We talked to Sander van de Rijdt and Ibrahim Imam, co-founders of PlanRadar, about communication in real estate projects, and this is what they said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sander van de Rijdt: Thank you for asking everybody is fine so far, but in general, we’re looking forward to better times.
Ibrahim Imam: Yes, we’re all doing well, though we’re looking forward to the rollout of vaccines and returning to normality.
Tell us about yourselves, your careers, and how you founded PlanRadar.
Ibrahim Imam: My background is in Economics and Computer Science, with experience in both sales and marketing, but I realized early on in my career that I wanted to build and grow companies. Sander and I have known each other since university and worked together for many years before PlanRadar, successfully founding and scaling several companies. We find that our different talents compliment each other and let us focus on different areas of the business. For me, that means defining and aligning the company’s strategy and helping the growth teams at PlanRadar to execute and scale the company quickly.
Sander van de Rijdt: My academic background is in Business Informatics, a field that combines computer science, business, and management, but as Ibrahim said, as a partnership, we have been focused on building start-ups for several years. At PlanRadar, I lead the finance incl. investor relations, operations, HR, legal, and other corporate functions. Dividing our responsibilities as co-CEOs means that we can give every team as much attention as it needs to thrive.
How does PlanRadar innovate?
Ibrahim Imam: PlanRadar is a cloud-based software that helps construction and real estate teams to improve quality, cut project costs, and complete work faster. Our application works on any mobile device and any web browser and it enables users to record their work on-site and communicate with other team members, reducing the number of errors made during construction. From an on-site perspective, it streamlines chains of command, reduces paperwork, and saves time. Users have told us that they can save up to 7 hours a week, which is an invaluable time for projects with tight deadlines. Our product team is also constantly improving our features and customer experience, bringing together customer input and R&D.
Sander van de Rijdt: From a senior manager’s perspective, PlanRadar’s software gives users access to insight into their projects’ progress via statistics and reports. That means that they can intervene at an early stage to prevent costs spiraling or extensive delays. The software is also extremely flexible and easy to use. Construction is still not a very evenly digitized sector – while most architects use technology every day, many contractors, builders, and facility managers still use pen and paper. By providing a solution that only takes 10 minutes to teach to a user on-site, we’re enabling our users to take advantage of the digital revolution.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Sander van de Rijdt: In many ways, the pandemic hasn’t affected us that much. Our customers in the construction and real estate sectors have kept working throughout the pandemic and so have we. We have also seen robust growth in user numbers over the last year. Between these factors and the $30 million in Series A funding we received in February 2020, we find ourselves in a very secure position at this point. In the last 12 months, we’ve even opened 8 new offices across Europe, and while COVID-19 has made some of the administration related to expansion slower, we’re very proud of what our team has achieved.
Ibrahim Imam: Building on Sander’s comment, despite COVID-19, we expect our business to have grown by nearly 100% in 2020. In some ways, the situation has even helped us, as many businesses in the construction and real estate industry are finally discovering how software solutions can help them keep working during COVID-19. These industries have traditionally been slow to adopt technology, and we’ve seen the pandemic inspire many of them to test new solutions.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Sander van de Rijdt: Fortunately, we were never in the position of having to furlough or lay off staff – in fact, the number of employees has kept growing steadily throughout the pandemic to a team of over 150 right now. The one difference is that we’ve had to recruit remotely for our new regional teams, which can sometimes pose a challenge, but at this stage, we’re well adapted to this kind of recruitment. We’re always on the lookout for talented team members from around the world and are actively recruiting at the moment. We don’t expect the pandemic to slow down the growth of our team.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Ibrahim Imam: Speaking for our sales teams, social distancing and travel restrictions have meant that in-person meetings, conferences, and expos have been canceled. That meant we had to find new arenas to meet existing and new customers. We’ve attended many virtual events and have hosted webinars of our own, and from both outlets, we’ve learned a lot about what works for us. While their working day might look different from the outside, our sales and customer success teams have been as busy as ever.
Sander van de Rijdt: One key way that we’ve developed our customer relationships this year is to open our new offices in Moscow, Warsaw, Stockholm, Paris, Milan, Bucharest, Madrid, and Amsterdam. They joined our existing offices in Vienna, London, and Zagreb. Investing in these regional teams, with local knowledge and language skills, means that we can offer a truly local service to our customers. That sets us apart from many other SaaS companies.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Ibrahim Imam: While the Austrian government supported many businesses and industries that were struggling due to COVID-19, we were never in a position where we needed additional assistance due to the pandemic. As Sander said, our users in the construction and real estate industries have been working hard throughout the crisis so we have been busy as well.
Sander van de Rijdt: We did receive some grants from the Austrian government in 2020, but these were for the investments we made in product innovation and were not related to the pandemic.
Your final thoughts?
Ibrahim Imam: The last year has been challenging in many ways, but for technology companies like PlanRadar, the opportunities have certainly outweighed the challenges. The construction and real estate sectors have been actively working throughout the pandemic, and we’re pleased that we’ve been able to support them through a difficult time. For the rest of 2021, we’re looking forward to consolidating our progress and building our customer base in our new markets.
Sander van de Rijdt: The industries that our software supports will be key to boosting the global economy in the next few years, and we expect that many national governments will invest in a new building and real estate projects in the upcoming months. These industries also haven’t taken full advantage of digital tools yet. These two factors together mean that we’re looking forward to an exciting few years with lots of innovation and growth.
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