BuildBoxCM faces the AEC start-up challenge

BuildBoxCM home pageSan Jose, California-based start-up BuildBox has launched a free Beta version of its “intuitive web-based construction management program developed specifically for the construction industry,” but faces some big marketing challenges in attracting customers and building its user-base.

For a start, the website gives no idea of what the application looks like (no screen-grabs, no short video showing how intuitive the service is, etc). It is not clear which, if any, market segment is being targetted (house-builders, commercial, infrastructure?), or which role (architect, contractor, client?). There are no case studies or testimonials (in the conservative and risk-averse world of architecture, engineering and construction, customers want services to have some track record, some example clients who can provide references), and there is no online buzz about the business. AEC customers also want experienced management (CEO Anthony Cirinelli is fresh out of university, while fellow co-founder Phil Cyr is still studying). BuildBox has also been launched into a competitive AEC market already well served by various online file-sharing plan-rooms and more sophisticated construction collaboration technology platforms, and its differentiation from rivals is unclear.

In short, it currently looks like a hobby, not a business. Sorry, guys :-/

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  1. This article is very fair and accurate, however, I would like the opportunity to post some clarifications.

    “The website gives no idea of what the application looks like”
    A: True – but this is coming very soon! We’ve been focusing all of our resources on product development and testing, and not on marketing.

    “which role”
    A: Contractors – we’ll make this more clear as it should be.

    “sophisticated construction collaboration technology platforms”
    A: Many of the programs available are as sophisticated as that statement, but that’s a problem within itself. Often referred to as “dinosaurs”, these programs are old, slow and difficult to use. While they may have an input field for every possible source of data on the project, the complexity of the system significantly reduces user efficiency. Our primary goal is to provide our clients with a much cleaner user interface which allows them to work more efficiently. We also want to provide our users with more social interaction, such as posting messages on project streams, connecting with other Buildbox users and sending personalized messages. Think Apple meets Facebook meets construction management.

    I would also like to point out that being “fresh out of college” doesn’t directly correlate to being incapable of running a successful start-up or developing a better web-based software solution. We will most certainly face adversity as we grow, but we will face it head on, learn from it and overcome.

    Thanks for the write-up.

    1. Hi, Anthony
      The blog post was intended to be constructive criticism, hopefully to encourage you to address some of shortcomings compared to how I’ve seen (and helped) similar solutions marketed.

      I would be really interested to see how BuildBox addresses the complexity demands while keeping the system relatively simple. It is something that Woobius, for example, has also been trying, though its focus has tended to more focused on designers (its founders are practising architects, after all), rather than the contractors you’re aiming at. As you may guess from one or two previous posts of mine, I do think some solutions make life complex by too closely replicating traditional paper-based systems, but few have successfully offered significant alternatives, eg: a ‘stream’, ‘feed’ or ‘wall’ type collaboration space (some professionals may feel that is too open for their comfort!).

      Being young is certainly no handicap. Indeed, it can be a positive advantage. You haven’t been tainted by traditional ways of doing things and can approach existing challenges with fresh pairs of eyes; the growing use and familiarity Gen Y people have with Web 2.0 solutions may also help your cause too. However, there will be customers who want to see some wrinkles and know that the business can call on genuine experience should things get difficult.

      Good luck with the business, and I look forward to seeing BuildBox developing.

  2. Understood & appreciated, we’re looking for all the constructive critisism we can get and know it’s coming. I actually printed your article and I’m posting it next to my computer until your concerns are met, as they are indeed fundamental problems.

    Check back in a few weeks for updates.

  3. We’ve made some updates to our homepage descriptions, added some screen shots, and completely overhauled our registration process to get users in and using as fast as possible. Check out the updates, feedback welcome.

  1. […] particularly well (and I started to recall my critique of a similar startup’s website in October 2011). I can […]

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