as well as working on new machine-learning enabled capabilities.
After that, they’re “looking to push the international market more seriously”, Shane says.
But Shane and Brett are just as hungry for advice and expertise as they are cash, and having an investor as experienced as Yencken on board is “absolutely brilliant”, Shane says.
When the founders first met Yencken, they thought he was only there to vet the startup to help out a friend who was thinking of investing, so when he showed an interest himself it “took us by surprise”, Shane says.
It was experience over capital that won them over. The other investors had “pretty much filled out the round” by the time Yencken came into the picture.
“When he decided to come on board, if it was someone else we might have knocked them back,” Shane says.
Yencken has experience not only in startups, but also working with larger companies, and he’s worked extensively in both Australia and Silicon Valley.
“He’s had a lot of exposure to the extreme startup culture that you don’t see so much in Australia,” Shane says.
“He’s been very supportive, and has helped out with a lot of questions that we have.
“We won’t necessarily make the same mistakes other startups have.”
The other investors in the round also include the owner of a large construction company, and investors from Melbourne Angels, who bring experience in running all kinds of businesses.
This is the first business either of the brothers have embarked on, and “we absolutely need all the help we can get,” Shane says.
Although they were actively fundraising for over a year, and it was a “much more gruelling” process than they expected, Shane says it was all worth it in the end.
“It will take longer than you expect,” he says, “but as long as you’re getting a good response from the people you speak to it’s probably worth pushing through it.”
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