‘Do you truly know the problem you are solving?’ Founder’s Thoughts, Josh Graham
By Henna Mehta
EHAB is a Construction Technology start-up that helps to measure, minimise, and mitigate weather risk across construction projects. Due to the increasing impacts of climate change on weather patterns, construction companies are facing new challenges and risks everyday. EHAB’s digital solution helps companies tackle weather risks across the entire project lifecycle, whilst also helping the construction sector work towards a net-zero. Henna, Head of Beaumont Bailey’s Advisory Network, sat down with CEO & Founder, Josh Graham to discuss EHAB’s exciting growth in the ConTech sector.
How did you break into the industry?
I studied environmental science, and sustainable construction is a key part of the transition to a more sustainable world. I’ve always been passionate about positive change and wanted to find a valuable and meaningful solution to help the industry work towards solving the climate crisis. We realised that weather risk was a key issue within the construction sector through extensive research and analysis. Our research outcomes have been backed by various grants, which have allowed us to produce the Weather Ledger platform and help companies on their journey towards a net-zero. Increasing impacts of the climate crisis on weather patterns now mean that global construction projects need innovative solutions to manage risk.
What were the initial challenges you faced when starting out?
There was initially a massive distrust in technology across the sector. It’s a very traditional industry, so tech isn’t always an easy sell. I didn’t have any contacts or a network within the sector, and many initial discussions were cold outreaches. We also didn’t have any investors we could leverage for introductions to potential clients, and the initial accelerator program we joined didn’t work out. It can be hard to enter a well-established sector and encourage businesses to work with you when you’re new to the space. We’ve certainly seen interest in our offering, though, so we know there is an appetite from the market. My initial founding partner also wanted to pursue a different path, and we eventually parted ways, so adapting to that was quite a challenge. Thankfully, I could source some great team members who believed in the company vision and the direction I wanted to take things.
How did you find the transition from founder to CEO?
Although I’m relatively young, I’ve had a lot of experience managing big groups of people and projects. I’ve done a lot of charity work and fundraising, where I managed multiple campaigns and large teams. That’s helped with my leadership position as we’ve scaled the team. I also read the book ‘the hard thing about hard things’, it really helped structure my role as CEO.
What is the hiring process like for a Seed company?
It isn’t easy. To get great talent, you need a clear structure or a partnership with a high-quality recruiter. We don’t have the budget to outsource right now, so we must develop a clear recruitment process. I took a lot of inspiration from Google’s recruitment process; it helped plan our internal processes. We carry out a cultural, team, and tech interview and ensure candidates match key traits that align with the company vision. It’s helped us to source some fantastic talent.
You’re now a Seed-stage company. What are the new challenges you’re facing in the ConTech space?
Post pandemic, we’ve realised that people’s ears are open, and the construction industry is listening. Digital transformation has accelerated over the past few years, and a lot of that is because companies had to adapt to Covid restrictions. However, as we’re working with companies, we’re seeing that the tech they use isn’t good at collecting data on the problems they have. There aren’t clear metrics or structures in place, which certainly makes it harder for our analytics solutions.
What has helped transform your business over the last year?
Joining the Advisory Network has genuinely helped us. It’s given us insights from some great businesses, which has enabled us to finalise our pitch decks and business plans. The scheme supported us in growing our network in the sector, and our advisor has helped put us in front of the right people. I’m grateful for the support George has provided us; it truly has transformed our business.
If you could go back, would you do anything differently?
I wouldn’t change anything. However, reflecting on the design thinking process, I would question the assumptions I had. I would identify people who could tell me if my assumptions are right or wrong – you’ve got to really test your assumptions and I perhaps wasn’t asking the right questions at first. I would also suggest having mentors and advisors who can really support you to build a start-up from the ground up. It’s been invaluable for us.
What advice would you give to other early stage founders?
Some founders have it figured out, and some don’t. For those that don’t, I would tell them to ask themselves, do you know the problem you are solving? Do you know the drivers of that problem? You need to fully understand the contributors to an issue to understand if you’re offering the best solution or service possible – before diving in too deep, really do your research. As a founder, there is also this expectation that you will succeed, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a failure when things go haywire. Nothing is perfect for me; not every pitch was great or was won, so you’ve got to keep going and learn from those experiences. You have to be persistent. If you believe in your vision, then stick to it.
What will help you with your Series A?
Finding the right people to deliver our vision. Finding those senior leaders, advisors and investors are the hard part. Once you have the right people around you, it will all fall into place. Also, I think being able to pivot the business when required will be vital. Making micro tactical movements is essential, ensuring you’re adapting to the ever-changing market.
As a founder, are you able to manage your personal and work life well?
Most founders are in the workaholic phase. You’re working on multiple projects and overseeing the entire company, so that can be stressful. I have a supportive group of friends and family which helps so much. I might not see them as often as I’d like, but I switch off from work when I do. I think it’s essential to have that network around you so you can separate work from your personal life. And finding the balance between work and going to the pub (although I’d love to go to the pub more!). I’ve also been doing yoga for years, and I think that certainly helps keep my mind and body healthy.
Any final advice for new Founders?
Have a North star. Always have a vision and strive towards it.