When Milot Zeqiri came to New Zealand as a 17-year to escape the Kosovo war he couldn’t speak English and had to rebuild his life.
But now he and Kiwi wife Brittany Gribben have just raised $35 million from local and overseas-based investors to grow their online business, which helps connect people wanting to build or renovate with those selling products and their services.
ArchiPro was launched in 2014 by the couple, who came up with the idea while renovating one of their properties.
“Very quickly we realised how fragmented the industry was. In addition to that, I was working for a company selling products to architects and I knew how difficult it was to get products in front of consumers who were building and architects that are 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 an initial $2m through crowd-funding platform Snowball Effect.
They then received a further $10m from two Melbourne-based entrepreneurs: Ruslan Kogan, of Kogan.com, and Hezi Leibovich – known for founding multiple Australian online marketplaces including Catch.com, Menulog and Scoopon (now Luxury Escapes).
A funding round has been led by New York-based investment managers Tiger Global with support from Icehouse Ventures and Queenstown-based Liger Trading.
Archipro currently employs 140 people mostly in New Zealand and launched in Australia six months ago.
Zeqiri said it would use the money raised to double its workforce and expand its products.
“We are looking to double the workforce in the next 12 to 16 months. If we are able to hire fast enough, we are going to be over 300 team members.”
Its head office is in Auckland’s Parnell and there are Australian offices in Sydney and Melbourne. There are plans to expand to Queensland by the end of the year.
“We are expanding fast and the traction over there has been incredible.”
“We have had to reforecast numbers three times in the last three months to keep up with demand.”
But he said the past few years had not been without its challenges because of Covid-19 forcing building work to stop and start, a shortage of workers and supply chain issues getting products into the country.
“The fluctuating construction costs and supplier shortages seen during the pandemic show a heightened need for the industry to work more closely together to keep projects on track.
“ArchiPro brings all of the verticals involved with the wider industry together under
one roof, so that users can find, source, and budget for everything they need within one place, from the architects, landscapers and interior designers, to the construction materials and home furnishing products.”
The business earns money through service providers paying a one-off membership fee while product suppliers paid a subscription fee.
It has more than 400,000 active users, 4000 live building projects and more than 40,000 products across Australia and New Zealand.
Zeqiri said a public share market listing was in the plan for the company which also plans to expand to North America and Europe.
“The plan is that we will most likely IPO. It’s not on the books right now, but we will deal with it at the time.
“Our focus at the moment is to keep simplifying the end-to-end building experience for people building. That is our main focus.”
The company isn’t yet profitable and Zeqiri said its focus was growth at the moment.
He said coming to New Zealand after fleeing the war in Kosovo had been hard.
“I can relate to what is happening in Ukraine at the moment as well. Coming here it took us a while to get used to how friendly everyone was and seeing police on the streets and knowing they are there to help you not kill you – it was quite a transition for anyone.”
But he said coming here he saw the opportunities and wasn’t going to take anything for granted.
“I started working really hard and trying to learn English while having different jobs and at the age of 22 I was able to purchase my first house in St Heliers.
“It was a lot easier back then the prices weren’t as high as they were now. I had a lot of determination and I think having seen what I have seen back home I think when I came here I wanted to make a difference, give back to New Zealand, and I feel what we are doing right now – having the ability to employ over 140 staff, it really does give me that sense of pride in what we have been able to achieve.”
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