When the COVID-19 virus settled in, Bridgit, the Waterloo Region maker of project management software for the construction industry, noticed its product was getting a lot more traction – try 72 per cent more from one quarter to the next. Existing customers were suddenly boosting their usage and new clients were signing aboard.
“We saw customers start using some of the customizable and configurable fields for tracking COVID-specific information,” explains Bridgit CEO and co-founder Mallorie Brodie.
“Maybe it was, you know, someone [on a construction site] needed to be off for two weeks as they quarantined, or maybe a project was being delayed, or there was going to be some scheduling changes because of COVID.”
In short, Bridgit’s software, called Bridgit Bench, simply handled it, pandemic or no. A relief?
“Oh, definitely,” says Brodie.
Bridgit on Tuesday announced it had raised CDN$9.4 million in what it’s calling a “strategic investment.” The lead investor was San Francisco-based software company Autodesk Inc., a longtime Bridgit partner, and included participation from Export Development Canada and existing investors, among them: BDC Women in Technology Venture Fund, Salesforce Ventures, Sands Capital and StandUp Ventures. Bridgit, which got its start in 2013, has now raised CDN$21.2 million in equity financing.
While Brodie and Lake were relieved that their product had gained relevance in the midst of a pandemic, it would be wrong to suggest they were surprised, per se. They had a reasonably solid suspicion that their company could weather the storm. It was, Brodie says, an inkling that emerged during the due-diligence phase that preceded the recent investment.
“One thing that always gets asked during rounds of financing is, you know, what is essentially your prediction of what will happen if there is a market downturn, or if there's a slowdown?
“In our case of construction, specifically, and with our product for resource planning, we really did feel like there was a use-case both in a market [where there was] high demand for the construction industry and then also in a market where there was lower demand.
“In [the former] case, you would want to be able to forecast whether you had enough people to take on all of your projects. And in [the latter] case, you would be looking to make sure that your workforce is fully utilized, to really ensure that you have the absolute best productivity from your workforce and you’re increasing your margins as much as possible.
“It was ultimately still a hypothesis, because the market had been, you know, relatively stable. With everything that happened with COVID, it did show us that that hypothesis we had was, in fact, true – that even if projects were temporarily slowing down, or if construction companies weren’t maybe starting as many new projects, they still felt that [our product] was of critical value to their company.”
The new investment money, Brodie said, will be poured mostly into R&D.
“So there’s a couple things we’re looking to do. One is, of course, we will be further integrating with Autodesk.
“But we’re also looking to integrate with some of the other players in the space. Companies are really looking to integrate so customers can have their data synching back and forth easily.
“The [other] piece is, investing more in our product and really just looking to accelerate development so we can deliver on certain customer requests we’ve been receiving and continue to ensure that the product is robust. We have a first-mover's advantage right now; we’re really looking to gain more market share as we build out the product.”
Bridgit, Bridgit, which took part in Communitech’s Rev accelerator program, has 50 employees and offices in Kitchener and Toronto; it also has an outpost in Vancouver. Brodie says she expects the team will grow in the near future, mostly “on the product and development side,” but declined to offer numbers or a timeline.
Asked if there was any possibility of Tuesday’s investment being a precursor of a sale of the company to Autodesk – suggestions to that effect were raised in the Globe and Mail Tuesday – Brodie says no.
“At this point, none of that has been discussed at all; this was purely a partnership conversation around the investment piece.
“[The investment] is beneficial to [Autodesk] in that their customers will get an integrated experience for all of the different needs they have from a software perspective. And it’s a great opportunity for us because we’re able to access the network and the credibility that Autodesk has built up.”
COVID-19 or no.