When former landscaper Kevin Forestell co-founded DOZR in 2015, he continued to wear construction boots into the office for two years.
His Kitchener-based company, which provides an online marketplace for the rental of heavy equipment, prides itself on “trust through transparency.”
“The other word that comes up is ‘authentic,’” said Forestell, DOZR’s CEO. “Many of us are from the construction industry. I spent the first two years wearing work boots into the Communitech building where we had our space, and many of our team members – particularly those who speak with customers – can still operate the equipment.”
That first-hand knowledge has helped DOZR pioneer a unique niche in the heavy equipment space. It has also attracted the attention of investors. The company announced today that it has raised CDN$27.5 million through a Series B round.
The money, which follows a seed round of CDN$2.5 million in 2016 and a Series A raise of CDN$14 million in 2019, will help DOZR continue its expansion across the U.S., targeting new markets in Arizona, Washington, Nevada, Colorado and Tennessee.
The investment will also help DOZR double its workforce, from the current 65 to 130 by the end of 2022. The company is headquartered in a former red-brick fire hall at Duke and Wellington Streets, near the Google complex in downtown Kitchener.
“We’ve seen a massive increase in online transactions and the demand to rent equipment online is at an all-time high,” said Forestell. “Contractors are turning to rentals to ease the challenges they are facing in their day-to-day when it comes to finding the equipment they need. DOZR provides these users with a simple and transparent solution.”
A graduate of the University of Guelph’s landscape architecture program, Forestell ran a successful landscaping company prior to starting DOZR with his wife, Erin Stephenson, and his brother, Tim Forestell.
Their experience in construction, where heavy equipment often sat idle between jobs or between seasons, led them to the concept that became DOZR.
The co-founders were accepted into the fall 2015 Google for Entrepreneurs program, which led them to accept space in Communitech’s Tannery building. That led to an invitation to participate in Communitech’s former Rev accelerator program. DOZR won the Rev pitch competition in 2016 and went on to join the first cohort of the Lazaridis Institute ScaleUp program at Wilfrid Laurier University.
“The Lazaridis ScaleUp program was absolutely fantastic – I can’t say enough good things,” said Forestell. “And the same about Communitech. I absolutely love Communitech. Everyone has been super helpful, sharing mentorship and making introductions to investors. There’s just a wealth of knowledge over there.”
When DOZR first launched, it offered a platform for the owners of heavy construction equipment to rent their equipment to others when they weren’t using it themselves.
That model has evolved over the past seven years. The platform is now primarily a space where professional rental companies connect with customers wanting to rent everything from excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks to forklifts, scissor lifts, tractors and more.
The company’s DOZR platform has more than 30,000 rental partner locations, which enables renters to find what they need locally.
As part of the company’s evolution, DOZR also offers e-commerce software in a white-label format that helps construction and rental companies to digitize their business processes.
The company has been expanding into the U.S. incrementally, starting in Florida and rolling out to California, Texas, Georgia and North and South Carolina. Those forays have paid off; the majority of DOZR’s business is now generated in the U.S.
“We repeated the success of the playbook that we built in Florida,” says Forestell. “We’re really feeling that the network effects have kicked in… there’s all this organic demand that starts to come, a sort of flywheel effect has been set off.”
In addition to the sheer size of the U.S. market, Forestell attributes the pace of growth to several factors: the market demand for a convenient way to rent heavy equipment; the supply chain issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes buying new equipment more difficult; and an ongoing surge in general construction activity.
The Series B investment round was co-led by Silicon Valley’s Builders VC and BDC Capital, with participation from BaseCamp Equity Partners.
“The pandemic significantly changed B2B commerce workflows, moving from order flow via email, SMS, fax and paper checks to digital marketplaces,” said Mark Blackwell, General Partner at Builders VC. “DOZR has emerged as a true market leader in providing a transparent marketplace in the $56B+ equipment rental industry.”
As part of the Series B investment, Blackwell and Jack Fraser, Partner at BDC Capital’s Growth Venture Fund, have joined the DOZR board of directors.
As DOZR enjoys its rapid growth, Forestell said it’s important to stay connected to its customers and its partners – a commitment that’s reflected in DirtStories, a series of podcasts and articles on the DOZR blog about individuals who work in construction.
“We’re just obsessed with telling those stories. We know the challenges and the great results from being in the field … we’re able to speak to (people in construction) and tell their stories and let the world hear about all the great things they’re doing.”