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Builk: Building its way into construction contractors’ hearts one brick at a time

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Builk is rare among Asian startups in that it’s received acclaim within the startup community for tackling a segment that’s not easily understood by the average consumer.

The Thai company won the Echelon 2012 Launchpad, and was ranked one of the top five Southeast Asian startups at DEMO ASEAN, and yet it aims to innovate within an industry that’s about as un-techie and un-startup-y as it gets: construction.

To summarize, Builk is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that allows construction companies to manage their construction projects.

Builk had garnered some acclaim last year but the startup world has since moved on to younger, fresher names. Curious to see what Builk was up to, Tech in Asia sat down with Patai Padungtin, co-founder of Builk, to check in on the company’s progress.

Talking money

As the winner of the Echelon 2012 Launchpad event, Builk received $400,000 from Project Planning Service PLC. That served as the company’s seed round funding. With the money, Builk moved to a bigger office, and began directing its resources towards entering new markets and developing a mobile app.

Builk is not looking for a new round of funding right now. Patai mentioned that the construction industry is a brick and mortar one at its core, so it takes an investment firm that has experience in the industry to understand the startup. Patai believes in PPS and trusts that this VC will take Builk to the next level by introducing it to like-minded partners in the industry.

At the moment, 2,500 companies are using Builk. The average usage time is 30 minutes per visit, or roughly three and a half hours per week. It has about three to four million pageviews per month.

Expanding into Indonesia

Much like Priceza, a Thailand-based online price comparison site which just got funded by CyberAgent Ventures, Builk also has its eye on Indonesia. The company is currently working with an undisclosed partner in Indonesia under a licensee model which Builk holds stock. Patai explained:

We have to rebuild our platform from scratch in order to enter the Indonesian market, as the scale is bigger there compared to that of Thailand, where we operate now. We have to consider not only language barriers but also the new regulations and for contracting construction projects in foreign countries. Therefore, we will take this step slowly but surely.

In addition to Indonesia, Builk has also talked with potential partners in Australia and Malaysia, with the same eye towards expansion.

From service to network

Soon, Builk will be launching SiteWalk, its first construction site collaboration website and app.

SiteWalk allows project managers to communicate with each other. Users can use SiteWalk as a specialized, industry-focused messaging medium instead of just using Line, Facebook group chat, or regular email. Taking a cue or two from Facebook, the app will feature a project timeline, and functionality will include sharing photos, voting up and down on a material, make comments, and get notified on the project’s progress.

At present, SiteWalk is purely web-based, but according to Patai, the mobile app will be launched officially at the DEMO Valley event.

SiteWalk marks Builk’s effort to appeal to a mass audience. With the app, it looks to target more consumers like property owners and homeowners.

A marketplace for the construction industry

Within the next three years, Builk envisions itself transforming into a construction marketplace. Patai said:

We’re already seeing what people want to get, but they can’t actually buy it online right away. That’s why now we want to focus on growth tracking. We will keep track of customer behavior. We need to know the trends, demands, and supplies in order to become a marketplace. We are also looking into partnering with banks, telcos and other partners in other countries.

This marketplace idea, once launches, could be the main revenue generator for Builk. At the moment, most revenue comes from advertising and research.

Challenges

Although Builk is doing quite well, it hasn’t been immune to one of the key problems that plagues the construction industry: trust. With a reputation for being corrupt, the industry has subsequently created an atmosphere of distrust among players. Builk is trying to solve this problem by creating a ratings system on the site.

To avoid false ratings, Builk utilizes user data to track the persona and behavior of contractors. Builk’s system grades suppliers and will implement a badge feature in the future.

To engage and retain users, Builk has just hired a communication manager to run events and talk to users offline.

(Editing by Josh Horwitz and Terence Lee )


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