1. Could you please explain to our readers about your background prior to co-founding Saqara?
After graduating from ESTP in 2014, an engineering school in the field of construction, I started my professional life with a short experience in real estate development at Bouygues Immobilier before joining LIDL for almost 4 years, in the retail sector where I was building projects worth several million euros in about 20 weeks.
I supervised around fifteen construction sites per year, which required the industrialisation of processes to manage so many projects and tenders.
My business partner Thomas CASSOU is a friend of mine from the preparatory classes. We met in 2009 and after his studies, he set up his first software company.
After talking about my daily tasks, he figured out that automation of the purchasing process was feasible.
That’s the time when the idea of Saqara was born by the end of 2016. Six months later, in June 2017, the company was created.
2. What are the main challenges facing the construction industry and what role does ConTech play in addressing these challenges?
The construction industry has not known any technical and technological evolution for a very long time; it uses materials that had been industrialized more than 50 years ago.
The climate challenges make the transformation of the sector inevitable; the RE2020 (Energy Regulation 2020) will impose new construction standards with a low carbon logic.
With ConTech, Data will be at the heart of the evolution of our industry.
Saqara‘s “data-driven” approach will enable clients (project owners, contractors and general contractors) to build better with environmentally-friendly materials manufactured as close as possible to the construction site.
3. Given general contractors and property developers have traditionally been slow to embrace software solutions, how have you managed to onboard hundreds of them in the last couple of years?
Real estate is built around three areas: land searching, construction and sales.
In the construction part, the technological gap is significant, unlike the sales part, for example.
Saqara sales teams had to be extremely tenacious to convince our first clients.
Our teams and our product were able to meet the market expectations and our deployment could accelerate thanks to the trust and recommendation of our customers and our investors and financial partners.
In addition, our customers need to have a clear vision of their projects during the consultation process in order to secure their budgets and find partners close to their construction sites.
Simplifying the purchasing process while improving the security and confidentiality of interactions is at the heart of our research and development.
Thus, whether it is a question of project ownership, project management or general contracting, the combo between product and support is part of our success.
Saqara responds to the needs of all the teams of a client thanks to the information sharing and the automatic connection to other tools and services used on a daily basis.
4. How do you think the construction sector will evolve over the next 5-10 years?
Construction is an industry with very strong inertia. Digitalization is already well underway (digital plans, BIM models, site monitoring on touch-screen tablets, etc.) but many software applications have yet to be created.
Other industries are far ahead in digitalization such as the Media, Finance, Insurance, the Chemicals or the Transport and Health sectors.
I think that the construction industry is going to experience a change in two key areas: building methods and low carbon.
We need to build more sustainably so that our buildings will consume less energy.
If we take housing, for example, a low-carbon and low-energy building will be a new marketing tool for property developers to differentiate themselves from the competition.
On the construction site, I am convinced that this decade will see the development of new methods of production.
Today, we use concrete without moderation. The goal will be the use of alternative materials such as wood, compressed clay, hemp wool or recycled materials for partitions or insulation.
I am a great believer in off-site construction, that is, in a factory. The construction of wooden buildings shows it, we manage today to pre-construct buildings in factories, then assemble the “parts” on the building site.
This gives the possibility to assemble the floors more quickly and to reduce the number of trucks riding up and down the building site.
All this will be done step by step, as the industry is not yet prepared for these changes. KATERRA is an example of a company that wanted to industrialize these new methods too quickly and unfortunately, they went bankrupt because of this huge inertia. We need patience to succeed.
Data will also be at the heart of the topics: how to anticipate problems thanks to data. At Saqara, for example, we now allow our users to monitor future purchases of materials and labour.
Our solutions will evolve on more and more Data to increase the visibility of our users on their building sites, whether they are Contractors or Building Companies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness. And the arrival of new managers aged between 35 and 45 will push the industry to move towards the integration of advanced technologies and a way of thinking about the building in its environment.
We are thus going to move from a traditional industry to an innovative industry.
5. What are your plans for scaling Saqara’s presence in Europe and the Middle East?
At Saqara, we intend to pursue our international development with our low-carbon, data-driven vision, first by supporting our clients in their international projects and in collaboration with our partners, software developers that are already present internationally.
Then, the international opening will continue by opportunism with the support we already have today with the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC), A/O PropTech, Activum SG, Concrete VC and all our Business Angels who have been following us since 2017.
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