‘The Google Suite for builders’: How a software solution for one builder turned into construction-tech startup InSimplify

InSimplify

InSimplify founder Murthy Muthuswamy.

Murthy Muthuswarmy is a natural problem-solver.

Born in a rural village in India, he first studied software engineering, landing a role with IBM, before migrating to Australia and working with a software startup in the property sector.

He learnt a lot through these pursuits, but it was the experience of working with a builder on his own home that led to a breakthrough idea.

Noticing how poorly the record-keeping was handled, he built some simple software to make things better. This eventually became InSimplify, a cloud-based end-to-end management platform, designed specifically for the construction industry.

Bringing builders closer to customers 

“InSimplify is a cloud-based software product for home builders in Australia. It’s an end-to-end solution for builders — they can use it for sales, capturing leads from different sources, online colour selection, construction and maintenance. It allows builders and customers to rely on one system from start to finish,” Murthy Muthuswarmy tells Duct Tape.

“This product is primarily for builders, but they can allow customers access to the system too. They can manage and document the customers’ preferences through the portal. Everyone has different requirements when you’re building your own home — like different colours for different rooms — customers can select these through the software portal rather than having to go to the builder’s office. 

“We launched a year ago in 2018 and we’ve bootstrapped the company from our savings. My wife still works as a software engineer.

“We began with just two builders, but have been acquiring about two construction companies per month. We now have 32 construction companies on the platform and about 120 users. We have a monthly subscription pricing model, based on $100 per user. ” 

Work hard, study hard 

“I was born in India and grew up in a small village near a town called Hiriyur, three hours from Bangalore. We were an agricultural family and used to work on the farm every day. We would get up at 5am, milk the cows and buffaloes by hand, then take the milk by bicycle to the nearby town to sell.

“Back in the 1980s, there was no packaged milk, so we would sell it door to door. I used to sell milk, go to school, and then work on the farm again. 

“That’s how we grew up. We never thought of doing a degree at university. But when I finished school, someone suggested I consider studying engineering.

“I ended up studying mechanical engineering, and when I graduated in 2003, everyone was going to Bangalore to find work in software engineering. They used to say: ‘You can’t throw a rock in Bangalore without hitting a dog or a software engineer.’

“I eventually got a job with IBM and then applied for permanent residency in Australia because my brother had moved here to Tarneit. 

“The first job I got in Melbourne was with a property marketplace startup called Investorist. It only had four people and so I managed all the IT.

“That company had grown to 50 people when I left to focus on InSimplify last year.”

Solving your own problems 

“I got the idea for InSimplify when I was building my own house for our family here in Tarneit. When I was meeting with builders, I noticed a big gap in communication and record management — everything was on paper or in various excel sheets.

“So I proposed to the builder that I build some software to address the issue. It was just a simple one-page application that could create quotes, but he got very excited and began asking other people to use it too. 

“I didn’t have plans to launch a startup then, I just built it for him and to solve my own problem, but it became a kind of prototype for InSimplify.

“I didn’t know how things worked from the builder’s perspective, so I started going every weekend to meet him and go through the customer requirements. He gave me a lot of input and tested the product.

“He became my first and best customer, and this helped me to design the product and inspired me to create a company to scale it.” 

Big plans 

“Tarneit is actually a very good place to be based for this product, because there’s so much new home construction here. It’s easy to go and meet builders and demonstrate the product.

“I was accepted into a program called ‘Innovate to Excelerate’ that was put on by Wyndham Council last year, which connected me with a business coach who has been very helpful around rebranding and becoming more commercially minded. 

“We have ambitious growth plans for the product. All of the builders work with suppliers and tradies and we’ve just built the option to book suppliers and tradies through the system.

“There are also land agents and developers releasing new land — especially in the west and outer parts of Melbourne.

“Currently, they communicate through emails and there is often miscommunication. We plan to incorporate them into the software — they’ll be able to manage stock and land packages and distribute it to the builders — so they’re immediately updated when a sale is made. 

“Our vision is to create an offering for the entire construction industry in Australia, with modules for different suppliers or customers, but all connected internally, like the Google Suite for construction.

“This will give us an overview of data in the industry, how many new home buyers are in this estate, what the price ranges are, et cetera.

“Once we get several hundred builders on our platform, we’ll be able to produce some really good reports on the home construction industry.”

This article was first published in Duct Tape, a publication by Startup Victoria and Victoria University, and has been republished with permission.

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