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Lauren Lake, BESc’13, and Mallorie Brodie, BA/HBA’13, are constructing a future through entrepreneurship

by Krista Habermehl, MA'05 | May 8, 2017

Lauren Lake and Mallorie Brodie
Lauren Lake, BESc’13, and Mallorie Brodie, BA/HBA’13, are constructing a future through entrepreneurship. (PHOTO BY FRANK NEUFELD)

Lauren Lake and Mallorie Brodie have been constructing a future since Day One.

In 2014, the Western-grads-turned-business-partners founded Bridgit, a start-up technology company that helps the construction industry with some of its trickiest job-site issues. Since, the Kitchener, Ont.-based company has built an impressive list of residential and commercial construction clients in Canada and the United States.

“It started with just the two of us as Western students, waking up early before our 8:30 a.m. classes to talk with construction teams and figure out what was causing them pain,” said Lake, BESc’13, the company’s Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer. “Now, working with a staff of 30 people, it’s exciting to see everybody get as passionate about these construction issues as we are and see customers talk about how much time we’ve been able to save them and how we’ve changed the way they manage their projects.

“It’s been pretty awesome.”

The business partners first met in Toronto in 2013 as participants in The Next 36, a program for aspiring young Canadian entrepreneurs that provides mentorship, capital and founder development for students aiming to build a new business venture. Lake and Brodie were in the final year of their degree programs; the former studying Structural Engineering and the latter studying at Ivey Business School.

Neither knew each other prior to the program.

They were teamed up on Day One.

“We honestly got lucky. We hit it off right away,” said Brodie, BA/HBA’13, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “For business partners to have a sustainable relationship together – because there are so many ups and downs – there must be complete alignment on where you’re trying to go. We got aligned so early in the game. We weren’t doing it as a side project or a resume-builder. We wanted to build a business by the time (The Next 36 program) was done.”

On the first day of the program, the pair honed in on an industry – thanks to Lake’s summer co-op experiences on construction sites – and a name for their as-of-yet undefined venture.

“Lauren was working on a bridge design project (at school), so I think bridges were generally on the mind,” Brodie laughed. “We knew there was potential for some resistance to a software product on the construction base, so we wanted to humanize the product. It came together into Bridgit. It was a pretty quick decision, but it has worked well for us.”

Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Lake
Mallorie Brodie, BA/HBA’13, and Lauren Lake, BESc’13, are constructing a future through entrepreneurship. (PHOTO BY FRANK NEUFELD)

Brodie and Lake then began an intensive six-month period of on-site research, which they fondly call “crane hunting.” They would get up at dawn, search the skies for construction cranes, drive to job sites and ask if they could conduct interviews with the workers. In total, they interviewed more than 500 people in the industry about their day-to-day activities on the job site. One of the sites they frequented was the new Ivey building on Western’s campus.

“We asked: ‘What is frustrating?’, ‘What costs more money than it should?’, ‘What took you the most time?’ and so on. From there, we took a quantitative approach to the research and discovered what was costing people the most and what was the most frustrating ended up being the job site ‘punch list’,” said Brodie.

A punch list is an inventory of issues arising during the construction process that must be fixed before the project can be considered complete. With a general contractor overseeing the moving parts, and sometimes up to 50 different subcontractors handling the various tasks assigned via clipboard, Excel spreadsheets and verbally, there’s great potential for miscommunication, not to mention wasted time and money.

Bridgit’s software, called Closeout, allows users to take photos of issues, log them in a central system, assign the task to the appropriate contractor and track the process through to resolution. It’s user-friendly and easy to learn how to use – a major benefit on a fast-paced construction site. 

“Once we started to have some of the initial onsite interviews and truly saw the frustrations teams were experiencing, we could not just walk away and do nothing. The problem looked so solvable. It would have been really hard to say ‘never mind’,” Brodie said.

The co-founders attribute much of Bridgit’s success to their business approach – find a specific problem and then develop a solution, rather than the other way around, which often happens in the tech industry.

“In the long run, this approach has served us well. We’ve been focused on what the customer needs,” Lake said. “Neither of us are software engineers. We weren’t going to just sit down and start coding something. We focused on understanding the issue and consulting with the end user so we could build the right solution.”

On the tech side, Lake and Brodie hired co-op students from the University of Waterloo with funding from The Next 36 to build their initial Beta version of Closeout. Then, they used an entrepreneurial drive to create and build a successful business from the ground up.

“When I was in high school, a teacher recommended I apply to Western and Ivey specifically,” said Brodie. “When I was accepted to the Advanced Entry Opportunity (AEO) program, with that came an entrepreneurship scholarship. I was like, ‘I don’t have a business. I’m not an entrepreneur. Why did I get this?’ But it was because they identified that I had ‘high potential’ to become an entrepreneur based on the clubs I took part in and my interests.

“It was something I had never put a name to before. As soon as Ivey gave me a name for the things I had been doing, I realized it actually made sense. It was always on my mind.”

For Lake, the transition from Engineering student to business owner wasn’t quite as obvious.

“I always wanted to have my own business at some point. But in school, I assumed it would happen far after graduation as opposed to something I did right away,” she said. “The Next 36 was this perfect bridge between Engineering and this different world I was quite interested in but wasn’t sure how to approach. It was the perfect segue for me.”

Like anything new, the process came with a learning curve. Early on, they learned to make decisions quickly – even in the absence of all the information – in order to keep the business evolving and growing. They also learned that an epiphany or “light-bulb moment” may never come, but that doesn’t mean a business focus won’t take shape.

“Overall, The Western Experience for us was a great foundation for knowing we could have a challenge in front of us and we would figure out a way,” Lake said. “We had a lot of persistence and were just ready from the beginning. Once we had a feeling we were on to something, that’s where the motivation came and every obstacle that we had, we were able to problem solve around it.”

Currently, the majority of Bridgit’s sales are to large general contractors or developers in the United States, with users in New York, Chicago, Miami and Seattle. Bridgit’s business development focus in 2017 is to continue to grow its sales team to achieve aggressive revenue targets and launch new product features for Closeout to increase engagement on the job site.

“For the future, we have lots of different ideas for where Bridgit can grow. But, we feel there’s still a huge opportunity in the field we’re in now. We’re still focused and want to provide the best solution out there,” Lake said.

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Alumni Gazette
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