Bridgit founders bridge the gap between construction and technology
Posted Nov 11, 2020 05:45:00 PM.
When you first think of construction, you might think hard hats, work boots and cranes. Those aspects are crucial to the industry, but there’s plenty going on behind the scenes of a typical jobsite.
The founders of a local technology firm didn’t just find their niche in the construction world, they’re revolutionizing the space. Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Lake are the co-founders of “Bridgit”, the Kitchener-based company founded in 2014.
They met by pure happenstance in 2013 while Brodie was a student at Western’s Ivey School of Business, and Lake was studying civil engineering at Western. They were paired up as part of an accelerator program called “NEXT Canada”, which selected 36 students.
Brodie and Lake came up with their pitch and the very next morning they presented to 300 investors. The brainchild from that project came Bridgit; a mobile-based platform to manage and inspect “punch lists” on the construction site.
“Lauren and I were very quickly trying to find things we were both interested in, or both had some sort of familiarity with,” Brodie said. “It turned out that both of our families had been in the construction company.
“My grandfather had a demolition company; my great grandfather had a rebar company. Her grandfather had a subcontracting company, and she was also a civil engineer studying civil engineering. So very quickly we narrowed in on construction that very first night.”
The pair knew they tapped into something, but the feedback they received from investors was that the construction industry seemed reluctant to adopt technology.
Brodie and Lake conducted their own research in the construction field and found quite the opposite; workers wanted to use technology to track automate aspects of their work, but they lacked an effective and user-friendly platform.
“There’s this huge disconnect with the software they were being provided with and where they actually wanted to be recording their notes and everything,” Brodie said. “That was really interesting to us and explained potentially why some of the perception outside of the industry was that technology wasn’t wanting to be used.”
From there, the team developed “Bridgit Field”, which is used to track deficiency management on the jobsite. Instead of going through the painstaking process of photographing, uploading, marking and emailing a defect on a project, team members can just use the Bridgit app to fix the issue.
Brodie and Lake interviewed over 500 people from the industry, and the consensus they heard was the hardware-software disconnect. It was a huge pain point in the construction industry, and Bridgit alleviates that disconnect.
“Often it was handwritten notes, go back to their computer when they had time and take photos with a digital camera,” Brodie said. “If they had to mark a specific detail, they would upload the photo into Paint and draw a red circle around the deficiency. Email that out to the subtractors, back and forth on email.
“It was a huge, huge effort with a lot of opportunity for automation that we were seeing on some of the largest jobsites.”
In May 2019, the company released its second platform, “Bridgit Bench”, which helps operation managers and executives visualize where workers are, and how they need to be allocated in the future.
Prior to Bridgit Bench, companies may have used something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet to track hundreds upon hundreds of workers. It’s an antiquated way to make resource planning decisions, which Brodie is helping improve with Bridgit Bench.
You’d hardly know it judging by the number of cranes towering above Waterloo Region, but the construction industry had to adapt in the face of COVID. Brodie used to spend most of the time on the road, but now she performs her CEO duties from her home.
“I was travelling a lot, at minimum every second week to trade shows, to see customers, or continue product research, or raising capital for company,” Brodie said. “I was in and out of the airport pretty frequently, to go mostly to the US. That has completely changed. I don’t think I’ve ever spent this many days in Kitchener in a row since I moved here.”
In its brief history, Bridgit has already accomplished many noteworthy feats. In September, the Globe and Mail named Bridgit as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies. Brodie and Lake were also named as part of Forbes Top 30 Under 30 in 2019.
As illustrious as those distinctions are, Bridgit’s CEO says she’s most proud of the $9.4 million dollar strategic investment spearheaded by Autodesk, a major player in the construction software world.
“For us, when we started the company, Autodesk was this massive company that we barely dreamed of being able to work with at some point,” Brodie said. “The fact that they have not only partnered with us, but they’ve also put in a substantial investment is this amazing stamp of approval.”
To date, Bridgit employs just under 50 workers locally based from their Kitchener office. Locally in Waterloo Region, they’ve working with companies like Melloul-Blamey Construction, IN8 Developments, Habitat for Humanity, and Polocorp.
In retrospect, it’s a little fortuitous that Brodie and Lake found themselves on the same team, both with construction backgrounds in their history. Brodie calls it “luck”, but admits that even if she wasn’t paired up with Lake, she’s confident they would’ve crossed paths and collaborated in the future.
As two women in a male-dominated industry, Bridgit’s founders have laid the framework for the next generation of business executives and civil engineers who hope to take a similar career arc.
In a short time, Brodie and Lake opened a lot of eyes in the construction industry. They proved any entrepreneur can realize their dreams, no matter their gender, no matter their background.
“Even people who aren’t necessarily interested or know about the construction industry, they just love the story. I think it makes them feel like they can go after whatever their ambition is. Whether it’s a male-dominated industry or they feel like they’re not the expected fit, it helps inspire them to go after it.”