“These days are proof of the potential of digital construction”: Interview with Capmo’s CEO, Florian

Capmo

Munich-based Capmo is on a mission to help bring about the digital revolution of the construction industry. The two-year old startup provides a cloud-based SaaS solution that serves as an operating system for construction sites. Convinced that innovative construction has to adapt to the era of digital transformation, the young team has succeeded in coming up with an intuitive, holistic solution that simplifies every phase of the construction project. And it seems they have grabbed the attention of investors.

We sat down with Florian Biller, CEO and co-founder of Capmo, to find out more about their entrepreneurial journey, the latest digital trends in the building sector and how his company is helping construction sites cope with the recent coronavirus outbreak.

Hi Florian, thanks for joining us. Please could you tell us what first got you into entrepreneurship? What is your story?

I got the first taste of digital technology and startups as an exchange student in the US during my Bachelor’s degree. I instantly knew that it was something I wanted to dig deeper into. Back in Germany, I committed to complementing my studies at the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM) in Munich where I was very lucky to meet my future co-founders. CDTM is an institution with a strong focus on digital technologies, run by the two leading universities in Munich, connecting entrepreneurial students from all fields.

After having met Patrick, Sebastian, and Florian, it didn’t take us long to discover that we were striving for the same goal: we wanted to shake up an industry. We didn’t have an exact idea in mind yet, but we all knew that we had the capabilities, the will and the energy to make our vision come true. Hence, we took three months to analyse different markets.

We did some research and since I also have family members working in the construction sector, it quickly became clear to us that this was the second least digitised industry in Europe. However, it was only after visiting 30 construction sites that we actually realised what that meant in reality: instead of tablets and software, we saw people working with pen and paper, and fax machines seemed to be a must-have. After that eye-opening experience, we knew what we had to do: create a powerful construction software, something so intuitive that it makes people in the industry ditch the pen and paper, and so efficient that we can make a difference in the daily business of thousands of construction managers.

The result is Capmo, a software-based solution enabling construction and real estate professionals to finish projects on time and within budget. Our intuitive Construction Site OS replaces manual processes with digital workflows and smart construction analytics. Capmo is the first holistic solution that allows construction professionals to manage sites digitally, collaborate seamlessly with each other and gain unique data-based insights into their projects. It operates on thousands of sites across Europe and is used by both small offices and major construction firms, such as Arcadis and Max Bögl.

You’ve mentioned that construction is traditionally a slow-moving sector. How do you see tech innovation transforming this industry?

Yes, unlike all other big industries, the construction sector hasn’t improved its efficiency over the past decades. On the one hand, this is due to the slowness in adopting new technology. On the other hand, we have to admit that there were neither the prerequisites nor much technology available to enable digital processes. As soon as smartphones and tablets became popular on site, the situation changed; the hardware was now available and people in the field could finally make use of digital tools in the same way other industries have done it for years. What was still missing, though, were the right tools.

New technology like our Construction Site Operating System fills that gap and finally enables construction managers, field workers and all involved parties to manage their sites and collaborate digitally – from digitising communication to automating processes, we help construction industry employees move from gut decisions to data-driven ones.

What differentiates Capmo from its competitors?

Our biggest competitor is still outdated technology. The very few digital competitors on the market mainly take a different approach and do not provide a holistic operating system for the construction site, but rather focus on single use cases, such as work time tracking or defect management. With Capmo, we define a whole new category of software – a comprehensive and easy-to-use solution for construction site management. Or as we call it: the Construction Site OS.

You are based in Munich, Germany. What is your opinion on the environment for creating a SaaS startup there?

Munich is not only a great place to live but it also provides one of the best entrepreneurial environments for SaaS startups. It highly motivates us to be surrounded by many of Germany’s leading SaaS startups like Personio or Freeletics! We live in a top academic hub, with two of the best universities worldwide when it comes to tech and entrepreneurship. The Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Ludwig Maximilian University (LUM) as well as the CDTM provide an amazing network of industry experts, inspiring examples and investors, and give us access to the best engineering talent in Europe. When it comes to hiring international talent, we benefit from the high quality of living, which makes Munich a very attractive home for professionals from all over the world.

Though only two years old, Capmo has already raised substantial funding totalling €6.8 million. How will the funds be used in the near future? What top tip would you give to other founders trying to raise venture capital money?

With the fresh capital, we will take the next steps towards positioning the company as a leading operating system for construction sites in Europe. Therefore, we will further invest in the development of our product and our amazing team.

My top tip for founders: approach fundraising as you would approach an outbound sales process. Create a target list of prospective investors and start building rock-solid relationships early. Have clear qualification criteria in mind, which fund suits you and which not, based on their typical check size and area of focus. Once you start fundraising, communicate a clear timeline to everyone. Always make sure that you and your future investor also fit well together on a personal level.

CAPMO already has renowned customers in Germany, such as Düsseldorf Airport, Frankfurt Grand Tower (the tallest residential building in Germany), the Deutsches Museum in Munich. What are your plans regarding an international expansion?

Today, the adoption of digital technology on construction sites across all European markets is below 5%. As we strive to revolutionise and also simplify an entire industry, moving into those markets is the next logical step. We aim to make our software available on every construction site in Europe to enable efficient, data-driven project management. At the moment, we mainly focus on Central Europe, however, many customers have already used our product on their various sites in all European countries and across the globe.

How has the construction industry been affected by the recent Coronavirus outbreak? Is there any way Capmo can support its customers under these challenging circumstances?

Even though the construction industry is not as badly affected as others, the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t leave the sector completely untouched. Most operations on construction sites are currently continuing. The situation seems somehow stable. Nevertheless, the effects of the coronavirus crisis are clearly noticeable. A forecast by the information service provider BauInfoConsult shows that the COVID-19 outbreak could have long-term consequences on the construction industry. The short-term effects are seen in the expected delays in the construction process for ongoing projects.

In these challenging situations, we see Capmo as construction managers’ partner on site. Hence, we do not leave our customers alone in these hard and insecure times. As soon as we noticed the first effects of the pandemic, we shifted our capacities and focused our efforts on providing digital support on multiple channels. We keep our customers updated on our corporate blog about the latest developments and provide templates to facilitate their daily work. Additionally, we organise webinars with industry experts and lawyers where customers can ask questions and connect with fellow professionals.

These days are proof of the potential of digital construction. Nobody knows for how long working on site will be possible, or how long there will be access to resources and staff. Therefore, construction managers need to make sure that they have access to all information and the opportunity to communicate with their team members – even in a worst case scenario demanding all sites be closed. As soon as construction managers notice delays, they need to document all issues instantly and completely. With Capmo, they can finally manage their sites from their home office, have access to their digital documents from everywhere and collaborate digitally with their project members. Thanks to the digital and legally binding documentation, construction companies have all they need in one place to protect themselves from legal consequences.

What other emerging technologies do you currently have your eyes on in the construction sector?

After the financial industry, the construction sector produces the second most amount of data. In finance, companies like Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters enabled firms to analyse and learn from these insights decades ago, but construction is still in its infancy.

Construction projects are still mostly managed based on managers’ experience and gut feeling rather than data. Capmo can change this old-fashioned approach and help customers understand which tasks need special attention, which unforeseeable errors might delay the construction process in the future, and which types of building a certain company is an expert for.

These AI-driven construction analytics will give the industry an enormous efficiency push and make projects more predictable. Hardware technologies such as 3D printing, drones or augmented reality will also play a role in the construction site of tomorrow. However, I’m convinced that the biggest and most important aspect changing the sector will be the usage of construction analytics.