ESV Client Spotlight: 15 Minutes with David Hartigan, CEO and Founder of TEKTUM Limited

David Tektum3

ESV Client Spotlight: 15 Minutes with David Hartigan, CEO and Founder of TEKTUM Limited


Tell us about your business

TEKTUM designs and manufactures modular buildings, predominantly residential but also commercial, childcare, healthcare and hospitality. We have developed a disruptive technology, the SPACE2.0 building platform, to transform the pre-industrial construction industry into a high-tech one. We create desirable, efficient, sustainable, healthy and safe buildings. They are true high performance buildings that we produce in a factory environment so customers get higher quality for a lower cost.


How did the idea for your business come about?

My background is as a builder and project manager, and my founding business partner was an architect. We met through professional projects and had similar beliefs about the industry and the future of building. We both saw an opportunity to make construction more efficient and knew that to modularise was the way to do it. About five years ago I was a partner in large professional services business when we had a generous take-over offer, and saw it as the opportunity to get started. I cashed in my chips and headed off.


What are some of the challenges you faced in the initial stage of starting your own business?

The biggest constraint was capital – and it continues to be. Our business is a very capital hungry proposition and the challenge of raising capital is ongoing.


What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

One failure was trying to be too perfect. We tried too hard to get the product 100% right in the first instance and really should have released our product to market earlier. We know now that in-market customer experience and feedback is a very effective way to refine and build the perfect product.


What would you say are the top three skills needed to be successful in business?

Perseverance, the ability to be adaptable and pure hard work. With my skills in construction and project management I was somewhat prepared, however the depth of skill required to run a business is deep and broad.


Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?

At the risk of a cliché, it really is Henry Ford and Ford Motors, way back when. His genius - his real genius – was not so much developing the moving production line, but realising and fixing the problem of production tolerances in the making of cars. Ford eliminated all the tolerances which allowed him to build a manufacturing production line. We are trying to emulate that by converting a construction project into a manufactured product.


How has working with external business advisors helped you?

We have worked with ESV for about four years. Early on in the piece, when we were raising capital, we “listed” with the Australian Small Scale Offerings Board (ASSOB) and had to become an unlisted Public Company. Tim (Valtwies, ESV partner) was instrumental in helping us through this process and we really value ESV’s ongoing support. We are no longer on ASSOB, but maintain our Public Company status, which ensures the highest level of governance and transparency for our shareholders. Tim is very proactive on a technical level but also offers great insight into the nature of our business and the challenges we face. His advice goes way beyond the call of duty and we value that immensely.


What motivates you?

We’ve had five years of engineering and design and we’re now ready to commercialise on a significant scale. We’ve been doing small scale projects, however the market is now coming to us and it’s a really exciting time. The product is ready, the company is ready, the infrastructure is ready and team is ready. We intend to leapfrog this business from being a small company to a very large company in a short period of time. It’s very exciting and what motivates me every day.


What is the one piece of advice you would give to others hoping to start their own business?

Go in with your eyes wide open. I believe no one would go into business for themselves if they knew how hard it was actually going to be but you have to give it a go and it is fantastically rewarding. So go in with your eyes open and keep your eyes open because you are going to learn something new every day.


In one word, characterise your life as a business owner.