THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ARCHITECTS AND PRODUCT MANUFACTURERS is sub-optimal. And if that relationship could be genuinely optimized, architects and design professionals in the AEC industry and the product manufacturers serving them would benefit greatly. That is the essential message and vision behind a new startup called Tect App, Inc., or just Tect (as in the last four letters of the word architect).
Tect founder and CEO Bob Habian, an architect who has worked on both sides of the industry, says that his new platform functions with the simplicity of a Google search paired with the benefits of a two-sided market platform. What’s a two-sided market platform you may use and enjoy today? Some big ones include Uber, Airbnb, Match.com, and many others. But with Tect, there’s a twist. “Unlike a classic two-sided marketplace with buyers and sellers, the building industry is better served by what we call a three-sided marketplace, (with buyers, sellers, and influencers), because manufacturers generally sell their products to contractors, who buy products based on the influence of design professionals,” says Habian.
A Three-Sided Problem
Today’s AEC industry relationship between architects and manufacturers is a classic three-sided market problem itching to be modernized for the 21st century. But you may be wondering how?
The answer is to use a software platform that allows influencers to connect easily with supply-side manufacturer experts at the earliest stage of a project to properly select and understand how best to implement their products into the design documents well in advance of the project’s procurement or buying stage by contractors.
Let’s first look at a classic problem that happens today. An architect gets a new commission that takes her into new territory. She must find technical answers that only manufacturers can honestly answer. The solution: Google searches, phone calls to busy colleagues and peers, and reach-outs to the manufacturers she already knows, hoping they have a recommendation.
That process takes a lot of time. And based on recent research conducted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), two-thirds of architects believe the current product selection method is broken. (see: The Architect’s Journey to Specification)
The Tect platform matches architects’ specific questions with pre-qualified experts from manufacturers. Architects enter keywords into a Google-like search box. Targeted results are then displayed, and architects can filter search results by categories like location. From there, they can contact these experts directly by phone or email in both open or stealth mode.
Inquiry over Advocacy
In a typical sales pressure environment, a product rep may begin by advocating for the manufacturer they represent rather than simply inquiring into the nature of your problems. Even if they are decent listeners, you tell them a little about your situation, and they jump into full advocacy mode rather than inquire more deeply to suss out all the issues and challenges you genuinely face.
With Tect, the manufacturers inside the platform will go through not just pre-qualification but the TectAcademy, an educational onboarding process for manufacturer experts to learn how to best respond to architects searching for expertise about materials and products for architectural specification.
The benefit for manufacturers is they shift their focus from chasing projects and opportunities to building trusted relationships that begin through a matched-up union between expert and architect. The intermediation process embedded in the platform technology removes the false positives—that is, it cuts out or substantially reduces the time spent chasing projects where manufacturer products don’t fulfill the design goals.
Positioned As Experts (Not Sales People)
That’s just it—that’s where architects are positioned once they start looking for expert advice. At that point, they understand their design goals for the project; what they don’t understand is whose products meet the technical requirements of their design goals.
Architects may need to fully understand the nature of the technical requirements that naturally pair with their design goals. This is why engaging with manufacturer experts earlier in the process greatly benefits the project. In fact, based on the AIA research we mentioned earlier, 87 percent of architects want help from product manufacturers at every project stage, starting at the schematic design phase. Bob adds: “The problem with manufacturers and reps who resort to sales pressure is that architects are not the buyer. We [architects] need to make objective and informed decisions, yet finding a product expert who understands how to provide objective and trustworthy support without a sales pitch, is a recurring challenge.”
The Economics (Win-Win)
Architectural readers may be wondering if such a platform would cost them money. The answer is no. Tect is a free platform for architects and design professionals.
Architects in the US alone have over 200,000 professionals making millions of product decisions annually. By 2025, the global construction market will reach USD 16.6 trillion. And building products represent 40-50 percent of total construction costs. With that kind of influence on sales of manufactured products, why should architects pay for anything?
They position themselves for success in building long-term relationships with the demand-side architects, and they do so at a cost much lower than attending trade shows and traditional customer acquisition routes.
The product manufacturers need to court the architects who decide “buying” in the industry. With Tect, manufacturers pay to place their experts on the platform and in the TectAcademy already mentioned.
“The manufacturers understand that all of the activities they undertake in joining the Tect platform will position them as experts across targeted product categories,” says Bob Habian, founder and CEO of Tect. “They position themselves for success in building long-term relationships with the demand-side architects, and they do so at a cost much lower than attending trade shows and traditional customer acquisition routes.”
The benefit for architects is quicker access to technical answers when they need them. And this costs them nothing. They don’t even need to download an app; Tect is a SaaS (software as a service) delivered via a web browser. Architects can sign-up now while the platform is in the final development stage.
What Architosh Thinks
Tect App, Inc. is an exciting new entrant into the AEC/O technology landscape. It is different than a conventional new software solution; Tect addresses the unique challenges of a three-sided marketplace and focuses on making it easy for people to connect directly rather than getting too caught up in the technology itself.
We won’t delve further into describing two or three-sided market platforms now. If you are interested in such things, we encourage you to subscribe to our Xpresso newsletter, which covers more AEC/O industries economics discussions. The critical thing is the Tect platform mixes vital components of Google Search, LinkedIn, and dating websites like Match.
If you silently laughed when you read that last part, take heart in this fact. At early stages, architects may want answers from manufacturers without the potential unwanted follow-up. Tect gives architects a stealth mode option to obtain expert feedback anonymously. That feature alone is why every architect should consider looking into the Tect Platform.
Perhaps the most impactful thing about what Tect App, Inc. is doing is that they have made significant partnerships within the industry—with architecture students (the profession’s future) and the AIA in the United States. Earlier last year, both the AIA and the AIAS reached out to Tect to align their efforts to better understand how to deliver benefits to their members.
The AIA understands the power of intermediated technologies that offer game-changing economic benefits. The technologies that make up the Tect solution, by the way, received a 20-claim US patent issued earlier this year.
Everyone who recalls their first Uber ride may remember the powerful combination of significant differences and considerable familiarity. The Tect platform seems perfectly aligned to capitalize on this same phenomenon. Your old relationships aren’t going to go away; it is the nature of your new ones that are going to change. The long-term result is the industry will slowly morph into a more time-optimized relationship between influencers (architects) and sellers (product manufacturers). And that is going to benefit everybody.