Dimitry Demin - “The start-up coaching provided by BFH was extremely useful”
“You have to find your first customers quickly. This also enables you to quickly understand exactly how the product has to be structured to ensure it’s successful,” reveals Dimitry Demin, the founder of AlgoTecture. The start-up uses algorithms to simplify planning procedures in the construction industry.
Mr Demin, what’s the business idea behind your start-up?
We provide valuable data and information about existing buildings, including their geometry, within a short space of time. We also apply our algorithms to link this information with usage requirements and to simplify planning procedures. AlgoTecture also has its own framework which guarantees the availability of information about structural properties of decentralized programmes.
What does that mean precisely?
We provide planners, architects or investors with information about existing buildings: how they look and what their dimensions are, etc. We also provide calculations on the environmental performance of buildings. Then there’s comprehensive plans. We produce proposals for specific plots of land in municipalities: Which type of buildings are particularly well suited and which have the greatest chance of market success? What type of housing is best? We also provide virtual tours of the buildings when the plans are complete. Our Freemium concept plays a key role: the basic services are free, but we charge for supplementary ones.
Why is that a good business concept?
We drastically simplify design, building and operational processes by providing an intelligent framework. No other companies provide such rapid and specific analyses. This makes life easier for architects and investors, and hopefully, later families, too.
Where did this idea come from?
I asked myself why real estate and accommodation in Switzerland is so expensive (he laughs). Why do you have to pay CHF 40 or 50 a month per square metre? Together with some architects we know we analysed why that is: Planning must be simplified and buildings constructed in a more affordable and eco-friendly way. I studied applied mathematics in Russia and then graduated as an engineer in Germany. I then completed a Master in Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. My broad education is standing me in good stead now as my vision is to combine imaginative, modern architecture with computer science technologies. I want to create buildings that are environmentally friendly and aesthetically pioneering.
You founded your start-up in 2016. What stage is the company at now?
My partner and I are still in the development phase. We’ve achieved the first milestones, for example, by collecting various data on a platform and configuring it so that it can also be used by customers. We’re currently working on two reference projects: one of them, which is in Germany, will be completed in 2022, while the other in Switzerland is still at planning stage. I currently dedicate around 90% of my time to programming. I use the rest of my time to keep partners and investors up to speed about the latest developments via a newsletter. I’m also working as a research assistant at BFH’s Institute for Urban Development and Infrastructure.
Did you often have doubts?
No, not very often. Although, you obviously frequently question whether you’re on the right path. There are constant doubts until you’ve secured your first partners. Furthermore, partners and investors obviously also add pressure and want to see interim results. Effective communication and ensuring all parties involved know exactly what the next steps are going to be is vitally important. However, I’ve always believed that there’s a market for our concept.
What appeals to you in particular about your role as a start-up founder?
That I’ve got the opportunity to change social circumstances through creative work. Founding a start-up is a long journey. You need to retain your composure when you experience setbacks and you also simply have to accept defeat at certain points. Nevertheless, you also have to take precautionary measures to ensure that defeat does not spell the end.
What support was particularly important during the start-up phase?
The support provided by BFH. I attended a start-up coaching course run by Aron Braun which was extremely useful. Various companies were invited and I obtained a great deal of practical help: How do you acquire customers? How do you secure investors and draw up the dossier required? We were also provided with a good overview of the entrepreneurship scene in Switzerland. The subsequent discussions with BFH’s spin-off office and Andreas Eigenheer provided us with more in-depth insights. What I found astonishing is that while the Swiss construction industry generates high levels of revenue and has remained successful even during the pandemic, it’s difficult to find investors who are interested in an overarching solution. An extensive network of contacts and personal dialogue are key factors when it comes to establishing trust and combining interests.
What should people setting up their own companies pay particular attention to?
The importance of finding your first customers quickly. This also enables you to quickly understand exactly how the product needs to be structured to ensure it’s successful.
What do you hope to achieve in future?
Over the next few years, we’d like to achieve continuous growth and to leave our mark on the real estate market. We aim to continually expand our customer base and hope to see the company achieve break-even point within five years. We hope to make life easier for lots of people and ensure aesthetically appealing and more sustainable buildings are constructed.
Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering
Institute for Urban Development and Infrastructure