Uber for subbies to shake-up building industry


It's a chronic problem on building sites.

Running short of supplies, subbies have to waste time and money driving off to pick them up or twiddle their thumbs as they wait on a late delivery.

That's a lot of lost productivity. Industry research shows that tradies make unplanned trips to the hardware store on one in every three jobs, adding about $2bn in extra labour and vehicle costs each year.

But a wave of start-ups in Australia are now aiming to address that issue with an express and on-demand service to supply materials that can be accessed via a website or smartphone app.

Darren Wallis of GJ Gardner.
Darren Wallis of GJ Gardner.

One of these new players, trading as Getter, has just attracted $1.4m in a capital raising from about 15 investors as it looks to ramp up a foothold in Brisbane in the year ahead.

The biggest single punter in that group is Darren Wallis, the Sunshine Coast-based chairman and major shareholder of residential building giant GJ Gardner Homes.

"There's a gap in the market and this is an amazing opportunity,'' Wallis told City Beat on Monday.

"It could revolutionise how tradies get supplies delivered.''

The potential efficiencies for the nation's $360bn a year construction industry are substantial, with likely flow on benefits for consumers in the form of lower prices, he said.

Wallis, who started at GJ Gardner as an accountant in 1994 and rose to spend just over 20 years as CEO, will be spreading the word to the group's franchisees nationwide.

"So far the feedback is fantastic. They love it,'' he said.


Getter launched in Sydney last March after boss Tom Burton and his fellow co-founders in the building sector repeatedly saw jobs run over time and over budget because of hold-ups accessing materials.

"At a macro level, the Australian construction industry has a longstanding problem with not being able to procure its trade materials efficiently, meaning tradies either visit wholesalers themselves, or worse, wait hours and sometimes days for their supplies to be delivered," he said.

Tom Burton, chief executive of Getter.
Tom Burton, chief executive of Getter.

"As tradies themselves, the Getter founders have seen first-hand the lost productivity that ensues when products or tools need replacing, whether that be on large-scale commercial tower building sites, project home sites or landscaping projects."

The business makes money through a simple Uber-style pick-up and delivery of goods. It also offers to source products, charging an additional fee based on the value of the material.

Burton told us that Getter has already grown its registered users from 800 to about 3500.

He's aiming to dramatically expand that to about 30,000 across Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in the next 12 months, with a revenue target of around $14m.

Two other competitors, Delivertrade and Rendr, are also active in the space, although their business models differ somewhat.

The idea has also sprouted in North America, where two Canadian firms, Toolbx and Renorun, have shaken up the sector.

Renorun only started operation in 2017 but within two years it was able to secure $23m in funding from private equity groups.

Originally published as Uber for subbies to shake-up Brisbane's building industry

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