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the challenge revisited

Lauren Hasegawa, left and Mallorie Brodie are the co-founders of Bridgit, a company that makes software that tracks construction deficiencies.Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Hasegawa, who invented a smartphone app that tracks construction defects for commercial builders, had a tiger by the tail.

Bridgit, which they jointly founded in Waterloo, Ont., in December of 2012, launched a cloud-based communications platform that helped manage deficiencies on construction sites. The smartphone application lets site supervisors take photos of cracks in drywall, crooked nails and chipped paint, share them with employees and track the problems to resolution.

Left unchecked, minor deficiencies can delay projects and result in costly repairs and lawsuits.

Ms. Hasegawa is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., with a degree in structural engineering, and Ms. Brodie has an MBA from Western's Ivey Business School.

Together they got the attention of the industry. More than 600 subcontractors used the pilot version at condo, hospital and other building sites in Ontario and Manitoba before the commercial version, dubbed Closeout, officially launched.

Feedback was so good that they began to wonder: Why confine their invention to a specific industry? Why not turn it into some kind of a handy tool for consumers as well? This became their dilemma, as told in the original Small Business Challenge column about Bridgit published last February.

In other words, should they stay the course or look for wider applications of their app?

The experts polled in the column were unanimous in their opinion: Bridgit should stay focused on its original objective. Ms. Hasegawa and Ms. Brodie heeded that advice; it had been their instinct all along.

"We decided that the consumer market is not an area that we will pursue in the near future," Ms. Brodie said in a recent interview. "We should be focusing on the area where we were gaining traction."

As more business customers signed on, it became clear that they made the right decision. Since then, the company's growth has been rapid.

Earlier this year, Bridgit launched Closeout. The cloud-based mobile app and Web platform is designed so that even the least tech-savvy can use it easily.

"On a construction site, every minute counts," Ms. Brodie pointed out, "and we've designed our product to fit that need."

Today, the app is being used on sites across Canada and the United States and by top general contractors and architects, she said. Growth has amounted to 20 per cent month over month, she said.

In October, Bridgit was named to the Canadian Innovation Exchange's top 20 list of Canada's most innovative companies working in digital media and information and communication technology.

But Ms. Hasegawa and Ms. Brodie are not resting on their laurels. They are testing integration of their software with smart glasses and Thalmic Labs' Myo armband, which senses hand and finger gestures.

Since launching Closeout the pair have also been collecting feedback from customers, and they will launch a new version in the spring. It will target not only general contractors but architects, developers and building owners, too. "It will also include more robust task management and an improved user interface."