Funding abounds for construction tech
Despite coronavirus pandemic, funding flows to contech firms
The sector is on track to experience 56% year-over-year growth in 2020.
While 2020 has thrown a raft of challenges at construction pros during the coronavirus pandemic, contech firms have benefitted from fresh funding.
With the acceleration of technology adoption on jobsites – from Zoom meetings for promoting social distancing to check-in apps that screen workers for possible COVID-19 exposure – it only makes sense that investors have been focusing on how tech can make even deeper inroads into construction workflows.
Indeed, according to New York City-based venture tracking firm CB Insights, despite the pandemic, funding for construction-related technology startups is on track to hit $1.3 billion in 2020, a 56% year-over-year increase from 2019. Here are a few notable recipients of recent rounds of funding:
This Israel-based firm landed $45 million in Series B funding in November, led by Koch Disruptive Technologies, according to a statement. The firm said it has taken its drone-in-a-box solution to the next level to create an autonomous inspection and monitoring platform.
Operating a fleet of third-party robots, including Boston Dynamic’s Spot mobile unit, alongside Percepto’s autonomous Sparrow drone, Percepto said AIM provides visual data management and analysis to report trends and anomalies from sites remotely and to alert users to risks.
“Our customers, which include some of the world’s leading utility, oil and gas sites, mining and other critical infrastructure facilities, are eager to fully embrace automation across their operations and reap the benefits of driving efficiency, reducing costs and safeguarding staff,” said Dor Abuhasira, Percepto CEO and cofounder.
Other investors include State of Mind Ventures, Atento Capital, Summit Peak Investments, Delek-US, U.S. Venture Partners, Spider Capital and Arkin Holdings.
Alice Technologies is a 3-year-old startup based in Menlo Park, California, that is using artificial intelligence to power its construction simulation platform. ALICE claims to help construction companies finish projects 15% faster, cut project labor costs by 16% and heavy equipment costs by 12%.
The firm landed $4.6 million in debt financing in November, led by Future Ventures, according to a statement.
Alice uses the power of AI to develop and evaluate construction project schedules that use resources most efficiently, substantially reducing build time and costs. The firm claims its technology can create millions of schedule options for large projects in minutes and can adapt schedules to account for material or labor shortages, noise ordinances or social distancing protocols in the time of COVID-19.
Rene Morkos, Alice’s founder and CEO, developed the AI platform after conducting a study that found only 3% of the space on construction sites is actively utilized for construction, on average. The company said it is working with firms such as Parsons, HDCC and Kajima, and that it helped to improve efficiencies at the $1 billion 5M project in San Francisco.
This Calgary, Canada-based prefab building components company leverages its Echo machine-learning technology to boost existing industry software. It received $15.3 million in Series A funding in November, led by real estate technology focused venture firm RET Ventures, according to a statement.
Falkbuilt’s process, called Digital Component Construction, precision cuts prefabricated components in the factory and ships them to jobsites for a faster, cleaner and more efficient installation, the company claims.
Its Echo technology collects, manages and feeds project information into industry standard software in the cloud, the firm said, to create efficiencies in design, manufacturing and construction processes.
The firm said the benefits of its solutions have become pronounced during the pandemic because digital component construction requires fewer trades on site, meets distancing guidelines and makes scheduling easier.
This San Francisco-based startup focuses on helping site supervisors order construction materials from the jobsite via a shopping cart on its smartphone app.
The firm, founded in 2018 to streamline the construction supply chain, raised $7 million in Series A Funding at the end of October. The backing came from venture capital firm 8VC, as well as Tishman Speyer, Kevin Hartz, Abstract Ventures, BoxGroup and Suffolk Construction, which has invested in a number of contech start ups in recent years.
Its app allows foremen to submit requisitions from the field in under 30 seconds, and routes them back to the office where purchasing teams can manage vendor pricing, do more bids, and process purchase orders faster, according to a company statement emailed to Construction Dive.
Agora’s user base has exploded 20 times since March during the pandemic, the firm claimed, while its revenue has tripled. It’s platform now handles about $1 million a week in purchase orders.
In September, a group of Silicon Valley executives with $4 million in venture backing launched a jobs platform to better connect workers and their skills with construction companies who want to hire them.
Palo Alto, California-based Core said its mission is to address the massive labor shortage in the world’s largest industry. Led by Google alumni Di-Ann Eisnor, Gene Gutnik and Jenny Austin, Core touts itself as an in-app construction labor marketplace that leverages algorithms to produce a “match score” between workers’ actual skills and companies’ open positions, while streamlining job searches.
Investors include NFX’s Pete Flint, Google Venture’s John Lyman and angel investors Rob Hayes and Caterina Fake who backed companies including Trulia, Flickr, Uber and Twitter.
“We don’t want people scrolling through lots of irrelevant positions,” said Eisnor, Core’s CEO, in an interview with Construction Dive. “Instead, we want to give you a few of the best jobs available using that match score, which requires a lot of heavy lifting on the technology side.”
In late 2018, Boston-based Trade Hounds launched a smart phone app to approach construction’s labor issue from the worker’s side, giving tradespeople a platform for showcasing their work online.
The app, which is now being hailed as LinkedIn for the construction industry, quickly grew and received $3.2 million in a seed funding round in June from backers that included Suffolk Construction and CCS Construction Staffing, according to Crunch Base.
In November, the firm unveiled its nationwide Jobs platform, which it said now boasts 175,000 tradespeople in a construction-only hiring network that allows contractors to recruited workers directly.
“The motivations and preferences of tradespeople differ from those of the corporate job seeker,” said David Broomhead, co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “Our Jobs platform fills a huge void in an industry that deserves is own unique solution.”