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Saving time through smart tender software

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Saving time through smart tender software

Saving time through smart tender software
This article also appeared in the VG Vision Wintergasten magazine in November 2022.

Saving significant time on going through often hundreds of documents in tenders and bids, who wouldn't want that? Especially now that tenders often become more extensive and integrated. To allow professionals to focus more on what it's all about - creating a high-quality plan - Fedor Klinkenberg and his partner Taco Hiddink, CEO and CTO and co-founders of the tech company Brainial, developed a smart software system using A.I. that saves a lot of time and failure costs. 'This really can be done differently.'

They were brought together by a company that saw the added value of the combination: Fedor Klinkenberg as a business expert with a lot of experience in software applications as well as commercial roles, and Taco Hiddink as a purebred IT expert with specialisation in data analytics and A.I. The techie and the commercial man, a golden combo. Fedor and Taco themselves thought so too but had different ideas about their intended objectives. Fedor Klinkenberg: 'We preferred to start a company with our own product. To establish a real software company and not a consultancy firm. Both of us have been using software to make life easier our whole working lives. We see very intelligent and highly educated, highly paid people with a lot of experience still doing basically 'stupid' work. Endlessly cutting and pasting information because a system needs it. We want to bring fun back into working life. That, as a human being, you can focus again on what really matters.

With one click of a button

With that, by the end of 2019, Brainial was born. Fedor had a lot to do with responding to commercial tenders and European tenders in a previous job, so he knows what he is talking about. Over the years, Taco has increasingly specialised in extracting information from large amounts of unstructured data. Fedor: 'Which is basically what tenders are. We started to take a close look at the tender process and did talk to some 200 tender managers.' In the process, it became clear that tenders are becoming more complex and a lot of information is shared by clients. Sometimes as many as 1,500 documents. What you call a huge pile of reading work, and all in a short time. 'We saw people coming in with big shopping bags, full of folders with all printed documents. A lot of manual work is still being done, such as keeping risk files and task lists. Many tender managers indicated that some important content is sometimes overlooked. All risks could lead to failure costs during execution. We thought, this really can be done differently.'

It eventually led to the mission to develop the most intelligent and trusted tender assistant to help companies write better tender response plans faster. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) plays a crucial role in this. Firstly, all tender documents are analysed by the computer, with sections of text highlighted, classified and linked. Fedor: 'All that is made searchable, allowing you to search all tender documents literally and in context.' And that with one click of a button, where it is normally an endless back-and-forth search between many documents. All previously written plans can also be included, so the material is easily recyclable and you don't have to start from scratch again when writing a new plan or response. Information can also be classified across all documents, for example by a theme such as a bank guarantee. Fedor: 'We started very diagnostic to help people be able to more easily digest, analyse and understand the documents sent to them in a shorter time so that you can write a higher-quality response to the client.'

Guide functions

That, of course, is a huge win. For instance, more tenders can be handled at the same time. But in addition, the men from Brainial also see opportunities in the fact that more and more aspects and requirements are added to tenders. 'It is often about much more than a building. The environment also has to be included, mobility, sustainability, circularity, you name it.' Brainial can help with that too. How does Fedor Klinkenberg see the future direction of the company? 'We will build more and more guiding functions to really guide people in the increasingly complex process. Based on previous tenders handled, we want to start doing matching. An example: we found some selection criteria here and we match them with reference projects. In this way, we can prepare more and more data, so that people are more able to use their experience and their creativity for the strategy to win the project. Because that's what it's all about in the end.' Meanwhile, the company has already grown to 16 people. The start-up, which started at UtrechtInc incubator at Utrecht University, will soon move just down the road to Dotslash, home to scale-ups. It embodies the leap in scale now being made. The growth ambition is therefore high. For instance, the associates want to start serving clients soon, as it too is under time pressure. Any inconsistencies, for instance in payment terms, can be detected. 'Because they are bound to get questions about that from all parties. The client and its people are also working hard to prepare all documents so that the call for tenders is as transparent and fair as possible. In this way, we want to help the entire chain in the long run by making many actions unnecessary with our smart software. With the ultimate common goal: a better living environment, better buildings.'

Grow hard 

The growth ambition is not limited to the Netherlands. The English market is already open and there is a German-language website. For now, Western Europe first. Fedor: "We are going to start on this continent but we already have customers who are active worldwide. How do you roll that out, as a former start-up? 'An investment has already been raised and we are going to have healthy financial figures for next year. The idea is to grow organically, make strides on our own. We're also looking at a different strategy, integrating parts of our technology into other companies' software to make their own systems smarter. That's the second track on which we want to grow hard.' In doing so, is Brainial limited to the real estate market or are the guys looking beyond? 'We ended up in this industry because we see that this is where, among project developers, infrastructure companies, construction companies, the problems regarding tenders are the greatest. They get huge numbers of documents to digest. Whereas in other industries it's often just 20 documents. I was really shocked by the size of these tenders. So we started with the most complex ones, with a great variety also in documents to be included, such as legal documents, geographical maps and construction drawings. If you have to supply, say, office furniture to a school, those are still considerably less complex tenders. Having started in the construction sector, Brainial now has clients from other sectors as well.'

Time savings realized 

In talking to potential customers, it quickly became clear that the company was hitting a nerve. 'This is something people would like to have easier. We do a lot in direct sales approach and offer a one-month evaluation to see if it matches expectations.' The product is now widely used and Brainial can count large companies such as VORM and TBI company Croonwolter&dros among its enthusiastic customers. What do they hear back from these companies? First of all, they say that the time savings are being realized, in understanding the documents 50 to 60 percent faster. That's where we really make progress, especially in actually being able to find information. In many companies right now there is a huge shortage of personnel. The Brainial software allows the existing team to work more efficiently so that there is no need for a new colleague. What is it like to be at the helm as an entrepreneur yourself? And of such a rapidly growing company? Fedor certainly speaks for Taco when he says he likes it "extremely well. 'Not one second of regret. We think it's fantastic to create something together with a group of people. To be able to make an impact together and change the way people work. Plus of course the indirect consequences, for example, the fact that we are contributing to the way VORM is accelerating their housing construction. Because they can do their tenders faster and therefore focus on more tenders at the same time. We are part of that. With that, you also touch on themes that are broad in society. And also think about the cost savings per tender. It costs between 20,000 euros and a couple of tons to go through a tender procedure. If you can make that a little smaller, that quickly makes a huge difference.'


Important core values of the company are integrity, transparency and curiosity. 'That manifests itself in a lot of autonomy,' says Fedor. 'For example, at Brainial you get to decide when and how often you go on vacation, but there is a bit of responsibility in return. Results count. If you deliver what has been agreed and need some rest now and then, that space is there.' The employees are young (between 18 and 40) and mainly come from the field of technical developers such as programmers, data scientists and testers. "We will be scaling up soon as far as the sales side is concerned, though. But it is certainly not just the commercial that is important. For example, Brainial has enthusiastically committed to the Pledge 1% initiative: 1 percent of product, revenue and staff is dedicated to charity. 'For example, we have staff members who teach programming in underprivileged neighbourhoods. They are allowed to devote 1 percent of their time to that. That's how we want to contribute to a more inclusive society.' Where the companions will be a year from now is not hard to predict. There is now a wave of companies that will buy the Brainial software. Fedor: "In terms of turnover, we're going to be ten times this year and three times next year, which makes us a healthy company. A year from now we will be in the middle of preparing for internationalization.'

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