QuoteToMe has raised $1 million to reimagine construction procurement

QuoteToMe has successfully closed a $1 million seed financing round led by Seer Developments, SkipTheDishes co-founder Chris Simair, and Startup TNT. The company’s digital construction purchasing service launched in November to help contractors save money on materials and digitize paper-based processes.

"Since November we’ve achieved month-over-month growth of 90%, so that’s pretty exciting," said founder and CEO John Chabluk. "We’re now working with some of Canada’s largest contractors."

The company, founded in 2017, has 14 employees, who are mostly in Edmonton. It will use the funds to keep up with growing demand. Chabluk noted the COVID-19 pandemic has helped accelerate the use of its services as construction companies increasingly adopt digital innovation.

Last month, QuoteToMe wrapped up participation in the Propel pre-accelerator program from Startup Edmonton. "It was an amazing way to get integrated into the community," said Chabluk. "I wish we had been in the program during the first three months of our company!"

The seed round came together slowly but now that the company has momentum, Chabluk is preparing to launch a $2 million bridge round to facilitate a Canada-wide expansion within the next 12 to 18 months.

QuoteToMe’s 2019 Q2 Advisory Meeting: Paul Verhesen, Barrie Bridgeman, Joel Semeniuk, Andrew Langstone, Roman Jaworsky, John Chabluk. Supplied.

Strategic support

Paul Verhesen, former CEO and partner at Clark Builders, is one of the company’s advisors. He first learned of QuoteToMe when Clark’s Northstar Equipment Rentals business was facing competition from the startup (equipment rental was an early line of business for QuoteToMe).

Around the same time, a friend had challenged Verhesen to do more to help bring about the innovation in the industry he was always talking about. Though he was a founding member of Canadian Construction Innovations (one of the reasons he was awarded the Edmonton Construction Association’s Claude Alston Award in 2017), Verhesen had not yet opened up his pocketbook.

"It really hit home," Verhesen said of his friend’s challenge. "It’s easy to say someone else has to take responsibility, but all of us as individuals have to do that."

So Verhesen decided to meet with Chabluk and his team, and he quickly realized they were on to something. A few months later, he was talking more seriously with the startup and today is a strategic investor in QuoteToMe.

How it works

QuoteToMe helps contractors order materials and equipment digitally by centralizing communication and handling quote comparisons which can often result in better pricing. It makes money by charging a small percentage on each transaction.

Though it’s an integral part of their business, purchasing is something that construction companies often aren’t focused on, Chabluk said. That leads to increased costs.

"Most construction companies know they have this problem, but they didn’t have a solution, or had more important priorities," he said. "It is a complex problem that we aim to simplify."

Verhesen agrees. "That purchase of lumber is probably the least serious part of your day, it’s not high on your priority list," he said. "But the cumulative impact of those purchases is significant, and that’s what QuoteToMe has exposed."

"The average savings for our customers is 20%," said Chabluk. "The construction industry has extremely tight margins, so to be able to save that amount is huge."

Growing from Edmonton

Chabluk, who hails from Winnipeg, says the company will remain based in Edmonton as it grows, though a new sales team in Ontario is currently planned.

"Edmonton is a construction hub for Canada," he said. "It has been an incredibly welcoming place for us to run the company."

Verhesen sees "plenty of talent and entrepreneurial moxie" in Edmonton, and notes that the city used to be a proving ground for contractors. "If you could make it in Edmonton, you could go elsewhere and be successful."

But he worries that the industry has become complacent.

"I want to get back to the days where Edmonton is cultivating the next generation of contracting expertise."

Verhesen sees no reason why QuoteToMe can’t be successful from Edmonton.

"QuoteToMe could be the next PCL Construction."