Managing a new build in the palm of your hand

A new app has been developed to address one of the most stressful and sometimes costliest elements of renovating or building a new home - keeping track of tradies and overall progress on the building

Builder using smartphone
Contractors and tradies can update homeowners on their progress in real time using Trabr. Photo: Shutterstock (Image source:

A new app has been developed to address one of the most stressful and sometimes costliest elements of renovating or building a new home - keeping track of tradies and overall progress on the building site. 

Project management app Trabr, which allows users to monitor the progress of their build and who is working on it in real time on their smartphone, is making rapid inroads into the Australian construction industry, and has its sights set on global expansion.

Launched in September, Trabr’s first capital raising attracted investment of $2 million. It now boasts 803 users across 506 projects that are collectively valued at more than $480 million. 

The number of users is growing by around 100 each week, and the value of projects managed is increasing by about $20 million week-on-week in December alone, according to Trabr founder Tony Huxley.

Australian-owned and developed, Mr Huxley said Trabr was the only mobile-first digital resource of its kind for the building industry anywhere in the world. 

Existing project management platforms for the sector are desktop-based with limited capabilities for remote use. 

A subscription-based platform, Trabr integrates cloud-based workflow tools with a network and marketplace, enabling users to manage projects and communicate with tradies, as well as monitor budgeting and make payments.

Designed for SME builders, owner builders, home renovators and tradespeople, it is designed to save users administration costs, manage timelines and avoid budgeting blowouts.

“Ninety per cent of builders are SMEs that work on-site, not on a desktop,” Mr Huxley told Australian Property Investor Magazine.

“As Trabr is mobile, we can leverage all the benefits of mobile capability, such as automated site check-in and check-out, safety and COVID-19 protocols, site supply deliveries, progress updates via geo-fencing, etcetera,” he said.

“What is perhaps more powerful is that early in 2021, we are also activating the two other legs to our platform – which is our marketplace and our network. 

“This will enable users to, not only manage and have visibility of their projects entirely remotely, but they will also be able to evaluate, order and have delivered to site any project requisite, supply, inputs or material.”

Great Australian dream

While the dream of any Australian business would be global success, one of the toughest aspects of starting any new enterprise is working out how to tell the rest of the country and the world it exists.

Trabr has largely eschewed expensive marketing campaigns to rely on word-of-mouth, industry partnerships forged by its well-connected board and management team, and a limited amount of social media advertising and networking.

“We have just begun targeted social media advertising, however, this is made all the more challenging, as the audience, the needs and the markets we are responding to are so incredibly fragmented,” Mr Huxley said.

Trabr has also partnered with professionals such as accountants, book-keepers, business coaches, insurers, and brokers, identifying them as the people who can see the benefit in their clients becoming organised and more productive.

Familiarising the next generation of builders with the software through the education system also appears to be a particularly prescient move.

“We have been working with TAFEs in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania and as a result, we have pilot programs already in operation that will see Certificate IV in Building, and Diploma of Construction students and their lecturers given the Trabr app to use for free for the duration of their course,” Mr Huxley told API.

And then the world

Ian Morrice, a former Metcash Group CEO with more than 20 years’ experience in leading large-scale hardware and home improvement retailers, joined the Trabr Advisory Board as Chair, and is a shareholder and director.

He said it was alarming that the construction industry accounts for a massive 13 per cent of global GDP but has only managed one per cent average annual productivity growth per annum over 20 years and that the adoption of technology in the industry had been equally low.

“The numbers demonstrate why this market is ready for disruption in Australia and globally,” Mr Morrice said. 

“Up to now, prop-tech solutions have been complicated, time consuming, costly and not targeted at the small builder. 

“Low cost, user-friendly and highly functional, Trabr is very transportable to international markets as there is no competition anywhere near Trabr’s functionality for the price.”

Mr Huxley said there were several factors to consider when targeting international markets. 

“Our international market priorities are New Zealand, followed by Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa, where we will be activating our apps early in 2021 and we intend to do the same in Great Britain, Ireland and Canada during the second half of the year, then Europe, USA and South America,” he said.

“We are initially focused on first-world markets where translation is not an immediate necessity, and where the metric/imperial divide is not an issue. 

At a national level, Mr Morrice said building and renovating are together one of the least disrupted and least technologically enabled industries.

“In Australia there are an estimated 360,000 SME building businesses in a market estimated to be worth $100 billion annually and just 10 per cent are at the enterprise end - we’re responding for all the rest.”

Trabr is expected to close its second seed round of funding by the end of 2020 to secure the company’s growth objectives for the next 15 to 18 months. 

Local tech 

With so much Australian technology development outsourced to India and other countries, API asked Mr Huxley if there was the temptation to take the process of building the technology offshore.  

“That temptation has been strong, but what we're building – our apps and our entire ecosystem – is entirely proprietary.  

“Forsaking control for expedience or savings simply wasn't a consideration, so we were always determined to build Trabr here in Australia, and all of our shareholders supported that.  

“There could be a possibility at some point that we will have offshore development facilities, however, our IP, key development work and all of its ongoing technology control and further development and evolution is, and always will be, Australian.  

The process of building technology such as ours is painstakingly slow, particularly when doing so natively, as we have.  

“With the pace of technology development, generally, we're finding new ways to overcome that to accelerate our development and release cycle, so our objective is to keep everything developed and controlled in Australia.”

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