"It's our future, let's build it together"

5 Questions with Jonathan Godbout

December 4, 2020

How did you conceive the idea for an app such as iBUILD?

Jonathan Godbout,
Co-Founder and Chief Innovative Officer (CIO), iBUILD

I first met my fellow co-founders while I was running a pro-bono consulting program at IBM. At the time, Ronald Omyonga (one of our fellow founders), was working with Habitat for Humanity in East Africa on a program called Housing Support Services (HSS). In short, HSS is used to refer to all the technical support a future homeowner requires to build a home such as architectural services, contractor, and engineering services. Ronald had the idea to deliver these services via mobile application, and he began talks with my other founders (Lew Schulman and Nancy Welsh) to explore the possibilities. I was introduced to the three of them and over a six-month period, I help them architect and lay out a strategy for developing and bringing to market their concept in Kenya. At the end of the 6 months and many interviews with contractors, developers, financiers, homeowners, and workers, I helped them successfully pitch MasterCard’s Innovation Lab in Nairobi. Once we had gotten accepted, I left my job at IBM to start the company with them as the Chief Innovation Officer.

What kinds of services does iBUILD provide to consumers?

Designed as a virtual marketplace connecting customers with hardware stores, architects, lenders, workers, and contractors, iBUILD enables small scale construction markets in developing nations to scale to the exponentially growing demands by providing access in a “one-stop shop”. The iBUILD mobile phone application is designed to lower the transaction costs of construction, whilst also providing households with access to affordable financing and technical support services. We have expanded our solution to connect real estate developers and large program management entities into the ecosystem by offering both our mobile application as well as our web application and USSD phone app.

In your Tech Talk at Central Maine Tech Night this month, you will be speaking about how iBUILD was founded. What are your plans for growth within the next few years?

We are currently in the middle of closing our Series B round which is expected to close in Q1 of 2021. With this funding, we expect to scale up our marketing spend and grow our current user base in East Africa, and enter our target strategic markets of Nigeria, India, and Indonesia. Furthermore, we plan to add new social features to our mobile application in the coming year to assist homeowners with planning their construction, sharing ideas, and connecting with local professionals via a social feed. We have strategic partnerships with Mahindra Finance (India), World Bank (Indonesia), Family Home Funds (Nigeria), Shelter Afrique (pan Africa Real Estate developer), and Miyamoto (global disaster assistance engineering firm).

What resources, partners, and companies have been helpful to iBUILD as the company has continued to grow?

Habitat for Humanity has always been critical to our success both as an investor and their market entry and strategic partner support. Our capital partners that provide financing and subsidy to our end users have been extremely helpful for driving usage in the market. For example, Mahindra finance plans to launch with us next year in India where they will start us off with over 130,000 of their existing home loan recipients, and World Bank is integrating us into a home retrofit program in Indonesia expected to scale to over 100,000 households. From a technology development standpoint, we have an in-house engineering and testing team located in Kenya. I have taken on local interns (5 since COVID started), and I look forward to building a team locally to work with Kenya counterparts as the company looks to grow in the future. Finally, we are always grateful for our many other partners that have allowed us to make strategic connections as we grow which includes MasterCard Innovation Labs, Center for Affordable Housing Finance Africa, World Bank, IBM, Shelter Afrique, Safaricom, Mahindra, and Miyamoto.

How do you plan to expand iBUILD’s services into other countries or markets?

We are focused on preparing for internationalization and establishing strong partnerships with organizations that have cross-border presence. We only enter new markets when we know we have a strong partner in the market that can drive user growth onto the platform and assist with market entry. Habitat for Humanity, World Bank, and other international entities have been great for helping us across all markets we plan to enter. Finally, we believe it is always key to have a local operations manager and team in every market that has a deep understanding of technology, construction, and housing finance.

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Last modified: June 18, 2021

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