KPMG · 25 April 2017

Building digital momentum in an analogue industry

The times are changing. How do you innovate an analogue industry?
The times are changing. How do you innovate an analogue industry?

The times are changing. How do you innovate an analogue industry?

Harry Molyneux, founder of BuildUpp, had the big idea of transforming the construction industry. He’s met his challenges along the way but, as the saying goes, if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth doing.

BuildUpp is a platform which aims to bring together professionals from across the construction industry to enable them to network and assemble project teams more efficiently.

As part of our new Problem Solvers series, we will be exploring some of the hurdles small business owners have had to overcome, and the lessons and advice they would pass on to other budding entrepreneurs. In this instalment, we will be looking at how to innovate stagnant industries.

The platform was only launched a few weeks ago, so it is very early days for BuildUpp. So far everything has gone to plan, but Molyneux was keen to stress that the platform will never really be finished as the process of tweaking and improving and transforming the construction industry will be ongoing.

The people

“I had the idea nine months ago and spent six months finding the right people to do it with,” said Molyneux.

He met with several developers before meeting the right one – Andrew McDonough. He didn’t have a lot of startup cash, and so was hoping to find someone who would be cheap or work for equity.

“The first three people wanted money, and they weren’t right anyway,” he said. “And then I met Andrew – the lucky thing with Andrew is he’s worked in the tech industry for a very long time, he’s very experienced and sees a lot of ideas. I think he recognised BuildUpp as a potentially very successful idea, and that’s why he agreed to do it for equity.”

One of the main challenges Molyneux has faced so far on a personal level is the burden of carrying a startup business on his own.

“It’s overwhelming if you think about it – it’s a big, big idea, trying to create a networking place for the entire construction industry.”

However, although the pressure of owning a startup is one of his biggest challenges, it’s also his driving force. “It’s a big challenge, but I felt like this is going to be difficult but fun – and it is.”

Molyneux also said he has a great support network, and he isn’t shy about speaking to everyone and anyone he can about his idea along the way.

“Once, I saw this kid coding in a coffee shop and I just went and sat next to him and said I’ve got this thing I’m doing – I literally just speak to anybody.”

The traditions

According to Molyneux, the construction industry can be quite set in its ways, which means one of his biggest challenges will be promoting the benefits of a platform like BuildUpp and getting the sector engaged with a new technology.

“I’m basically proposing a massive culture shift,” he said. “There’s a lot of inertia in the construction industry, it’s slow moving and changing this mind-set will be by far the biggest challenge.”

The problem with this challenge is that it’s not easy to quantify, or get data on. However, said Molyneux, it has been demonstrated in other industries that networking platforms like BuildUpp can work really well.

BuildUpp is working with KPMG Small Business Accounting, because every year KPMG creates a report for the construction industry and it offers networking events, which Molyneux is keen to be a part of. “It struck me as a good partnership of ideas that would benefit me as an entrepreneur specifically,” he said.

Certainly, Molyneux has a lot of networking to do to raise the profile of his business in the industry, and this seems as good a place as any to start. Luckily for him, he’s certainly not shy about doing so.

His advice to any other business just starting out is not to get bogged down in detail: “keep moving forward, don’t forget why you’re doing it, and just talk!”

This article is part of a wider feature series called Problem Solvers, a collection business stories, brought to you in partnership with KPMG Small Business Accounting, showing how small business owners have overcome potentially harmful problems with their companies. See what other businesses and problems we’ve featured before.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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