Yardlink is the start-up trying to bring construction sites into the 21st century

Construction is one of the largest industries in the world, but with so little disruption, things have largely remained the same.

The industry has dragged when it comes to entering the digital age, and its $1 trillion supply chain business is largely handled by phone, email, and even pen and paper.

It means that there is ample opportunity for change.

Canadian Neeral Shah was exposed to some challenges in the industry after a stint with his family’s manufacturing company across Asia, buying and financing heavy equipment and raw materials for construction buyers around the world.

Startup Yardlink is trying to eliminate inefficiencies in the UK construction supply chain

He left the company after seven years and moved to London to work for a pet start-up and build a digital marketplace. That’s where the idea for Yardlink was born.

‘I became a marketplace student. The whole Uber/Airbnb model connecting two parties… It was a blossoming moment,” says Shah.

“I thought there had to be a connection between the construction supply chain and the concept of the digital marketplace. I had the idea and went to work with it.’

Six months later, Yardlink was launched in 2018.

At the core of its offering, Yardlink claims to provide a way for construction companies to get equipment much faster than normal rental companies.

‘There are many different stakeholders in construction projects.

‘There is a contractor at the top who coordinates the project with dozens of contractors. That’s where things get complex.

“No two projects are the same – you can’t copy and paste them,” says Shah.

Neeral Shah launched Yardlink in 2018

Neeral Shah launched Yardlink in 2018

‘Everything is an unknown. You could start digging, hit a cable and the whole project would be thrown off course.

“We help coordinate the main contractors and subcontractors and make sure they get what they want on time, whether it’s materials or equipment.”

One of the biggest problems for suppliers is a lack of stock or vehicles to transport the goods, which prevents them from completing the orders.

It’s a vicious cycle in which construction sites suffer constant delays, often forcing companies to use expensive suppliers miles away.

“Without Yardlink, companies considering hiring an excavator or purchasing concrete call five to ten suppliers to request availability. This can take hours, sometimes days, and most likely the answer is no.

‘A customer can come to us and have direct access to the entire supply chain for the UK.

“Where something took maybe four weeks, we can bring that back to the next day. That is supercritical construction.’

What started as a rental company has now transformed into a complete supply chain management platform, giving contractors access to suppliers of tools, equipment, fuel, waste management and other services.

It can all be bought and booked through the platform.

A new generation of buyers open to technology

There is plenty of opportunity for Yardlink to make a mark in an industry that is a digital laggard.

‘The manufacturing industry has been adopted and digitized to a certain extent. If construction caught up, it would raise £1.6 trillion a year. There is a huge hunger in the market,’ says Shah.

Why has the construction industry remained so averse to digitization and why has there been so little disruption?

‘There are a few areas where it was very difficult to apply technology. One is that you can’t copy and paste projects. Every project is different, so it’s hard to make a plan and stick to it.

“We are not the first to try this, but I think now is the right time. We’ve seen this new generation of buyers enter the market with these construction companies.

“In their private lives they use Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, so Yardlink is a familiar concept, even though it may not be known in construction as a whole.

That is a huge generational change. We’re hitting the iron while it’s hot… when there’s new technology that can make things cheaper, faster and easier, construction companies are all for it.”

Yardlink is digitizing the $1 trillion construction supply chain by connecting customers with suppliers

Yardlink is digitizing the $1 trillion construction supply chain by connecting customers with suppliers

The industry needs all the help it can get right now, following the disruption caused by Brexit and the pandemic.

“Brexit has been a big one – supply chain disruption has definitely happened there. Then just generally with inflation where it is, material costs have gone through the roof.

“If you’re a contractor and you promise a price to a developer and over the course of the project your raw materials go up significantly, it’s very hard to stick to your budget, so they’re really pressured with profits.”

According to Shah, Yardlink has seen a surge in interest in recent months. It now partners with 500 companies, with 3,000 clients – and claims to have completed 10,000 projects to date.

How is construction going this year?

The construction sector is facing significant headwinds with fewer projects in the market and a shift outside London, but Shah remains optimistic.

“There is a catch-up in commercial space, with people coming back to the office to some degree. You see many projects of foreign companies that build their headquarters here.

“It’s been a tough year, but considering where we are, supply chains will be even tougher than ever before.

Dave Fishwick

“Due to rising costs and increasing credit risk, many suppliers go bankrupt because they are not paid on time. From the customer’s perspective, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find what you need on the spot.

“It’s an opportune time for Yardlink to be in the market. We have these customers who need these goods right away but can’t get them and we’re basically there to fill the gap.”

There are no signs that Yardlink will slow down anytime soon, having secured a $17.5 million Series A round of funding, led by Beringea, in late 2022.

“In the UK alone there is a £50 billion market in construction. We have a huge market ahead of us…financial offers, getting suppliers paid faster, providing financing for customers…’

There is also talk of launching the platform across Western Europe and eventually North America.

This is part of our new series looking at companies disrupting industries that traditionally lack innovation.

We’ll be looking at some of the most exciting companies in industries we encounter every day that want to do things a little differently.

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