It’s taken a couple of years, but the Dorset, UK-based construction business platform TenderSpace has finally changed its name, rebranding as Copronet.
Soft-launched in early 2016, TenderSpace provided tools to connecting construction businesses at different stages of projects. Tools included work, team and product finders, a profile builder, a finance checker, a cost analysis tool, a quick quote tool and a project hub. Two years ago founder and CEO David Stapleton told me that, despite the name, the business was “rather more than e-tendering – it’s a name that we could perhaps improve upon in due course.” Copronet (no relation to CoProNet.Wales, the Co-production Network for Wales) was launched this week on 4 February 2019: I imagine the name was devised to suggest ‘construction professional network’).
The platform claims it will give the construction industry a new way to connect, collaborate and grow. It is aimed at everyone in construction – trades, contractors, project managers, clients, architects, specialists, building firms and enterprise-level businesses. Copronet seeks to help members build private networks through which they can identify and connect with relevant professionals from across the industry, and find work. The site lists over 150,000 projects. Its suite of built-in tools enables users to access project management, time tracking, credit rating reports, and other tools. It offers a no or low cost platform (its Pro Plan is £7/user/month) from which to do business, run projects and showcase work.
“A big part of this was making sure Copronet was accessible to everyone. We believe everyone should have access to the best technology without having to worry about the cost, so there will always be a free plan for Copronet. And our pricing for other plans will always be affordable.”
Copronet: the Extranet Evolution perspective
Copronet is not the first platform to attempt to build either a UK construction version of LinkedIn or a marketplace to connect different parts of project delivery chain. At the height of the dot.com boom at the turn of the century, several (ultimately shortlived) industry portals were launched (for example: AECVenture, Arrideo and Mercadium) but none gained any great traction and they soon dissolved.
Ten years later, I got excited about the social media boom, urging construction to get social, and March 2010 saw the launch of tCn (‘The Construction Network’).* This venture soon faltered, partially undermined by the ongoing recession in the UK industry and gradual professional adoption of mainstream social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Digital adoption and willingness to use social networks has since advanced, so Copronet may fare better (though I am uneasy about the name: a web search shows ‘copro’ can relate to dung or faeces, as in ‘coprophagous’).
There have been more successful efforts to create AEC networks in other parts of the world. In the US, for example, BuildingConnected was founded in 2012, helps clients and general contractors to find and hire qualified contractors for their projects. Claiming to be the world’s largest and most active digital network of construction professionals (although almost exclusively US-based), the portal was acquired by Autodesk in December 2018. Other vendors also offer bid management (e-tendering) tools, both generic and industry-specific, but it is an area that often remains somewhat parochial. Procurement regimes vary greatly internationally, and are often closely scrutinised by lawyers and national regulators, so such portals often end up being nation-specific.
(* Disclosure: I briefly provided some paid consultancy to tCn.)