July 4, 2018

By Sean Silcoff – The Globe and Mail

Three months after emerging from credit protection, Vancouver’s BuildDirect.com Technologies Inc. unveiled a new management team on Tuesday that is dominated by former Amazon.com Inc. executives.

Chief technology officer Mukund Mohan, chief revenue officer Ken Stanick and chief merchandising officer Godwin Pavamani, all former Amazon executives and veteran tech-sector operators, assumed their new roles within the past five weeks, said chief executive Dan Park, himself a former Amazon general manager who joined BuildDirect last September, weeks before it filed for court protection.

Stephanie Roberts, a partner with FLG Partners, a San Francisco Bay-area C-level advisory firm and a former chief financial officer with Old Navy and Specialized Bicycle Components, will serve as interim CFO while the company looks for a permanent replacement for former VP of finance John Sotham. He, along with three other senior BuildDirect executives, left the company after voluntarily staying on to help with the financial restructuring, Mr. Park said. Just three members of the eight-person executive team worked for BuildDirect 12 months ago.

“It was an opportunity for me really to build our foundation with a set of world-class executives and really raise the bar on the folks I need to work with to help guide BuildDirect in its next phase of growth,” said Mr. Park, who worked directly with Mr. Mohan and Mr. Stanick at Amazon.

BuildDirect exited creditor protection in late March with a clean balance sheet and US$28-million in fresh financing to take a second crack at building the Amazon of the home-improvement market. Under protection of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the company reduced its debt to US$4-million from US$58-million and brought on Fidelity Investments as an investor, joining past backer Mohr Davidow Ventures of Silicon Valley as well as three B.C.-based lenders who bought equity in the firm. BuildDirect can tap the investor group for an additional US$10-million in equity financing for two months starting Nov. 30 under a call option approved by the court – as long as it hits certain undisclosed metrics.

BuildDirect had been one of Vancouver’s most prominent tech firms, raising more than $100-million in venture financing since its start in 1999. The company, under co-founder and long-time CEO Jeff Booth, built a platform that matched buyers and sellers of heavyweight construction goods, such as flooring, and handled delivery logistics across North America. Annual sales exceeded US$100-million at the company’s peak.

But a risky and costly plan starting in 2014 to overhaul its online platform and add artificial-intelligence capabilities was marred by snags that hurt sales. The company continued to lose money and struggled to raise needed venture funding last year before Mr. Booth resigned, days before it filed for creditor protection in October. He was replaced by Mr. Park, who had joined just weeks before as chief operating officer.

Under Mr. Park’s watch in creditor protection, the company’s sales and cash flows and expenses were better than initial management forecasts and the company retained 99 per cent of its suppliers. BuildDirect has also shifted its focus to increasingly serve contractors rather than rely on do-it-yourselfers, as it looks to generate larger orders and repeat business from professionals.

Mr. Park wouldn’t disclose the company’s financial results since it left creditor protection but said its performance was on plan and that its growth plans for the next few months are “not hyper-aggressive” as its new team takes over and implements the new strategy.