Often starting a company means bringing a solution to a market—but then there are those times when the market comes to you. When Shane Hodgkin’s brother went to work for their father’s window installation company, he discovered a system that felt like something out of the nineteenth century.
Everything was recorded on little slips of paper that had no logical organizational structure. So he built a simple app to keep track of everything. It was purely for his own purposes, but soon, everybody wanted it.
That was the beginning of Matrak, a company that offers cloud-based materials and progress tracking software that allows companies to track and share information on manufacturing, shipping, installation, and defects for construction projects.
On this episode of Founders Journey, Shane talks about starting this company with his brother, the years they spent developing the product, and how they built a strategy that not only assessed the competition but what the competition might become.
He also explains his revelation that the best way to raise funds is to show investors they’re “…just a bunch of nerdy guys trying to help out construction people.”
More information: https://info.matrak.com/
Shane is Matrak’s Co-Founder & CEO. After tracking windows from overseas on large projects, Shane and his brother co-founded Matrak. Shane has over a decade’s experience managing teams of software testers, developers, data investigators, and technical support analysts. A full-stack web developer, Shane also has an intense love for all things AI and has been playing with neural networks for most of his life.
Matrak offers end-to-end supply chain visibility for manufacturing, construction and building teams. A global construction tracking network, Matrak was designed specifically to support and simplify the complexities of moving and tracking materials from manufacture to install and everywhere in between.
Matrak gives users the power to track and manage complex material interactions through a single source of truth application, creating a global digital network that helps create collaboration and connection in construction.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Shane Hodgkins 0:00
Ultimately, at the end of the day, you’re only making something because it makes somebody else happy, you know, because it’s actually going to benefit them. And so unless you’re really, really clear on who is it going to benefit, why do they care, then you’re not really going to have something that you can pitch.
Alexander Ferguson 0:20
Welcome, everyone to UpTech Report. This is our Founders Journey series. UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at Teraleap.io. I’m very excited to be joined again with my guest, Shane Hodgkins, based in Melbourne, Australia. He’s the co founder and CEO of Matrak. Now this is part two, our first part was really diving into Matrak, how it is solving the supply chain management solution in construction in a new and interesting way, using machine learning to look at all the materials and then understand how and where it’s coming into play. Definitely listen to part one. Now, this discussion though, Shane, I want to hear more about your journey. I mean, last three, four years, that you’ve really been working this full time to bring this software to life. Tell me what is your story? How did you get to where you are today? Yeah, so
Shane Hodgkins 1:12
um, so my brother actually, who’s the other co founder, is the one who’s like, responsible for all this like. So basically, he was working for my dad’s window installation company while he was studying his master’s in computer science and machine learning. And, and so his job was basically all of these shipments of materials were turned up at the job site, and he had to find them or get them unpacked and put them in the right order so that people could go through and install them. But what he found was that all of the information that he had about what was actually being shipped was just generally like pieces of paper that would get handed to him that would just have handwritten notes with just zero numbers. And so you’d get all of these and they’d often have like, just random bits and bobs. And so you have to try and find the ones in the right sequence. It’s sort of like dealing with like, really jumbled up Lego pieces with no instructions or something like that. And so um, so obviously, that was a nightmare. So he decided to make an app, just because he wanted an excuse to make an app basically, to be able to track all of the materials. So what shipments had arrived, whether they’d been installed if they had any quality issues. And so he started doing that, and it just really quickly blew up. So very quickly, not only was my dad’s company constantly calling like him to be able to find out where these materials were, because they had no other way of really keeping a record of it. But actually, these huge multinational suppliers from China, were actually calling him as well, because they didn’t have a report of what had left their factories. And so yeah, and so and so then the builders as well, the general contractors got in touch and said, we kind of want access to this, but not just for Windows, but for every trade. And so we spent quite a few years, basically, while juggling sort of full time work and everything, building the system out running a number of sort of prototypes and sort of pilots with companies. And eventually we got sort of a critical mass of paying customers that we had to sort of take the plunge and you know, live off cup noodles for six months or something. And yeah, and it’s kind of in that’s how it goes, I guess.
Alexander Ferguson 3:16
I love these types of stories where you’re in the mix, you’re you see the problem. And you’re like, let’s, I gotta solve this just for myself. And then people are say, hey, actually, can you do this, this, this and then and then it grows into an actual solution. So it was seven years ago that you first discover the problem. And then it took a couple of years 2000 to 2017. Till that you jumped in full time, like at that time, like it is 2018.
Shane Hodgkins 3:42
We actually were mid 2018 When we came in full time, but we had kind of the product with customers using it since 2017.
Alexander Ferguson 3:50
Chips as you decide to go go full time to any in the past time, have you decided to raise any funds? Are you or have you been bootstrapped the entire time,
Shane Hodgkins 4:01
though? Um, yeah. So we knew that for the type of problem that we’re tackling, especially as like a network business connecting different players. We really, were expecting any second one of the huge players in the industry to just come in and just like do it, and just like wipe this out. And so it meant that we always, were really focused on how can we grow as quickly as possible? Because actually, having that customer base is like, would be our motto, you know? And so we bootstrapped for the first many years but it was 2018. We are Yeah, that we got actually one of my colleagues had been kind of following the story. It’s actually super cool of him, and just said, Look, you guys are doing amazing things. Here’s 50 grand. I want to see guys succeed, like, give me some chance and hopefully guy. And so that was what gave me the money to actually be able to go full time in the first place. And then we sort of raised our first angel round, about six months later, and we’ve done a couple of other rounds since then.
Alexander Ferguson 4:58
What would You say is the most important lesson you’ve learned in pitching and fundraising?
Shane Hodgkins 5:06
Um, I mean, this is gonna sound cliched, but um, I think really being able to explain who your customers are is the biggest one, and why they care your
Alexander Ferguson 5:17
product. But who your customers I? Yeah.
Shane Hodgkins 5:19
Because Because I think a lot of people have solutions that are kind of looking for a problem. And it was one of the biggest lessons for me, because I get so excited about the tech that I’d want to talk about what we’ve built and how it could work and what the future of the product would be. But ultimately, at the end of the day, you’re only making something because it makes somebody else happy, you know, because it’s actually going to benefit them. And so unless you’re really, really clear on who isn’t going to benefit, why do they care, then you’re not really going to have something that you can pitch.
Alexander Ferguson 5:49
I love that. I love that. Now, one, one thing is getting the funding getting the money. The next is, if you want to scale is building a team. Yeah, how many folks do you have today?
Shane Hodgkins 6:00
We were just on 3131. So
Alexander Ferguson 6:03
building that team growing that team, what would you say? Is the one of the biggest mistakes one could make when it comes to hiring?
Shane Hodgkins 6:11
Oh, like, such a loaded question. But um, yeah. I, I mean, everyone as they grow and scale and everything is gonna go through periods where they make mistakes. I think probably actually, one just rookie mistake that I made a bit at the start was not doing enough reference checks, just like if you interview someone a couple of times, and you think they’re really good, then, you know, alright, let’s just hire them. But honestly, there’s no, you know, there’s no alternative substitute, I guess, for actually finding out from people that they’ve actually worked with how they’ve gone. But that being said, like, we’ve been super, super lucky. Many of our team actually headhunted Matt track, which is fantastic. And so many of the people that we work with, that I work with are all really, really entrepreneurial. A lot of them have run their own startups in the past. A lot of them come from the construction space as well. And yeah, I’m actually mega mega pumped by the people that I’m working with, we’ve been very lucky.
Alexander Ferguson 7:09
On that note, do you prefer to have people who have industry knowledge? Or do you prefer people who just have general knowledge and have good ethic? And then you give them the knowledge of the industry? Which would you prefer? Or doesn’t matter?
Shane Hodgkins 7:22
It’s a great question. So to begin with, we we definitely leant heavily on people with that construction knowledge, because there’s so much jargon. And if you’re, especially if you’re meeting a customer for the first time, and they start, you know, talking to you about like this silage with this spandrel on it, and you’re like, unless you can say, Oh, I know what that means. And I know what your problem is, yeah, then you’re not going to be able to like have that connection. And so definitely, that was really important to begin with. But as we started scaling the company now, and we’ve got a lot more about processes in place, and better sort of Training and Documentation and stuff like that. I think for us getting a lot more sort of sass and sort of tech growth experiences is probably focus at the moment.
Alexander Ferguson 8:05
You’ve got funding, you’ve got the team now to market and grow. What would you say are some of the most common mistakes that you have seen people are making or you’ve made yourself when it comes to marketing in today’s environment?
Shane Hodgkins 8:19
Yeah, yeah, it’s a really good one. Um, there’s, I guess, I mean, honestly, the biggest thing depends on where you’re pitching, actually, and I’ve got a really good answer. When we were first starting. I was like, I’ve never fished I’m founder, I’d never want a business like this before. And so I was like, Ah, I guess we have to sound like a business, we have to look like a business. What are businesses look like? They look boring, we need to look boring. And so. And yeah, it was boring. They I know 100%. And, but it wasn’t until we actually have we work with a marketing agency, character and distinction in Australia, and that their founder is one of our advisors. And she actually spent a lot of time with me to begin with saying, like, look, you’re doing this because you actually care about it, which is obviously the case. And so people want to know that you’re doing something that you care about. So just you can put yourself into it. You can talk just honestly about why you care about this stuff. And that was like such a lightbulb moment for me and has just made work so much fun, because like the idea that we have just a bunch of nerdy guys trying to help out construction people. Like I just love that it’s really fun. And it’s it’s something that makes you want to get up in the morning. So I think being able to have that authenticity is is something that I didn’t realize to begin with, but I think it’s a great lesson.
Alexander Ferguson 9:41
And authentic founders story is a powerful marketing piece by itself. You don’t have to be a faceless corporate organization to market well.
Unknown Speaker 9:51
Alexander Ferguson 9:53
I love it. I love it, moving towards it in this environment that we’re in COVID it So affected everyone differently. And I’m not sure I have for you guys down there. What do you see as the challenges going forward to get in front of people’s faces in their eyes get their attention in this environment we’re in and everyone’s kind of distracted and things are going on.
Shane Hodgkins 10:16
Yeah, totally. So we are, I mean, Australia is definitely very, very lucky. As far as that goes, we’ve just been able to reopen interstate travel and stuff. So only in the last week, we’ve finally been able to actually meet some of our customers face to face that I haven’t seen in like 12 months, but and it was interesting as well, because so much construction stuff comes from China, that and they very quickly, were able to reopen a lot of their factories and things like that. And so we had to learn very quickly about remote onboarding, and remote support, to be able to help all of these, like massive companies that were coming on board, but we’d always sort of relied on just being able to fly over and spend a week with them. But now we had to do everything over WeChat. And yeah, it was pretty, pretty hectic. So I think, I don’t know if I can give any lessons to people. I was really pleasantly surprised at how well the team went. And actually how many customers came to the party and how quickly it became normal to just be doing things over zoom. And so it actually was less of a challenge than I would have expected, but a lot less than I expected. But the flip side of that, which is especially obvious as we’ve been able to travel again, at least it’s an insight is that there’s really no yeah, no substitute for being able to just like gossip, and chat and build relationships and have those conversations that aren’t work related, that can often really help your business a lot more than than having to have dedicated set meeting times. So that’s a challenge. I don’t know how to overcome that yet. But
Alexander Ferguson 11:52
it’s it’s a challenge that other SAS and tech companies are looking to solve. So I’ve interviewed a few, but I feel like it’s it, there’s gonna be a lot of new solutions popping up to help address that need.
Shane Hodgkins 12:07
Alexander Ferguson 12:10
Speaking of how you’ve grown as a leader over these years, and managing the team, any books, audio books, podcasts that you have enjoyed and would recommend?
Shane Hodgkins 12:22
Um, I I’m not sure. I mean, to be honest, probably the biggest one that I really get into is one code review the future, which is not really as founder related, but it’s very tech related. And so for me, what they do is they really push forward and look at sort of what the impact on sort of society and culture could be about a whole whole lot of current tech. And I think having that really futuristic sort of view of things gives you a different angle from which to look at today’s problems. And so I just find that really inspiring and it really helps sort of create, instead of creating a vision for what we want to build here.
Alexander Ferguson 13:07
I like to review the future. Yeah. All right. Last question for you, Shane. What kind of tech innovations do you predict we will see, and the near term next year or two and long term, 510 years from now? Yeah, sure.
Shane Hodgkins 13:23
I mean, I guess probably more generally, I am really pumped for some of the recent eyeglasses that have come out that are really cheap, and actually seem to be able to just work with your mobile phone and things like that. And I assume that that’s going to have to be the future because like, I’m one for always just like looking my phone while I’m walking around. They’re like banging into light bulbs and things like that. Um, so being able to actually just be able to do work while you’re in transit, hands free, I think is going to be a big one. But yeah, but who knows? I think especially in the construction tech space, it’s such a early stage, it’s really a mature market. And so I think probably beta Bay generally, certainly things like agri tech and stuff is going to really explode. But yeah, I guess we’ll say
Alexander Ferguson 14:14
for those that want to learn more about Matrak, make sure you check out part one of our discussion to hear all about how they are changing the game when it comes to supply chain management in construction, you can go to also matrak.com and you can be able to get a free trial. Thanks again. Shane is great to have you on man.
Shane Hodgkins 14:34
Yeah, it’s been really fun. Thank you so much.
Alexander Ferguson 14:37
Thanks, everyone again for joining us. Our sponsor today is TeraLeap. If your company wants to find out how to better leverage the power of video. To increase sales and marketing results, head over to TeraLeap.io and learn about the new product customer stories. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next time. That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company we should interview you can now Meet them at UpTech report.com. Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.