Concrete is in Jordan Latourelle’s blood.
Since his grandfather’s era, his family has made its living working in the concrete industry. It’s a tradition he’s proudly maintained: Latourelle started his own company at the age of 19, and 15 years later, his dad was working for him.
All the while, Latourelle harboured a love for technology and programming – passions that, for the longest time, didn’t seem to mix readily with concrete. The Gatineau-based entrepreneur lamented a seeming lack of innovation in the industry and wondered about ways to improve the traditional approaches to concrete supply.
“It's an industry that has never evolved at the rate of other industries. The delivery process has always been the same since my father and grandfather,” he says.
It wasn’t until a few years ago when Latourelle was faced with a cancer diagnosis that he realized the nagging thoughts in the back of his mind couldn’t wait any longer. While undergoing treatment he sold his company to his brother and, seeing the rise of sharing economy apps such as Uber and Airbnb, set to work on a mission to simplify the delivery of concrete materials.
“I told myself that there could be that application that would improve and completely change the dynamic of my industry,” he says. “I got better, I got healthy and I decided not to look back and build this company.”
Now Latourelle has fully thrown himself into his startup, Brokrete. The Gatineau firm develops an end-to-end solution for the order and delivery of stone, sand, gravel and other raw materials in the concrete industry.
Back in March, the firm won a Bootstrap Award as disruptor of the year. Recently, it closed a $500,000 pre-seed round with angel investors Ronald Richardson of Ottawa and Avlok Kohli of San Francisco.
While contemporary apps such as Uber solve the “one-phone-call problem” of ordering a taxi, Latourelle says, Brokrete is saving contractors upwards of five or six calls to get concrete delivered to a job site. Co-ordinating between suppliers, on-site workers and truck drivers can quickly become a time suck for contractors, some of which are placing multiple orders a day.
The application is more complicated than a simple user interface, Latourelle says. It took four years of development to build software that could simultaneously co-ordinate contractor orders, supplier management and driver tracking.
The Brokrete app is free for contractors and for suppliers, up to a certain point. Once a concrete supplier is using a fleet of more than 20 trucks, the premium version of the app kicks in, giving the firm its cut.
The company has seen some early uptake from major players in the construction industry: Concrete giant Lafarge is signed up to supply materials in Ottawa-Gatineau.
Richardson, who invests with Ottawa’s Capital Angel Network, says that while he never expected he’d be getting involved in a construction materials marketplace company, there are a lot of things to like about Brokrete.
He was impressed with the returns the company was seeing on its “sweat equity” – with only a few thousand dollars invested in the bootstrapped firm, it was seeing exponential returns before scaling even began.
In addition to that early market fit, what impressed Richardson most was Latourelle himself.
“You could just read the enthusiasm, the tenaciousness and the depth of knowledge in the industry, being a third-generation concrete businessperson,” he says.
After setting solid foundations in Ottawa-Gatineau, Brokrete plans to tackle Toronto’s construction industry in the coming months.