A fast-growing residential architecture disrupter has appointed a COO as it pursues ambitious expansion plans.
London-based Resi, formerly BuildPath, is the brainchild of serial entrepreneurs Alex Depledge MBE and Jules Coleman MBE and helps homeowners complete building projects faster and at lower cost.
In 2015 the duo sold previous tech business Hassle, a cleaner booking service, in a multi-million-pound deal.
“After selling Hassle we decided we were never ever going to do it again,” she told BusinessCloud.
“We were doing two days a week as ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ at Index Ventures, looking at deal flow. There we were getting exposure to new ideas.”
CEO Depledge says her “lightbulb moment” came when she was looking to build an extension while Coleman, Resi’s CTO, was looking to renovate a house she had bought.
“One day a company came in from the Nordics and they had this 3D software which took 2D floor plans and popped them into renders. I was sitting there thinking ‘why didn’t my architect use that kind of functionality to help me doing this £50k extension on my home?’
“Before we knew it, we were working on a business… it wasn’t a conscious decision.”
By harnessing the power of technology, Resi claims to make the concept and design process of extending or improving a home ten times faster and cheaper than using a traditional architecture practice.
The firm scours government datasets to assess automatically whether a new building design is viable and how much it would cost. It can then provide designs for development options to the customer within 72 hours, while they can manage the whole process online.
Architects Rich Morgan and Nicholas Stockley were brought on board and also have a stake in the business, which Depledge says “hovers around the break-even mark” and brought in around a million pounds in revenue last year. Yesterday it passed the 1,000 customer threshold.
Currently employing 46 staff, the aim is to double the headcount this year while Depledge and Coleman have now added a third member to their management team for the first time.
“You can pretty much split the company in half: Jules takes anything that’s quite detailed and logical – such as tech, products and finance – and I tend to take the people side of stuff such as marketing and sales, operations and financing,” said Depledge.
“In three weeks’ time we’ve got a COO coming on board who is going to take all the operational stuff off us. Now we’re close to 50 people we needed to bring in some more managerial head cover.”
The new arrival is James Wells, a consultant at tech firms including Bulb and HelloSelf.
“We went through a rigorous process and settled on James – we think he’s got the right mixture of strategy and ops experience,” said Depledge.
“We’re excited to have him started. It’s going to be weird to bring in a third leg to the duo, but we’re hoping it’s going to work!
“He’s got the same outlook on the way you treat people. The business is only as good as the employees and they need to be happy and content.
“We needed someone who was going to come in and really take care of the people who work with us and nurture and train them as well as have a strategic vision and hit the targets.”
?? We’ve just hit 1000 customers! ??
From the time we opened our doors in 2016, we’ve helped over a thousand people nationwide transform their homes into a happy space. Here’s to a thousand more happy spaces and faces! pic.twitter.com/D8CiphXg4b
— Resi (@resi_uk) February 5, 2019
Bradford-born Depledge and Dubliner Coleman have referred to Hassle as their “baby”. However they are a little older and wiser when it comes to building up Resi.
“We don’t see this company as a child. We grew up a lot with Hassle,” explained Depledge. “The first one is always a bit like your first love… this is a lot less emotional.
“We care a lot about it, but we don’t have same maternal feeling towards it.”
Hassle opened up markets in France and Ireland before it was sold to Europe-wide company Helpling for £27.5m. However following the EU referendum result in 2016, a conscious decision was made to keep Resi focused purely on the UK market.
“We were incredibly lucky. If we hadn’t sold in 2015, we would’ve been snookered when it came to Brexit. With Resi we’ve built a business that is Brexit-proof. We did that deliberately,” she said. “I’m waiting to see if we ever dig ourselves out of this mess.
“Our sector of the residential market is worth £23 billion a year so we can build a big business in the UK alone. All you get when you internationalise are headaches anyway.
“We want to exit at some point. Who that is to and how we do it, I don’t know… it could be a float, it could be a sale. We’re building with an end in mind, but we’re not fixed on what that end is.
“I’m not trying to build a billion-dollar company. We’re just enjoying the ride. You can build a company which on paper is worth a billion dollars, but you’ve got to exit that! Doing that in reality is really hard and brings a great amount of pressure.”
However Depledge plans for Resi to “inhabit the whole residential space in the UK” and has already moved into the newbuild market.
“Hopefully along the way we’re going to find ways that we can help impact the housing crisis because we believe that everyone deserves not just a house, but a home – a space in which they’re happy,” she added.
“That’s certainly not the case in this country at the moment. There’s an idea of working to a higher purpose: if we can automate things and take out costs, can we start applying some of that thinking and learning into building houses? That’s what gets me out of bed in a morning, apart from business.
“In every profession they’ve introduced barriers to entry, whether it’s a regulatory body or just the language that they use; they make it inaccessible for the average person, forcing them to pay for services.
“Technology is tearing down some of those barriers.”