From long payment cycles to antiquated processes on how to bill workers, the hefty inefficiencies of the construction industry are long overdue for innovation.
Enter startups such as the large venture-backed Katerra and recently public companies such as Procore. Still, independent contractors or workers from small family businesses often can't afford hefty fees from SaaS platforms promising better management. Or, they don't have a parent company behind them to foot the bill.
To help the Bob’s Plumbings and Nicky Roofings of the world get paid on time, Handle.com has raised $4.5 million in known venture capital funding and $20 million in debt financing. The startup was a YC grad, born from a trio of founders: Blake Robertson, Chris Woodard and Patrick Hogan.
The startup uses a mix of software and a financing line to help construction workers get paid on time, a weakness in the current industry, per co-founder Hogan.
“Construction is one of the largest operations in the country in terms of amount spent,” co-founder Hogan said. “We have a contractor that we work with, that if he does a job for Hilton Hotels and has a $200,000 invoice, it takes over one year for them to pay him back. The impact on his business is substantial.”
In the construction industry, workers often have to submit their own billing, which is lengthy, and there’s room for error. Using software, the startup helps workers automate invoices to limit mistakes, and get documentation to clients on time.
In a legacy industry, oftentimes it's hard to get both parties to adopt. So that’s why Handle.com made it so only the workers need to use the platform. Along with small businesses, it also helps larger contractors handle massive influxes of invoices.
“It’s not a two-way street: it only requires the party who is going to be receiving the payment to use it,” Hogan said. “If you have to get two parties to agree to use a solution, it’s very difficult, because you have a two-sided marketplace type of problem. In construction, one party has more leverage than the other party. You may have reasons for one party to not have things more efficient.”
Now on to Handle.com’s financing side of its business. As every startup ever becomes a bank, Handle.com differs from the group in that it had a software fintech mix since launching out of YC. And in this case, Handle.com secured $20 million in debt equity so credit financing could be part of its business model.
Handle.com uses a credit line to become a lender to construction workers who are waiting for a check to process and need capital before they can head to their next project. The startup claims that construction workers traditionally have a hard time securing capital loans from banks. “Contractors and subcontractors, Woodard said, “don’t have access [to capital], and it’s the ceiling on their business because they can only grow as fast as they're getting paid back.”
The startup says that of the customers that use its software, “a growing portion” use the financing option too.
As for growth, when Handle.com left YC it was six weeks in and collected $22,800 in monthly revenue. The startup declined to share revenue and growth statistics on the cuff of this funding round, beyond that it has been increasing its customer base by “an average of 30% month over month over the past year.”