In January 2013 I wrote about an AEC social media startup, SpecifiedBy, ahead of its UK launch. It has just achieved another milestone in its development, closing a seed investment round of £125,000, led by Northstar Ventures (also a backer of North Shields-based mobile asset management and surveying SaaS provider Kykloud – post) and IP Group, and supported by several business angels.
Founded by architecture technology graduate Darren Lester, Edinburgh and Newcastle-based SpecifiedBy plans to have a similar impact on the construction industry as TripAdvisor had on the travel sector. SpecifiedBy gives architects and other construction professionals an online platform that combines smart search, project management and access to the shared knowledge and recommendations of other industry professionals regarding building products and materials, plus all the associated building product information and design data, such as BIM and CAD content. Lester says:
“The construction industry is not exactly renowned for its openness or sharing culture, so we’ve taken on a big challenge. But we believe that by giving the industry access to better data regarding building products and materials, better decisions will be made, which will ultimately lead to a better, more sustainable built environment.
“We’re not a review website as such, but we provide access to invaluable first-hand experience of working with particular products, materials and companies in the same way TripAdvisor gives you the inside track on hotels and restaurants.”
With investment in place, the company plans to further develop the platform, including a ‘private library’ version aimed at teams and practices rather than individuals, and expand the team with roles in content management, sales and marketing to be filled. Darren tells me SpecifiedBy has also agreed a partnership with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists to promote the platform to its members and put SpecifiedBy in touch with CIAT members who can help with particular technical challenges.
Update (2 June 2014) – The CIAT support was announced in a 30 May news release; Kevin Crawford, Vice-President Technical said:
The SpecifiedBy website is a quality product, especially for those who are practicing within the discipline of Architectural Technology, and we are pleased to support this tool to enhance the work of our members.’
Web-based construction product information resources are not a new idea. Several UK would-be AEC e-commerce sites were launched at the height of the dot.com boom back in 1999-2000, but almost all of them folded quickly as investor confidence in such ventures evaporated. Collaboration technologies proved more resilient, and we now have several well-established Software-as-a-Service vendors, and – with the emergence of social media in recent years – some of these are trying to be more ‘social’ in their modes of communication (Asite is perhaps the business which has tried hardest in this regard – see Asite: ‘cocial’ and ‘mocial’), and I’ve talked to other startups – like FieldLens (see 7 March post; see also my contribution to FieldLens blog) and GenieBelt (post) – whose approaches to SaaS construction software are strongly influenced by social media use and by mobile solutions.
Architects have been among the more enthusiastic users of social media in their industry work; my friend Su Butcher works extensively with architects and has identified how their use of Twitter and other Web 2.0 platforms has grown in the past couple of years (see How Architects Use the Internet and Why 44 percent of UK Architects might be using Twitter). So SpecifiedBy is pushing at an open door, at least so far as the ‘A’ of the AEC market is concerned. And as these extend to other professions and as shared social media-type conversations become more common and more real-time (replacing one-to-one, asynchronous email-type exchanges), I would expect more software vendors to adopt similar approaches.