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By Fiona Hamann
March 6, 2018
1. Tell me about ConX’s model and a bit about the business?
ConX is a platform built to connect contractors in the construction industry, simplifying how they win work, hire, and establish a reputation online.
The company was born out of co-founder Keith Moores pains as a carpentry subcontractor, when he was trying to line up a consistent pipeline of work for his business and hire skilled tradespeople in line with the increasing workload. Seeing the inefficiencies, I just knew there had to be a better way. In 2014, the first version of ConX was launched. In 2015, CTO Jonathan Clarke joined the team to focus on building a scalable platform.
We’ve been growing 20% month-on-month for over a year, approaching 10,000 contractors, subcontractors, and individual tradespeople registered and connecting for work, predominantly in NSW.
In October 2017, we closed our seed investment round and increased the team from three to seven. Now, we are preparing to scale.
2. Your background is in finance and accounting, and you had sponsorship for residency through Macquarie Bank. What drew you to starting a construction jobs website?
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs and self-starters, I was always interested in starting and running my own business. I enjoyed working in the corporate world, but it was just a stepping stone to get some experience under my belt before venturing out on my own.
What drew me to the construction sector was seeing a huge market, with a big problem, and an opportunity to build a solution to solve it.
3. How does ConX differ from anything else out there and indeed is there anything comparable?
ConX gives head contractors access to a wider pool of subcontractors and tradespeople, opening up networks far beyond the contacts in their phone book to provide more competitive quotes and keep costs in check. For subcontractors and individuals, it is an easy way to line up a consistent pipeline of work.
To establish trust, the platform automatically pre-qualifies members by collecting targeted, construction-specific data on profiles such as skills, experience, licensing, insurances, qualifications and tickets. There is also a two-way rating system built into the platform maintained by members themselves.
There are any amount of “one-size-fits-all” solutions on the market. However, networking sites such as LinkedIn are designed to connect professionals, not tradespeople. Online horizontal job boards like Seek and Indeed are all price-led and focused above all on white-collar jobs. While classifieds like gumtree are popular for construction job listings, they rather serve as a stop gap for people hiring in a hurry.
In the tendering space, there are some great enterprise solutions on the market, servicing the big end of town. At ConX, we’re predominantly focused on SME’s — profiling and connecting the guys on the ground, doing the work.
ConX is differentiating itself in the industry, focusing solely on the construction vertical and providing a three-tiered platform for head contractors, subcontractors, and individual trades to connect. Our solution is tailored to the needs of the industry, which gives us complete flexibility with how we evolve.
4. You’ve recently held a seed funding round, raising more than a million dollars. What kind of investors were attracted to ConX and what will you do with the money raised?
In October 2017, we closed an Angel investment round of $1,000,000 from sophisticated investors within the construction industry. They are the perfect fit for both the business and the team, with extensive experience, networks, and connections within the industry.
Construction is the second least digitised industry in the world, after agriculture. That’s all about to change. Now every tradie carries a smartphone, and the ubiquity of social media has had a huge impact on the adoption of technology at all levels of the construction sector. Our investors could see the market shift and the potential for ConX to become the largest connected network of construction contractors in the world.
At ConX, we want to position ourselves at the forefront of the industry as the next wave of tech savvy contractors come online. In order to do this, we need to capture the market quickly and hiring the best team out there is the way to do it.
CTO Jonathan Clarke re-located to Kathmandu, Nepal back in 2015, and he is scaling up the engineering team from there. Jonathan Slattery has recently moved from Ireland to head up the Sales team, and hacker Steve Dhungel has come onboard to drive growth.
5. ConX was one of ten startups to feature in the Startup Aus report on Digital Foundations. What were the criteria for inclusion?
We were introduced by Aconex to the guys at EY and StartupAus. They were putting the report together and they saw ConX as a good case study for the report.
6. ConX was chosen as one of 12 firms invited to pitch at Google Demo Day in 2016. Tell me about that experience. What have you learned and what mentoring have you received as a result? Has it opened doors for you?
In May 2016, I took part in Blackbox, a Silicon Valley accelerator backed by Google for Entrepreneurs. In November 2016, ConX was one of 12 teams to be selected to pitch at Google Demo Day, Female Founders Edition. We were actually chosen from more than 800 applicants from over 65 countries.
During our time in Silicon Valley, we got a taste for the sheer size of the global opportunity in both Tech and ConstructionTech. We received top quality mentoring from successful founders and VC’s in the industry. We spent days at Google HQ with Google Ventures, and we heard from successful Google-acquired startups such as Waze.
We’re still receiving mentoring and support from both Google and key connections made during our time in the US. It was then we were introduced to Construction-focused VC, Brick & Mortar, and continue to maintain a great relationship with them today.
7. What sort of clients are you attracting and how does the model work? (Eg: large construction, small residential, private trade work for individual households?)
There are currently 345,480 business operating in the Construction industry, and this is overwhelmingly comprised of small businesses with fewer than 20 employees (98.6% of construction businesses). 60% of construction businesses are actually sole operators with no employees. The majority (82.2%) of these small businesses operate in the trade services sector of the building industry that includes plumbers, electricians, plasterers and a myriad of other specialist building trades. At ConX, we are providing an online solution for these small businesses, who currently rely so heavily on word-of-mouth, to network and connect with each other for work through our open network, jobs, and tendering platforms.
Medium-sized businesses (employing between 20 and 200 employees) made up 1.3% of the total number of businesses while medium to large businesses (employing 200 or more persons) accounted for just 0.1% of the total. At ConX, we want to provide an employment tool for these medium and large businesses, along with a smart way to validate the workers on their jobsites.
100,000 jobs are projected to be added by the construction industry over the five years, with employment growth forecast at 10.9%. We are aiming to capture and serve all the contractors responsible for creating those jobs, listing, and filling them through the network.
8. Did you find there was any gender stereotypes when you were establishing the business, and was it hard to break into construction recruitment in what is traditionally a male dominated environment, with a background in finance rather than in recruitment?
Both Tech and Construction are predominantly male industries. However, as a result, there is lots of extra support for females. There are opportunities that men might not otherwise get, so I consider it a positive. Sure, it can be daunting at times, speaking to a room of 250+ with 99.9% being men, or going on a jobsite full of men. Luckily for me, though, I’ve never been affected by sexism at any stage in my career, so I don’t dwell on it.
9. Does ConX use any interesting tech platforms or technology that would be worth including? Is it an app as well?
ConX is built as a highly responsive web app. The platform is built in the modular Ruby programming language on the Rails framework, in conjunction with the PostgreSQL database, using Redis, Elasticsearch, HAProxy load balancer, and sidekiq background workers. It is hosted on Google Cloud with microservices for increased scalability and vue.js frontend components for an improved frontend usability experience.
We have designed the architecture and technology to maximise reliability, performance, and scalability. After all, a robust and scalable product is live in market. There is an updated version coming out on February 1, with improved design and user experience flows.
The platform was built with with solid foundations, making it easy to continuously and rapidly prototype, develop and iterate new features and improvements. That allows us to be responsive to customer feedback.
An API was launched with OneGov to validate trade licenses, keeping real-time data on member profiles. And another with Aconex on a global login feature.
10.What future plans do you have for ConX?
In 2018, we’re focused on opening up the ConX network to capture the Australian market, whilst also concentrating on growing revenues to build a long-term, sustainable business.
Our vision is to create the world's largest network of construction contractors, and the decisions we make today, are driving us towards that.
11. How can construction companies and tradies get involved with ConX? Are there costs to join?
You can visit us at https://www.conxjobs.com/ to create a free profile and join the network. It is free to register and connect with members on the network. In order to list a job to hire or tender to receive quotes, there is a fee of $99 / $148.
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