Start-up of the week: BuilderEngine

8 Aug 2016

Keith Killilea, founder and CEO, BuilderEngine

Our start-up of the week is Galway-based BuilderEngine, an innovative platform for people who want to create better and smarter websites.

“We build the tools that allow designers, developers or anyone with general computer skills to build complex websites within minutes with drag and drop,” explained BuilderEngine founder and CEO Keith Killilea.

We first met Killilea earlier this year when BuilderEngine was part of the first cohort of start-ups taking part in the Bank of Ireland StartLab incubator in Galway.

Future Human

“We are different to other website builders on the market because we let people go beyond the limited restrictions of pretty pages with text and images to thousands of powerful features across a dozen modules and apps that enable the creation of any type of website.

‘Ireland can produce billion-dollar companies, we have the talent, skills and creativity’

“We’ve got e-commerce modules, classifieds, booking engines, social networks, media galleries, and much more in the works, all in beta and soon to be released.

“We have two flavours of BuilderEngine: a cloud version where everything is hosted and managed for your website, or a downloadable version (CMS) for developers to access the code base that operates under the MIT Open Source licence.”

The founder

Killilea has been involved in websites, software and games development since 1994.

“For most of my time since then I have been working in the games development industry but, in the last few years, I have taken a break, having worked on 30-plus game projects, and dived into the web industry developing a few platforms before founding BuilderEngine.

“I am self-taught in programming, art, sound and servers and I have two past start-ups behind me, with one success and one failure.

“My team and co-founders have experience in building web platforms and the latest in advanced web techniques, including the designing and implementation of the first mobile internet platform (WAP), as well MMS in Ireland.”

The technology

BuilderEngine’s website builder is built in PHP/MySQL with the Codeigniter Framework providing the structure and robust security.

“Building pages is all done on the page where everything can be clicked on and changed,” Killilea explained. “Adding content, blocks of sliders, contact forms, layouts, etc, are easy to do.

The flexibility of the editing tools allows new users or professionals to control everything with ease, expand websites in minutes and stay up-to-date with regular updates.

Users can add modules or apps to their website to expand its feature sets and, because everything in the BuilderEngine system is broken down into ‘blocks’, you can take any feature from any module and put them on the same page without conflict.

“This breaks the mould in how, for example, e-commerce websites must always have category pages, then product pages, checkout pages and so on,” said Killilea.

“With BuilderEngine, you can put all that on one page or add in other modules abilities into it, such as blog blocks or classified blocks, and so on.”

Killilea said that the ultimate goal is to become the default platform for building websites on the internet globally, as well as the central hub for small businesses to access all their key online solutions, such as CRM, email and storage.

“We are aware that this is a really, really big goal to achieve and we might not get there but what we do here will change an industry for the better to evolve it past simple websites, to glue it better and give abilities to users that normally are in the hands of coders. This will also make coders’ lives easier by providing such tools to allow them to excel.”

Market building, block by block

Killilea said that BuilderEngine has exceeded the 100,000-user milestone.

“It took us three years to get 15,000 users through the door through three versions of the platform but, in the last six months, we have experienced an organic growth where we recently broke past the 100,000 mark.

“That is a lot of BuilderEngine platforms out there globally, spread across Europe, the US and Australia on the cloud website builder, and for the CMS platform we are quite popular in China and India.

“We are starting to release the first commercial subscriptions and it will take the rest of 2016 for all our commercial packages to be released. We are now looking for seed investment of €800,000 to help scale and grow.”

Quality of software development in Ireland is world class

Killilea said that up until now BuilderEngine has been bootstrapped.

“Keeping everything going with bootstrapping can be difficult at times and we had to take on client work to help put bread on the table for most of the time.

“This affected the speed of development and focus on the product, which was a challenge to keep on this path while at the same time delivering for clients. The more we built, the harder it became to maintain everything with such a small team.

“Another challenge is keeping the team healthy and morale up during tense development cycles. There is always challenges but it is rewarding when we break through each one.”

His view on the Irish start-up scene is that it is growing and getting better every year.

“The quality of development is world class. The lean start-up method is making companies more competitive and product-focused, which is helping them grow at a faster rate. The Galway tech community is vibrant and supportive and a development hub that rivals the best in the world.”

His advice to fellow founders is to focus on your prototype and product and get key offerings right, be quick to market and prioritise feedback from real customers.

“Plan your business to scale globally and put your team first, not your product. We are every bit as good as the best in the world but we must believe we can do it.

“Ireland can produce billion-dollar companies, we have the talent, skills and creativity.”

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