ArchiPro co-founders Milot Zeqiri and Brittany Gribben. Photo / Provided
When Milot Zeqiri arrived in New Zealand aged 17 to escape the Kosovo war, he spoke no English and had to rebuild his life.
But now he and his Kiwi wife, Brittany Gribben, have just
raised $35 million from local and foreign investors to grow its online business, which connects people looking to build or renovate with those selling products and their services.
ArchiPro was started in 2014 by the couple, who came up with the idea while renovating one of their properties.
“Very quickly we realized how fragmented the industry was. On top of that, I worked for a company that sold products to architects and I knew how difficult it was to bring products to consumers who were building and to architects who were looking to identify products,” Zeqiri said.
“We quit our jobs and moved into a two bedroom unit and set out to transform the industry – not just in New Zealand but globally.”
The couple self-funded the business for the first four years by selling their property, then raised $2 million through crowdfunding platform Snowball Effect.
They then received an additional $10 million from two Melbourne-based entrepreneurs: Ruslan Kogan, of Kogan.com, and Hezi Leibovich – known for founding several Australian online marketplaces including Catch.com, Menulog and Scoopon (now Luxury Escapes ).
A funding round was led by New York-based investment managers Tiger Global, with backing from Icehouse Ventures and Queenstown-based Liger Trading.
Archipro currently employs 140 people mainly in New Zealand and launched in Australia six months ago.
Zeqiri said he would use the money raised to double his workforce and expand his products.
“We’re looking to double headcount over the next 12-16 months. If we’re able to hire quickly enough, we’ll be over 300 team members.”
Its head office is in Auckland’s Parnell and there are Australian offices in Sydney and Melbourne. It is planned to expand to Queensland by the end of the year.
“We’re growing fast and the traction there has been amazing.”
“We’ve had to re-forecast the numbers three times in the last three months to keep up with demand.”
But he said the past few years had not been without challenges due to Covid-19 forcing construction work to stop and start, a shortage of workers and supply chain issues to make bring the products into the country.
“The fluctuating construction costs and supplier shortages seen during the pandemic show an increased need for industry to work more closely together to keep projects on track.
“ArchiPro brings together all verticals involved in the wider industry under
one roof, so users can find, source and budget for everything they need in one place, from architects, landscapers and interior designers to building materials and furniture products.”
The company earns money through service providers who pay a one-time fee while product providers pay subscription fees.
It has over 400,000 active users, 4,000 live construction projects and over 40,000 products in Australia and New Zealand.
Zeqiri said a stock market listing is planned for the company, which also plans to expand into North America and Europe.
“The plan is that we will most likely go public. It’s not on the books at the moment, but we’ll deal with it then.
“Our goal at the moment is to continue to simplify the end-to-end building experience for people who build. That’s our main goal.”
The business is not yet profitable, and Zeqiri said his focus is on growth for now.
He said coming to New Zealand after fleeing the war in Kosovo had been difficult.
“I can also understand what is happening in Ukraine at the moment. Coming here, it took us a while to get used to the friendliness of everyone and to see the police on the streets and to know that they are there. to help you not kill yourself – that was quite a transition for anyone.”
But he said that coming here he saw the opportunities and was not going to take anything for granted.
“I started working really hard and trying to learn English whilst having different jobs and at the age of 22 I was able to buy my first house in St Heliers.
“It was a lot easier back then, the prices weren’t as high as they are now. I had a lot of determination and I think after seeing what I saw back home, I think when I came here I wanted to make a difference, to give back to New Zealand, and I feel what we’re doing right now – having the capacity to employ over 140 people, it really gives me that sense of proud of what we have been able to accomplish.”