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“We make timber construction simple and scalable”

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“We make timber construction simple and scalable”

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Wooden modular construction is becoming increasingly important. With this innovative construction technology, standardized wooden modules are manufactured industrially and assembled on site to form a wide variety of buildings. In an interview with founder Josua Brett, you will find out how the startup ModuGen is transforming traditional construction concepts through innovative approaches and is changing the industry sustainably with its unique approach to sustainable construction.

By Ariane Lindemann

Joshua, your journey from a traditional timber construction company to a pioneer in timber modular construction is impressive. When you were 20, you took over your parents’ business while you were studying…

I grew up in a timber construction company, which I took over in 2017 after my father’s sudden death. I always wanted to be self-employed and had already gained practical experience on construction sites during my holidays, but had little knowledge of timber construction. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to continue like this and that changes were necessary. Our traditional timber construction company with carpentry work such as roof renovations, carports, etc. was not really structured. I wanted to do something new and, together with my mother, I decided on modular wooden construction.

Why wooden modular construction?

Wooden modular construction offered clear structures and was in vogue at the time. These are 3D room cells that are already equipped, some with tiled bathrooms, electrical installations, etc. We built a new hall, but actually didn’t have a real business model and no customers. It was all a bit naive. But we recognized the potential of timber construction and the growing demand for sustainable building solutions. Despite initial difficulties, we fought hard for our place in this market and have increased our sales significantly since then.

How did the idea for ModuGen come about?

As a general contractor who also takes on the planning of buildings, I noticed many inefficiencies in this planning phase. Normally we draw an architectural model and the architect takes over the planning.

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What are the consequences?

In the digital world there is a break between architecture and specialist planners such as structural engineers, building physicists or soundproofers. This means that the information for the 3D building model is not transferred from the architect to the specialist planner digitally, but is still on paper or partly as a PDF. This means that only a very small part of the data is extracted for the specialist planners and 3D planning is completely missing.

Does that mean everything has to be done again?

Yes, although the 3D representation is already present in the architectural model and also forms the basis for the other specialist planners. For example, if I want to calculate the building envelope, I need the external walls. In order to calculate the statics, I need to know where the beams and walls are. To do this I need to create a model. This is even more difficult, especially in timber construction than in solid construction.

Why is that?

Because timber construction has a smaller market. Especially 10 to 15 years ago, when no one was thinking about sustainability in construction, the market was even smaller. Accordingly, software companies have not focused on this either.

How did you implement the idea – also financially?

We initially experimented vaguely with the idea and then received financial support from Professor Haghsheno from KIT as part of the Exist program, which gave us enormous support. Although the pandemic made traveling after graduation more difficult, it gave us enough time to build our startup. After three years and a large investment in the peak phase of venture capital, we achieved a valuation of around ten million euros with our vision and some code and secured 1.2 million euros in the seed round. Despite initial challenges, developing our own software was a turning point and the key to success.

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Which wasn’t an easy path…

It was a lengthy process that required a lot of patience and perseverance. We had to put together a team of experts who were skilled in both statics and software development. It was a constant back and forth between theory and practice, but ultimately we managed to develop a product that met our needs.
Originally, we planned to simply sell the software to our customers to increase our sales. But this turned out to be more difficult than expected. Customers were skeptical and problems continued to arise.

Why didn’t it work right away?

Statics is a very complex field that requires a deep understanding of physics and software development. Our challenge was to develop cloud software that automatically performs calculations, which turned out to be extremely difficult as none of us had sufficient experience in these areas. Despite many investments and customer contacts, we were unable to effectively bring the product to market as errors continued to occur, particularly in the area of ​​statics, which was a serious problem as customers depended on correct calculations.

Have you completely revised your business model again?

We completely transformed our business model and decided to use the software internally and build an engineering department to improve the user experience and professionalize our services. ModuGen now offers engineering services to large timber construction companies. Our promise to our customers is to provide these services faster, at a higher quality and at a lower cost than the competition.

How does the software work and what advantages does it offer compared to conventional methods?

Our software uses 3D architectural models to automatically generate structural models, significantly speeding up the design process and producing more accurate results. By automating up to 80 percent of the work steps in timber construction, we significantly shorten throughput times. While traditional offices require between 40 and 60 hours for a single-family home project, we are already able to work in just 4 to 8 hours and continue to optimize to continually minimize turnaround times. Our vision is to make timber construction simple and scalable.

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How has the company developed since then?

We have experienced a huge growth spurt since then. Our services have been very well received by customers and we have been able to significantly increase our sales. We are close to profitability and have a strong team of experts to help us further advance our vision.

Are there competitors?

No, there are no direct competitors. Our business model is unique as it takes an unconventional approach and operates in a market of limited size. The challenge of sustaining such an investment in a market of this size is exceptional and requires a specific focus on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). We are primarily developers and focus on automating lightweight structures, which is unusual in our industry. We see ourselves as pioneers in this field and consider our position to be unique.

And what’s next for ModuGen?

We are currently looking for investors who share our vision and will support us in consolidating and growing our position as a leading company in the field of timber construction. Our plans for the future are ambitious but realistic and we are confident that we can implement them. A partnership with us offers potential investors the opportunity to participate in an innovative and promising company and to benefit from our potential for success.

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