Ahead of International Friendship Day, which takes place this Sunday, the co-founders of BuildDirect recently shared the story of how their bond got them through difficult times, on their way to becoming one of Canada’s most celebrated technology companies.
To the casual observer Vancouver-based BuildDirect, which in January raised $30-million in Series B financing in a round led by Silicon Valley’s Mohr Davidow Ventures, might seem like one of the legions of upstart techs that have emerged from nowhere to dominate the current scene. But the company’s history actually dates back to the 1990’s, and is fraught with obstacles that nearly bankrupted it.
“During BuildDirect’s early years there was the dotcom crash which was epic,” says co-founder Rob Banks. “There’s 9/11, which led to the worst financial markets in 75 years. The we hit the Great Recession, the 2008 global credit crisis, which translated into the worst housing crisis in American history. We lived through those back to back to back while trying to raise money to keep it all together when there were holes in this dam like crazy. We’re really proud we made it through.
Co-founder and CEO Jeff Booth says the pair put their friendship ahead of business, giving them a safe environment to tackle tough issues.
“I still remember a conversation we had before we had raised any money in the business when we said: “No matter what, I’ll have your back. I’ll tell you all the hard things, you can tell me all the hard things, but no matter what we’ll stay friends through this.” says Booth. When you can face your toughest demons together, it tells you something about how deep-rooted the friendship is. ”
BuildDirect spent much of the 2000′s solving a complex logistical tangle that prevented heavy items such as flooring from being shipped economically. Today the company owns a proprietary data-driven platform that saves consumers as much as 80% on building supplies, while benefiting manufacturers, who now enjoy an unprecedented window into consumer needs. The company has since expanded rapidly in the U.S. and attracted a raft of all-star investors.
The roots of Friendship Day go back to the 1930’s, when it was created by Hallmark founder Joyce Hall, who wanted to sell more greeting cards. But Booth says true camaraderie in business isn’t about exchanging flowery sentiments. “Your best friend will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.” he says.
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