Our Start-up of the Week is ConX, a digital toolbox for construction contractors to simplify how they find and win work, allowing them to get on with what they love: the job itself.
ConX was founded by Dublin native Annie Slattery and her husband Keith Moore, with the aim of developing a tech platform that would help building contractors find work.
Since its founding in 2015, the start-up has now grown to a team of 10, operating from the Fishburners co-working space in the Sydney Startup Hub, in the city where Slattery and Moore have lived for the last decade.
While the company is growing and gaining traction at the moment, with Slattery recently winning Australia’s top award for women in tech start-ups, ConX faced some challenges at the start.
“In the early days, it was tough trying to find product-market fit whilst bootstrapping,” she told Siliconrepublic.com.
“Now, as we grow, we’ve got a new set of challenges such as speed to market, scaling issues on the tech side, and knowing when to raise cash to strike the balance between growing faster and getting the best possible valuation.
“On a personal level, having a baby whilst running a start-up was a huge challenge,” she added.
Slattery, who is CEO of the company, has worked in start-ups for the last five years and took part in Silicon Valley-based global accelerator Blackbox, which was backed by Google for Entrepreneurs. There, she pitched ConX at Google Demo Day.
Moore, meanwhile, has a background in the construction industry and built a successful contracting business from alongside ConX, which had $2m in annual revenue, before he decided to go all in on ConX in 2017.
Also on ConX’s co-founding team is CTO Jonathan Clarke, who has more than 20 years of experience in software development, and Jonathan Slattery who, prior to joining ConX and relocating to Australia, created Irish scare attraction Damnation.
ConX’s target market is the construction industry. According to the start-up, around 98pc of global construction contractors are SMEs underserved by technology.
Already, ConX has paying customers in Ireland, the UK, Canada, the US and Australia.
Slattery said that ConX has “a fairly typical start-up setup”.
“Built on Ruby on Rails, we rely on it for API’s and front-end development with Vue.js adopted into the stack to provide a great end-user experience. PostgreSQL, Memcached, Redis and Elasticsearch round out the majority of the stack currently living in Google Cloud.
“We’ve heavily invested in the responsive experience, rather than opting for native or even hybrid mobile applications with utilising PWA functionality. There are a large array of background workers chatting with various APIs like Intercom, HubSpot, government agencies, customer notifications and interacting with other SaaS tools.”
The start-up stores every piece of data it carries in its BigQuery data warehouse for analysis by the operations team. The growth team accesses huge datasets with simple tools such as Google Sheets.
“ConX is using Keras and Tensorflow to provide scale and boundary detection, and also leveraging open source libraries like OpenCV for image and plan analysis” Slattery added. “All of this has been scaled up using Kubernetes to consistently meet customer needs.”
The ConX founders have a clear and concise goal: to be the digital toolbox in the pocket of construction contractors around the world.
In January 2019, ConX launched ConX Measure, which is a ‘freemium’ onscreen tool to measure and mark up plans instantly. There are 1,200 active users in seven countries using this tool and uploading hundreds of sets of plans every week. Slattery said that this new feature has allowed the company to “delve into the world of machine learning”.
Overall, the Con X platform has more than 12,000 active members and the company is looking to fundraise and launch in the US in early 2020.
“We are looking to raise $2.5m in early 2020. We are seeking strategic investors that will give ConX a competitive advantage to scale, that looks like a VC with a strong construction tech portfolio, or an industry supplier with a highly engaged network,” Slattery added.
“We will look to build out our core team, technology and expand internationally.”
When asked what advice she would give to other self-starters, Slattery said: “Seek out opportunities and just go for it!”
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