[Post updated – 13 March 2014]
In January 2011, I wrote about a recently launched, Gateshead, UK-based business offering an “online business networking, e-commerce and information centre for the construction industry”. Alongside Asktobi‘s core offering of an online e-tendering system, were third-party take-off and estimating tools, stationery and publications, and a supplier database. The Asktobi website is no longer live; Nick Mason and his business partner Iain Walker, himself another Gateshead-based QS, and MD of Rockwell CS Ltd, intend to relaunch the business under a new name later this year (for this reason they applied to Companies House last year for the company to be struck off).
Meanwhile, a new company, Takeoff Live Ltd, was launched in November, after Nick and Iain purchased the rights to the software from its American owner. They tell me interest in the product remains high (though, due to a temporary BT infrastructure issue, some recent customers could not access the Takeoff Live website to buy or renew the software).
Challenging and changing markets
At the time of its launch, I was sceptical about Asktobi’s chances in the competitive e-tendering space. It faced competition from, among others, the RICS and from established vendors of online construction collaboration vendors whose platforms also supported tendering: 4Projects, Asite, Conject, et al. Other start-ups, such as DarleyeTender (post),* also entered the UK market (and since 2011 Aconex’s Bidcontender has been focused on etendering in Australasia; post).
Moreover, Takeoff Live (and other take-off/estimating tools) will also face other challenges. Traditional take-off processes will change profoundly with the adoption of building information modelling (BIM), where bills of quantities and other information can be quickly generated from model data, rather than by working off 2D drawings. So, over time, the conventional estimating software market will dwindle in size – though Nick and Iain are confident that demand from their bread-and-butter SME contractors, who they think will be largely unaffected by BIM, will prove resilient for some years.
* Incidentally, I note that the related DarleyDoc Health and Safety service is now part of the main Darley PCM offering; H&S documentation is also an area targeted by HandS HQ‘s mobile offering – see recent post.