Kitchener startup Bonfire looks to save time by digitizing bid process

Universities, hospitals and school boards can say goodbye to rooms full of boxes of paper and months of time to make a purchasing decision thanks to a Kitchener company called Bonfire, which has created a way to streamline and digitize the bidding process.

Company estimates it has saved 1.2 times the CN Tower's height in paper

Andrew Wilgar, left, and Corry Flatt, of Bonfire. The Kitchener company has modernized the bidding process for large organizations. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC News)

Universities, hospitals and school boards can say goodbye to rooms full of boxes of paper and months of time to make a purchasing decision thanks to a Kitchener company called Bonfire, which has created a way to streamline and digitize the bidding process. 

Bonfire clients like the University of Alberta and the Chicago public school board pay to use the web-based service. When a client issues a request for proposal, then bidders can submit their proposals electronically. The process for bidders takes eight minutes from account creation to getting the acceptance receipt, according to Bonfire CEO Corry Flatt.

The company was created in 2012, but 2015 is shaping up to be a banner year. Bonfire just completed three-month stint at California's Y Combinator, the top start-up accelerator in the world,  in March. It is now looking to expand from five employees to 15 over the next 12-18 months.

Flatt is a grad of Wilfrid Laurier University, as is Andrew Wilgar, the company's director of customer relations. The university is now among Bonfire's clients

"Before, in our old system, we had essentially a booklet that was handwritten, people had to get basically big binders full of requests for proposals that came in," said Tracey Ens, the manager of procurement services for Wilfrid Laurier University.

"Sometimes, depending on the number or responses that could easily be 10 or 15 binders and we had to send them out all over campus and people had to sometimes take them home," she said.

Other clients include universities across Canada, like University of British Columbia, Ryerson and the University of Manitoba, as well as the Peel District School Board, the City of Victoria, and even the government of Uzbekistan, which uses the program to manage construction programs.

'There just had to be a better way'.

"We thought that there just had to be better way, and being software guys we built a software tool that lets them do that a lot faster," said Flatt. 

"This kind of spending decision gets made on trillions of dollars of projects every single year all over the place," said Flatt. "[There] really is an international need for a tool like this."

Flatt estimates that the decision time savings is about 33 per cent faster per project, and that doesn't count the time it takes the bidder to prepare a bid. Overall, he says it's close to 2500 pages of paper saved per bid. 

And for big organizations like Laurier, there's another bonus to going electronic.

"The other nice benefit is not having to hand-write all of the responses," said Ens. 


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