We talked to Mikk Ilumaa, CEO and founder of Bauwise, about construction cost management, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mikk Ilumaa: Thank you for asking. My family is doing well and we have been fortunate enough so far not to be touched by COVID.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Bauwise.
Mikk Ilumaa: About 12 years ago, we started to build custom software solutions for the construction industry. We have always worked on the financial side of a company. We wanted to help project managers to understand numbers without deep knowledge in accounting. We wanted to build a product for a long time, but somehow it did not happen until four years ago. One of our new customers asked us not to build a custom solution for them because it will be expensive to develop and maintain. They asked us to build a product. At the same time, we had one more custom project running, and we went to them and asked if they would consider supporting us to build a product, and they said yes. We did not know that this Client was actually in deep trouble, and in few months, they went to bankruptcy. We continued to build the product with the first customer, and that’s how Bauwise was born. We are still grateful to that company, and they are still using our product and helping us to improve.
How does Bauwise innovate?
Mikk Ilumaa: We like to learn from the best of the best, and we are not huge believers in fashion. But it does not mean that we don’t care about good-looking and well-orchestrated user experience, in fact, they go hand in hand. For example, most online tool spreadsheets look like spreadsheets, but most don’t provide similar functions to a real spreadsheet-like Exel or Google docs. You have to fill in data cell by cell and can’t copy and paste data between the tables. We want to give our users the good and desired features of a common tool like Excel. Sometimes the innovation can mean that you take something existing and putting into a new form.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Mikk Ilumaa: The interesting thing is that After we started to build our product Bauwise we somehow started to work more in the home offices and short. At the same time, we gave our office a way to save some money and time on moving to the office every day, all of us had round 30-50 min commute to the office. For us, it worked well because our team has good work ethics and motivation. When the lockdown was on, we already were used to working from home, not much was changed for us. But it was a positive change for our Clients. Before COVID all customers wanted to meet face to face but suddenly it was not possible anymore and they needed to start using Online meetings instead, it was interesting to see how positively they took it and are still using it spare some time on traveling.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Mikk Ilumaa: I must say that 2020 was a challenging year for us since the Construction industry did not get so hard hit as some other industries did, and more construction companies needed to have tools to support the distance working and better financial overview. Because we have been building our company by bootstrapping, we are always counting the money, we are trying to go as far we can get with our current team and not hiring ourselves out of business. We were wrong in the sense that we pushed hiring new people too far, and it did put us under intense pressure, and was hard to keep up with everything.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Mikk Ilumaa: We have done different.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mikk Ilumaa: In the Construction software market, there are a lot of Construction Project management apps for field productivity, but not so many tools for the financial side. Depending on the market, like the US where there are more choices to pick from vs. Europe with more localized products or out-dated and complicated Enterprise software solutions, what are used by the project managers as reporting tools, not as real productivity tools. Some prospects try to compare our product with accounting software, but that’s not a real competition because most Accounting Softwares are generalized and don’t have enough features to support the construction industry’s real needs. At the same time, our tool is built for Construction Companies, especially for General Contractors, and the difference between accounting software and Bauwise comes out in one minute when seeing it themselves. We believe in working closely with our end-users, bringing them real value, and surprising them with tools they thought were impossible to do with software.
Your final thoughts?
Mikk Ilumaa: The construction industry is playing a major role in GDP and is providing millions of jobs. I hope the situation with COVID will not get deep enough that it would affect the industry heavily.
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