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What makes a good Contech Founder? Part 1

By Joe Coleman

So what makes a great Contech Founder?

Is it industry experience, is it more important to have a start-up background, or is someone who knows how to take software to market more generally the right answer? Is there even a right answer?

This is a huge topic and one that I often find myself chatting to people in the Contech space about. So, in the first of a two part series I spoke to Bhragam Paramanantham - writer of the brilliant 'Last Week in ConTech' newsletter - about his view on what type of profile makes the best Contech Founder. 

Here's what we had to say on the topic

J: So in your experience working with Founders were they mostly coming from a construction background, or were they from a different market and wanting to enter the industry?

B: The ones I've really resonated with have usually come from the industry. Yes, you can be a great Founder who’s great at problem understanding and solving, but in the construction industry the sales cycle and process is so different.
For example, out of industry Founders come in and want to build their marketing machine, but that's not going to work. In construction you need to pick up the phone and call up your contractors. They just don’t notice the little things that are specific to the industry, so I think having at least one construction-based Founder is often better for those reasons.
J: Yeah, one of the things we always see when we speak with Founders is that those who don't have industry experience are far more focused on things like getting a return on investment faster. They're interested in how quickly they can get to profitability and do X, Y and Z. This isn't a bad thing for a Founder, but it doesn't always  work in construction - and they're like this because it's learned experience from a different sector, like Martech or Fintech. And they're trying to replicate what works in those spaces to get profitability, but we know that doesn't work in the construction space.
One of the best Co-Founders I've spoken to used to be a Civil Engineer so he understands how to build a product and build a business that can scale and he does that from learned experience.
B: I think that's such an important point you make. I think in construction you need to have one of the Co-Founders - or at least an early hire - from the industry. Someone who deeply understands construction and the life cycles. Even as an engineer you don't see the whole life cycle very often, you'd only see parts. So it's really easy to build a solution for just one part and that's not effective. Having someone who understands the industry really helps, I've always said the best combination is to have a technical Co-Founder and a software focused Co-Founder.
J: I agree. You need a mix. Otherwise you might miss a gap in the more agile way of working that comes from working in a different sector as a Founder. You know, having someone who's been in a HealthTech environment might have a different, useful perspective on the business and operations side of things that they can bring to the company. 

It comes down to diversity of thought I think and building a business to solve a sector challenge but not creating a homogenous workforce. This combination of industry experience and different approaches can help build a product and get a product to market quicker.
B: Totally. That combo helps companies understand the multiple stakeholders so they can solve multiple pain points and service multiple parts of the project lifecycle.
It's also stage dependent, right? If you're a Series B start-up you need a very different skill set. At that point you could make the argument that a CEO doesn't need construction experience. 

Here at FMC we've seen both examples work

This goes down to everyone from customer success to leadership. Look out for part two of this series in the next couple of weeks where I’ll be talking to a leading VC partner about their view on this topic… watch this space!

Whether you’re making your first hire, or your 300th, FMC Talent are here to help you identify talent that understands the nuances of the construction market that enables you to operate your business effectively and leave the recruitment process to us.