Constructing Success in the KW-TOR Corridor with Bridgit’s Mallorie Brodie
As CEO and Co-founder of Bridgit, Mallorie Brodie is focused on bringing together the construction and tech industries to create mobile construction software. We chatted about her entrepreneurial start, the importance of hands-on customer research and the strong startup network across Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto.
Menaka: What’s the draw of running your own business?
Mallorie: I come from an entrepreneurial family, so I always thought I would run my own business one day. My dad worked for himself, he worked in real estate, my grandfather had a demolition company, and my great grandfather also had a construction company, a steel company. When I was younger I was always starting new clubs, and finding different ways to make money, but I’d never really associated that with being an entrepreneur. It was only once I was in university that I started to consider entrepreneurship as a potential career path.
Menaka: You actually started Bridgit through an accelerator program. Do you recommend that more structured network as a good place for entrepreneurs to start?
Mallorie: I think it gave us the structure that we needed. We were coming right out of university and we hadn’t started a business before. The program set the bar high for us when we might not have been sure what milestones to work towards. I think being part of that structured program and having the next target set out for us kept us moving quickly during the initial phases of Bridgit. For a first-time entrepreneur a more formal accelerator program is a really positive experience, and I think it’s a good way to get the business off the ground. But if you’ve done it before, it’s probably just not as important.
Menaka: You and your co-founder, Lauren Lake, used to go ‘crane hunting’ to gather research on the construction industry – why was it important to do that level of hands-on research?
Mallorie: What started as something out of necessity turned into one of the best decisions we made early on in the company. Initially, we didn’t have a technical co-founder so we didn’t have the capacity to build the product yet. Instead, we had a lot of time to do customer research to prove the demand for our product. Once that was in place, we were able to recruit the technical talent we needed to move the company forward.
We didn’t know it at the time, but I think doing that research was one of the reasons that we’ve been so successful in growing our business and revenue. If you look at our product today, at its core, it’s really very similar to what we drew up in our university residence back when we first started. I think a lot of companies go through fairly massive pivots or iterations, but we got it right the first time because we did so much initial research. It allowed us to have a very clear vision, which is something we continue to do well.
Menaka: You’re working in construction and tech, two industries that have traditionally been very male-dominated. Do you think about that at all?
Mallorie: Maybe it’s just our generation, but it never really occurs to us. Lauren is a civil structural engineer, so she had worked on-site previously, and we both have had family in the construction business. Most importantly, we know what we’re talking about. When you show up on-site and have a good understanding of the intricacies of how the job works, you get respect. So we’ve never had negative experiences.
Menaka: Bridgit is based in Kitchener, and the KW-Toronto Corridor is really the place to be for Canadian startups and entrepreneurs these days. What are the benefits of being here?
Mallorie: There’s a couple things that come to mind. One of the big benefits is the access to talent. The University of Waterloo, Guelph, Western, McMaster, U of T, Ryerson, are all within an hour of Kitchener-Waterloo. That high saturation of strong universities to get talent from is really important for a company’s ability to scale.
Another benefit of the KW-TOR Corridor is the network of other startups to learn from. If I want to talk to someone 6 months ahead of us, or who has a similar sales model, that person’s never more than a couple of degrees of separation away. If I want to help a startup a year behind us, we’re able to give back in that way.
We have a tight, high-functioning ecosystem where everyone is willing to help each other out. That makes it a great place to start a business, and allows companies to learn so much faster.