After six-weeks of mentoring, discovery and collaboration — plus an exciting pitch process — SaaS startup, GigBridge, walked away with the top prize from the Buildings of the Future global accelerator. The company was awarded $100,000 USD in no-strings-attached funding.
The UK-based GigBridge is one of nine startups that took part in the global innovation accelerator run by BlueScope Buildings North America (BBNA) and BlueScope Steel’s venture arm, BlueScopeX, from May to June 2023.
On top of the cash prize, the company also has a pilot project in the works with BlueScope, and the chance to revolutionize commercial construction.
Gabriel Makinwa, founder and CEO of GigBridge, launched the company to help solve one of construction’s biggest pain points: labor shortages.
And while of course he’s enthusiastic about the funding coming his way, Makinwa says working with the BlueScope accelerator team on an actionable, go-to-market pilot was a particularly valuable experience.
”“Within a short amount of time, we’ve learned a lot and we’ve been able to go really deep into the accelerator program and understand how our solution fits within the industry,” Makinwa noted.
“Everybody in the room understood the problem that we’re trying to solve, and how important it is to solve it,” Makinwa says of the accelerator. This isn’t the first accelerator his company has participated in, but he especially appreciated the industry insight and business advice BlueScope provided.
“One thing that’s been impressive is BlueScope’s depth of understanding about their customer. I’ve leaned a lot on program mentors to understand the BlueScope network,” Makinwa explains.
He identifies the mentorship provided by his program coaches as one of the most valuable takeaways from his time with the accelerator.
“We’re currently in the process of raising funding, and my accelerator coach is an ex-entrepreneur who has raised a significant amount of investment,” he says. “Coaching on that aspect, and preparing for ‘demo day’ and refining our value proposition as a company was a really useful and worthwhile experience.”
Buildings of the Future challenged participants to build and test technologies that will evolve the construction sector to be more sustainable, efficient, and ultimately better for the world.
BlueScope hopes working with innovators like GigBridge and other accelerator participants (four other companies are also moving ahead with BlueScope pilots), is a step in that direction.
Software to solve construction’s labor shortage
So how does GigBridge work?
Put simply, it is recruitment and talent management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), built specifically for construction. GigBridge not only connects builders with subcontractors, but helps with vetting and expanding the labor pool when it gets shallow.
Makinwa says if a construction company can source 80% of the labor it needs from its existing network, then the company can turn to GigBridge for the remaining 20%. They find the remaining workforce by searching through the GigBridge database, posting jobs, and seeing ratings and reviews from other contractors.
Essentially what GigBridge is doing is leveraging an online talent platform — already a popular option in the gig economy — to better access and manage skilled labor in construction.
“What excited me so much about GigBridge was that they had a solution to one of the biggest problems that has been around for a dozen years,” said Ryan Richardson, who supports innovation and sustainability initiatives at BlueScope Buildings North America (BBNA).
“They’re solving it in a way that is new for our industry, but not new to the problem. At the end of the day, this is attacking a problem that is so fundamental. There hasn’t been much done to address the labor problem the way that GigBridge is doing it in our industry.”
Richardson sees cross-sector digital solutions like GigBridge — and the other accelerator pilot programs now underway — as necessary to the evolution of the construction industry, which has historically been slow to embrace disruption and digital transformation.
“But new perspectives and investment in truly innovative technologies can change that trajectory for the better, for us all,” Richardson says.