Fearless Founders Ep. 1: Bridgit’s Mallorie Brodie & Lauren Lake
Magic cofounder sauce, underdog upside, managing strategic investors, and what it takes to raise over 21M scaling technology in the world of construction management
For today’s conversation we chatted in-depth with the cofounders of StandUp ventures’ portfolio company Bridgit, a rapidly scaling company disrupting construction management — Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Lake. In 2020 Bridgit tripled revenue and closed a 9M strategic investment led by Autodesk, bringing the total amount raised to over 21M. They currently employ 72 wonderful people, and are on track for 3x growth again this year.
At first impression, Mallorie and Lauren seem similar; studious, confident, and very friendly. But after a few minutes of conversation it becomes clear that they are different. While Mallorie is an energy bomb, quick to act, decisive, and filled to the brim with ideas, Lauren is calm, cautious, detail-oriented and hyper-focused on mitigating risk. It is easy to understand how together, they can see the whole picture of their business.
“If it was just Mallorie running the business we would make too many mistakes, and if it was just me running the business we wouldn’t make enough,” Lauren says.
As co-founders of Bridgit, a construction management software company that tripled revenue last year and having raised over 21M in total investment, Mallorie and Lauren talk on the phone at least 15 times a day, often for just 5 minutes at a time. Between meetings, driving to get groceries, and on every Medium — Instagram, Facebook messenger, iMessage, you name it. The pair describes how these conversations often involve Mallorie coming up with a million ideas, while Lauren explains all the reasons why 95% of them won’t work, but 5% of them are unicorn-makers. The pair settle on 1 or 2 ideas with legs.
“Sometimes we say Mallorie throws in the dirty laundry and I am a washing machine,” Lauren laughs.
It’s clear these two have a good thing going on. The pair describes how when they met through Next36, high-level alignment on goals and aspirations is initially what bonded them. Neither was looking for a project or a resume-builder — they both just wanted to build a real business.
Finding the confidence to start
Mallorie and Lauren took the leap to start Bridgit in 2014 as they were finishing university. With limited experience, neither being technical, and as two women in a male-dominated field, in the beginning it wasn’t necessarily about success — but rather about survival.
“Initially we just didn’t want to fail.” Lauren says. “We were told so many times, ‘You can’t do it’, ‘You’re not technical,’ ‘You’ve never done this before,’ ‘You’re female in this male-dominated environment,’ ‘You’re too aggressive,’ ‘You’re too nice,’ and even ‘The market is too small,’” they laughed. “But being told over and over again you can’t do something — creates this deep seated desire to prove everyone wrong.”
Although they were sometimes underestimated, Mallorie explains how their youth and lack of expertise became differentiating factors that have contributed to their success.
She described an idea she recently heard listening to the Masters of Scale podcast; “Starting a company requires some unknowns. Experts know more, but when you’re an expert in something, you also know where all of the landmines are. Because there were so many unknowns that we didn’t have answers to, that’s what actually gave us the optimism to start the company.”
Lauren pipes in, “We were really lucky to be able to be in a position after graduating without dependents or other financial responsibilities where we could really give this our best shot. Worst case scenario, we pinch our pennies and share a dorm room for a few months, it doesn’t work and we go and get a job like every other new grad.”
Building The Initial Tech
Early on, Mallorie and Lauren were forced to do deep customer research because without a technical skill-set they were unable to build right away. Looking back, this just made their product-market fit stronger.
“We ended up doing so much more customer research because we just didn’t have anyone to build the product yet. Our secret sauce from the beginning has been our deep understanding of the industry pain points.” says Mallorie.
Eventually it was necessary to bring technical talent on board. Around this time Mallorie met an experienced technical product manager at an event named Neville. The two laughed recalling how when Mallorie first pitched the idea to the established professional, with the hope that he would quit his career to join the two recent graduates on their venture, he gave a resounding no. But with some persistence, he eventually agreed to help the duo on evenings and weekends. Although never becoming full-time, they explain how this fractional CPO/CTO was critical to get through the initial phase and to beta launch.
Early on they had a conversation about what they would need to see by the end of the 9-month program, Next36, in order to seriously move forward with the company.
Sometime near the end of the program they found their first customers, and in those initial customer meetings it was clear they had found product-market fit. Lauren remembers the exact moment she knew Bridgit was real, “Mallorie and I made eye-contact and it was like, Ok, we’re doing this. And we never discussed it again.”
Mallorie recalls feeling obligated to carry on with the solution after speaking to customers who needed it. “Once we heard that many people talk about their pain points, and we told them we were building this thing, how could we not?”
Attracting Talent — Turning Over Stones Outside of Tech
As underdog founders they often had to do things differently, simply because they didn’t have the access or ability to do it in the way everyone else did. This continued to ring true when it came to attracting talent. Because they weren’t from a traditionally technical background, they had to be more open-minded about who early team members could be. And given how competitive the tech industry can be for top talent, they leaned into this further.
“Are there other industries we can tap into?” they asked.
One strategy they describe as being especially successful was hosting ‘Getting into Tech’ events. The first time they did it, the spots were filled within one hour.
“This helped us show the market there are opportunities in the tech world even if you don’t come from a technical background.”
Having since scaled from 2 to 72 people, the founders are constantly iterating their approach to hiring and how they share roles so that they aren’t limiting who they are getting in front of.
Mallorie and Lauren playfully discuss whether they still know everyone’s name at the company. Mallorie insists she knows everyone’s first name, and possibly even last, but that understanding exactly what everyone does has become more of a challenge as the company has scaled.
“But I feel comfortable not knowing everything because I know my reports know everything they need to know. The important thing is I trust my team to know what they need to know to make good decisions.” Mallorie says.
Bringing On Strategic Investors
In 2020, after tripling revenue during Covid-19, Bridgit closed a 9.4M CAD strategic investment led by Autodesk, with participation from Salesforce. “Strategic investors can be a bit controversial,” says Mallorie, “people have a lot of different opinions on when and what makes sense.”
Despite this, Mallorie and Lauren have had a good experience bringing strategic investors onboard. “It really comes down to alignment. Autodesk genuinely believes in the product we are building and it fits really well into their product portfolio, which has made it a really positive and mutually beneficial experience.” Mallorie further emphasizes the importance of aligning vision with strategic investors, and having a champion at the organization level.
“Autodesk is a household name, everyone is a customer. From a legitimacy standpoint it’s been a huge step for us.”
Winning Mindset & Inspiration
When prompted about what qualities are necessary for entrepreneurs, Lauren and Mallorie gush about the importance of optimism. It’s clear that their boundless optimism has been a key advantage throughout the founding and scaling journey.
“The tone of every conversation is always that there is a solution. You have to believe something is possible — you’re just finding the path.”
Lauren further emphasizes the importance of being resourceful and scrappy, explaining how you have to still be able to make progress on your ideas when you have so little to work with. This reminded me of the original definition of entrepreneurship formulated by Harvard professor Howard Stevenson — these two are real entrepreneurs:
“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled”
“We also don’t bring our ego into decisions. Between the two of us, it’s just about what is the idea that will bring us to the next level. It doesn’t matter who said it, if someone got something wrong before. We’re just focused on what is the next step forward.”
When it comes to who inspires them, Mallorie cites her many conversations about life and business with Carol Leeman, a seasoned multi-exit Canadian technology entrepreneur. “She has now done it 4 times — you can really see that level of expertise in someone, there is almost this calm in them.”
Lauren brings up Kerry Liu, founder of Rubikloud, highlighting his support and strength of character, “He has been very helpful over the years, and is just a really good person to bounce ideas off of.”
Setting Goals and Scaling Fast
After tripling revenue, the cofounders set a goal to double Bridgit’s growth. One of their board members proposed 3x instead.
Rather than feeling the pressure, the pair was excited by the possibility. “The fact that he even suggested that as a goal made us realize he thinks there is a path. He thinks we are up for the challenge,” Mallorie says.
Setting aggressive growth targets has forced the team to learn quickly as they run experiments, iterating on what works, “I don’t think I have ever learned so fast in the history of Bridgit because we’ve had to try so many more things, fail, and succeed, in order for 3x to even be possible. Even if we don’t hit 3x, all of a sudden 2x seems easy. Setting an aggressive goal was actually the best way to learn about our business.”
Over time their goals have evolved, but ultimately it comes down to taking things one challenge at the time.
“Although in the beginning it was about survival, we are constantly raising the bar and becoming more ambitious. Once we accomplish one thing, we just move onto the next, step by step.”