Spanish startup MatMap gives a second lease of life to used construction materials that account for almost a third of EU waste
The need to recycle household waste is an issue that much of the public is now aware of and taking into consideration, but the environmental problems posed by other kinds of waste barely figure on their radar. MatMap is a Spanish startup dedicated to the construction sector, with a platform that lets retail customers and industry professionals buy and sell second-hand construction materials.
In the European Union (EU), 25–30% of all waste is from the construction sector. Though bulky and cumbersome to dispose of, construction and demolition waste has a high potential for recycling and re-use due to its longevity, the value of some of its components and the ever-increasing cost of using landfills for disposal.
The development of this market is also strongly driven by EU legislation, such as the Waste Framework Directive, which stipulates a minimum 70% recycling rate for non-hazardous construction and demolition waste by 2020. As a result, the European recycled construction and demolition services market is predicted to grow to US$23.85 billion in 2020 from US$18.75 billion in 2013.
"We provide a channel for companies to put their demolition waste material, discontinued products and leftover construction material on the market again," María Martínez Moreno, Matmap's co-founder and CEO, told CompassList. "At the same time, we offer a wide catalog of construction materials to any professional who is going to build, so they can find a local, more sustainable and economical solution."
Moreno was inspired to establish her company, together with partner Marc Alemany, after a short stint working in the Netherlands with sustainable design company Superuse Studios. There, she learned how to build with reused materials, where to find them and the wide range of possibilities of working with them.
"When I came back to Spain, I realized no one was doing anything similar, so I started to investigate how this could be done here, initially freelancing until registering our company in June 2018," she explained. Though the company is actually called Repichem, MatMap is the trademark for all business activity.
One person's trash is another's treasure
The company's development progressed rapidly after winning the Business Idea Competition in Cyprus in July 2017. Right after, MatMap started working with the Lanzadera incubator in Valencia, and a few months later, in January 2018, started its "Garage" program.
"Work was hard at the beginning, due to having to work with logistics and transportation as well as sales of used recycled construction materials," Moreno said. Then, prior to registering the company, in April 2018, MatMap secured its first sale, and, in October 2018, was selected as one of the 100 finalists at the Madrid South Summit in the B2B Services category.
Until now, MatMap has offered a simple catalog of materials via a WordPress webpage with the marketplace charging a percentage of each material transaction as commission. "As we realized from the start that logistics was essential to completing almost any transaction, we also charge the transport service provider a commission," Moreno said.
MatMap's first version assisted the co-founders in understanding the market, finding out what the more popular products are, and acquiring know-how. The company has hired a group of web developers to develop its new platform for launch in April 2019. "Our main target is construction professionals and more specifically, medium-size companies with more than four employees," Moreno says. "However, as we wanted to be on the market as soon as possible, we decided to start selling to individuals. This taught us how to manage orders, so when professionals arrived, we were ready."
In the first eight days of February 2019, MatMap performed 105 transactions and attended to 90 clients. Its average transaction is around €450, but transactions range from €100 to €5,000.
The company received financial assistance from Lanzadera, and has seen friends and family investing €30,000 in all. It has reinvested the revenues generated to date and has no current plans for any financing rounds. It remains focused on improving its technology and expansion across Spain, which it hopes to achieve by the end of 2019. Currently, it mainly serves the Valencia and Murcia regions.
To date, its only competitors are offline. Several warehouses sell the same type of materials but they are not digitized, and unlike MatMap, often don’t even have a list of their available stock.
"Applying circular economy principles to the construction sector is a huge challenge, but we couldn’t be more motivated," Moreno concluded. "Material management in the construction sector has to change and we are here to make it possible."
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