In 1995, Ron Antevy’s brother, Jonathan, received enthusiastic support from his mentors when crafting his master's thesis. This encouragement led him to establish a company centered around an innovative concept: leveraging Internet-based project management software to enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness in large-scale construction projects.
Acting upon this guidance, the bothers founded eBuilder, with Ron officiating as CEO soon after. With sales of $37 million by 2015, the company stood out as a paragon of enduring success. However, there was more to come for the headline-hogging brothers: eBuilder was acquired by Silicon Valley giant Trimble for a whooping $500 million at a time it was managing over 200,000 projects worth $300 billion.
The family-owned enterprise sustained an impressive growth rate over the years, navigating through the challenges of the 2008-09 recession, notably in debt-free status –a testament to its robust financial foundation. When asked about the key ingredients to such numbers and success, Ron Antevy says: “We were just very focused. That was a turning point for our business.”
Savant Growth spoke to him to unearth the tale of a family legacy, bootstrap tenacity, and unexpected turns that led to a successful venture, proving that in the realm of business, the journey is often as remarkable as the destination.
Hailing from a family deeply rooted in the construction industry, the passion for real estate and construction became a defining force in Ron’s and Johnathan’s lives, paving the way for their entry into the business. Ron’s journey began as a civil engineering, while his brother Jonathan delved into the intricacies of architecture and construction management.
Their approach to building their enterprise was low and steady. Embracing a bootstrap mentality, they only ventured into outside investment briefly in 2000. The result? A remarkable journey from ground zero to a business boasting over $50 million in recurring revenue by 2018.
Following the sale to Trimble that year, Ron decided to stay at eBuilder. The move paid off as a couple of years later, the company topped around $100 in ARR. He expanded the client base to focus on hospitals, universities, and government entities. In major cities across the country, eBuilder became synonymous with management of colossal construction projects.
Reflecting on the unexpected exit in 2018, the decision to sell the entire business was not initially part of the plan. Instead, the intention was to explore selling a portion, securing a strategic partner, and strategically diversifying their holdings. However, fate had other plans when Trimble presented an all-cash offer amounting to $500 million.
“Trimble came along and made an all cash offer,” Ron says. “But besides the financial aspect, we really liked the CEO and the vision that Trimble had. It was one of those things where the old saying ‘one plus one equals three’ was true.”
A Narrow ICP
Much of eBuilder’s success is due to Ron’s unique approach to defining their ideal customer and a tenacity to attack the same vertical. When the company started back in 1995, Ron and his brother had a very broad view of the construction business and the world in general. “If it's an architect, an engineer, a contractor, an owner, a big company, a little company, residential construction, commercial construction, international, US… we had this huge appetite,” Ron says.
Like many entrepreneurs, they were targeting everything and everybody, fearing to miss out. But Ron soon realized that identifying who would benefit the most from their software was their ideal target. For them, as a small company, it was very hard to deliberately say no incoming leads from another segment.
“At eBuilder, targeting a narrow ICP was a turning point. We probably had 100 customers or less, and three or four of them were hospitals. And we realized they stood to gain the most if they used our software.” So, Ron decided to learn about their buying habits and their appetite for services. Meanwhile, eBuilder kept the customers they already had but changed their approach from a go-to-market perspective to focus on the healthcare segment.
“However, not everyone is in market at the same time for what you're selling,” Ron says. “3% of your targets are in the market at any given time, which means 20 or 30 might be in market at any year at a given point in time if you go for 1,000.”
Zeroing in on their ICP was a bit like and experiment. After considering several job titles, Ron decided to target the executive in charge of facilities –which has a lot to do with construction: VP of Facilities, Director of Construction, VP of Construction, and Director of Facilities to name a few.
“In a complex sale like we had, you end up having to go down and up. We would start in that middle director VP role and they would ultimately become our champion. They would help us take us through the process of figuring out how to sell into the organization,” Ron says.
Seizing the Target
When reaching out to these job titles, Ron says, cold calls served a dual purpose for both sales and marketing. The sales aspect aimed to foster engagement, present an opportunity to showcase the offerings, and assess their potential alignment with the prospect's needs. However, the mere act of reaching out and offering software solutions did not necessarily address the most pressing challenges prospects faced.
In such instances, Ron’s approach transcended the immediate sale to maintaining an ongoing connection –keeping the prospect informed about market developments and the innovative solutions. “This strategy allowed us to navigate beyond the initial reluctance or desire to conclude the conversation swiftly. Typically, individuals, especially those attempting to deflect a sales pitch, readily provided their email for continued updates.”
This method became integral in eBuilder’s outreach efforts as they communicated with various stakeholders across different companies, diligently collecting valuable contact information in the process.
“Sometimes, there was a director and a VP and we had to call a manager in order to get to these people. As we did that, we were collecting all these emails to nurture market over time. That was the beginning of a nurture campaign where we would tell them about other customers, other success stories, and talk about value.”
Ron worked out a precise combination of human interaction and email. For the latter, it was essential to find the right balance and be mindful that campaigns work differently in every industry. “You have to figure out in your space and market what people will tolerate, what they're okay with. In our world, people were okay with the warm reachouts, and especially because our content was very valuable.”
In their content strategy, eBuilder didn't just talk about their software and features. A significant portion featured customers discussing industry issues and benefits that they received by implementing different processes and software. Ron concedes that the range of topics were broader even than the software.
“We would have a gathering in our user conference, and we had a breakout session of hospital facility owners, the managers. And somebody in the meeting said, this is probably the largest gathering in the country of its kind. And they didn't come there to hear about how the software works. They came there to talk to their peers about how they are dealing with things like federal funding for construction.”
In summary, Ron Antevy's remarkable journey with eBuilder shows the need of narrowing up the ICP with bravado and commitment. From the inception of e-Builder as a software solution to address the challenges in the construction industry to its evolution into a leading project management platform, Antevy's story is one of vision and unwavering commitment.