Opoplan has designs on building the homes of tomorrow

10 Jun 2019

Brian O’Brien. Image: Opoplan

Our Start-up of the Week is Opoplan, a Dublin-based design engine that helps families and builders collaborate to create the perfect homes.

“Opoplan is the world’s first intelligent online design service for new homes,” said Opoplan founder Brian O’Brien.

“92pc of people creating a new house – up to 1m a year in the US and Europe – would like to access the skills an architect brings to designing a new house but can’t afford to.

“This is while most architects have redundant or reusable designs all over their offices around the world.”

‘Our business focus is on the 72,000 custom home builders in the US and Canada who build 500,000 single-family new homes a year’

O’Brien continued: “We’ve created a unique platform and design engine that matches that demand with the supply pool above to provide personalised architect-quality designs to families trying to build their new house at an affordable price.”

The market

O’Brien claims that Opoplan is the only online plan service aimed uniquely at custom home builders on a software-as-a-service model, with a suite of products tuned to both their workflow and business needs.

He said the designs are “created in specific response to the customer’s brief, site and budget, and delivered in easy-to-understand, intuitive and data-rich (construction information, particularly) formats that allow the customers immerse themselves in a digital exploration of their designs”.

O’Brien continued: “Our business focus is on the 72,000 custom home builders in the US and Canada who build 500,000 single-family new homes a year. We are also available directly to customers themselves worldwide. From there we can expand in terms of geography and sector.

“We have a full team of developers, experts in building information modelling (BIM), and architects led by an exceptional CTO and CMO, and myself as founder and CEO (and an architect of 20 years-plus). We also have a great panel of advisers and mentors.”

The technology

O’Brien explained that the current online stock plan industry is tied to a legacy of tens of thousands of 2D paper-based designs. “It is a manual distribution model and, in an age where even your phone knows where it is on planet Earth, [there is] no locational self-awareness or inbuilt expertise.

“Our bespoke briefing UX on our website is unique in the industry, and our approach to hosting and reselling redundant designs from architects all over the world is a game-changer to the business model in architecture.

“Our bespoke analysis and customisation design software are unique and … generate architect-quality solutions in just a few minutes. It is the result of unique research and development around the systemisation and customisation of architect design workflows and the integration of cutting-edge technologies such as BIM scripting and mapping APIs in a unique way.

“Uniquely in the online design (stock plans) sector, we provide our designs in 21st-century tech-compatible formats such as 3D visualisation explorers, soon augmented reality, BIM and 3D printable models.

“Our goal is to become the number one company in the world working at the intersection of construction/made objects and design automation. We want to be able to do this at every scale possible.”

Portfolio pursuit

O’Brien said that the current priority for Opoplan is to grow its portfolio of seed designs. “Each design allows us to produce multiple personalised design solutions for customers, signing more and more builders up to subscriptions.

“Next will be an investment round to allow us to increase our marketing spend and establish a US presence.”

He said some of the challenges along the way have included perfecting the product market fit, as well as developing the right marketing strategy to be able to reach small, localised builders all over the US. “These are our B2B subscribers.”

He has found the start-up scene in Ireland to be one that is blossoming. “As someone with a background in architecture, I much prefer working in the start-up world. I find that people are much more supportive and collegial than they are in my previous profession.”

O’Brien’s advice to fellow founders? “Believe in yourself, work on what’s important (not just urgent), build a great team, invite criticism.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years