Daniel O'Donoghue, co-founder of software company Conqa, talks about how Covid-19 levelled the global playing field for technology like his and streamlining compliance processes for councils.
What does your business do?
Conqa is a quality assurance software platform for the construction industry that started in 2015. We help contractors to do three things in regards to quality assurance: we help them to plan their QA process, enact and complete it in the field using mobile technology and then to use the data that comes from it to track construction completion and inform progress. We're based in Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney.
What was the motivation for starting the business?
Co-founders Pete Simons, Barney Chunn and myself had seen a number of peers do well in starting software or tech businesses without necessarily having software backgrounds and we wanted to do the same. The way they had done it was by solving problems for other businesses using software in the B2B space, so we went looking for problems basically to start off with and through a number of avenues we spoke to friends who had done civil engineering at university and were working on-site as site engineers and we discovered that the QA process for them never really worked.
The QA process is a process to help contractors get their work right and document it. It is often done with checklists but the problem is it is manual and all complicated so most of the time it is done [afterwards] meaning the documentation [can end up] being flawed, which can often mean needing to be reworked.
How big is the team?
We have about 30 people.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business?
Covid has done a few things; one it has impacted the construction pipeline, which has impacted our customers and therefore us, but it has meant the industry has embraced innovation a lot more and what we're trying to do is reduce the need for physical on-site construction monitoring. It has added more value to our customers to use tools like Conqa and has accelerated the industry's uptake.
It has also meant that the world is a bit more of a global playing field because everyone is on Zoom or Teams or whatever platform so we're able to reach out to businesses that would typically require face-to-face meetings.
Activity for us geared up when we went into lockdown. In Auckland, we've got about 50 projects where the head contractor is using it, we work with both tradies and head contractors on larger commercial projects and we are able to help councils to reduce the need to go to sites to physically witness work in order to verify that it is compliant with the building code. We launched a big initiative and we developed some rules of engagement with council and that has basically enabled projects to use Conqa in a different way - amid the unfolding uncertainty our immediate work was quite busy in response to that.
What are your long-term plans?
Our plans are to transform the way that construction is measured and monitored. We want financial decisions to be tied to the completion of information that gets captured in the quality assurance process, and for us to be plugging into and informing banks and insurance companies of on-site activities and their transactions so it is much more transformative.
What advice do you give to others who want to start their own business?
Start with solving problems for other businesses - go into the B2B space - businesses are far more prepared to pay for solutions if it saves them money than consumers are. My second piece of advice would be to really get to the nut of the problem; pare out as many assumptions as you can and get to the core issue that is challenging businesses because if you can do that you'll save yourself a lot of headaches in the long run.