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Investor momentum builds for construction tech – TechCrunch

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Although it’s not the sexiest of industries, the hefty construction sector in 2018 attracted not only the attention but, more importantly, the dollars of investors.

Historically, the multi-trillion-dollar sector has been slow to adopt new technologies, as builders rely on a variety of disparate systems to manage projects, traditional building methods to construct homes and non-smart materials.

But a wave of startups is looking to capitalize on opportunities within the sector. Companies that have developed software solutions aimed at streamlining processes and increasing efficiencies are increasingly common. Prefab construction has evolved thanks to innovation in that space, and 3D printing technology can create homes in a matter of days.

Investors are taking notice. Funding in U.S.-based construction technology startups surged by 324 percent, to nearly $3.1 billion in 2018 compared with $731 million in 2017, according to Crunchbase data. While the 2018 numbers are impressive, it’s important to note that a few large rounds did take place last year and thus skewed the results. One startup alone, Menlo Park-based Katerra, brought in $865 million from SoftBank Vision Fund, RiverPark Ventures and Four Score Capital in a Series D round last January. And, smart glass company View closed a $1.1 billion Series H in November. Also, Procore, a (unicorn) provider of cloud-based construction management applications, in December raised a $75 million Series H round from Tiger Global Management.

Without those two rounds, the construction tech sector saw just $1.135 billion in funding in 2018, up a more modest 55 percent over 2017’s totals.

The industry continues to see M&A activity. Larger software companies are recognizing that it makes more sense to acquire companies in this space rather than try to reinvent the wheel from within. For example, in the fourth quarter of last year, 3D design software provider Autodesk announced plans to acquire two cloud-based software startups in the space: PlanGrid for $875 million and BuildingConnected for $275 million. Publicly traded software developer Trimble in July acquired construction management software startup Viewpoint for $1.2 billion.

Jerry Chen, partner at Greylock Partners, is bullish on the sector and expects 2019 will only see more funding and acquisitions. His firm invested in San Francisco-based Rhumbix, which has raised $28.6 million to grow its mobile platform designed for the construction craft workforce. That company, he says, had a “record year” in terms of customers and users.

“2018 was an inflection point for the construction tech industry,” Chen told Crunchbase News. “Major venture investing and strategic M&A by incumbent players continued… and I think you will see other major enterprise software companies begin to invest more in construction in 2019.”

One construction tech startup founder, Nick Carter of Chicago-based IngeniousIO, believes that despite the big numbers, the industry has a ways to go in terms of true startup growth. Part of that is simply due to one thing: tech founders and some investors are intimidated by the space.

“A lot of people don’t understand it,” he said. “There’s a massive learning curve. Companies have been building buildings the same way for hundreds of years and not everyone understand its complexities.”

The fact that construction is a largely unregulated industry is also a factor, Carter believes.

“Eventually money will flow into the sector because of the pure size of the market,” he told Crunchbase News. “The money is there. There are VCs at every angle wanting to get into this space, but they’re looking for the right opportunities. There just aren’t a ton of startups in the space.”

Construction is also a very cyclical business, and one has to wonder if a potential economic downturn would give investors pause. But to Carter, a downturn would only create more need for products like the one his company is working to build. IngeniousIO’s platform uses artificial intelligence to redefine the process of construction projects by creating what Carter describes as “a unifying, data-driven approach.”

“Tighter budgets are where a company like ours can do very well,” he said. “Companies wouldn’t have the overhead of outdated apps that take a significant amount of support to manage, scale and implement.”

The construction sector may not have the cache of other more Twitter-friendly markets, but it does have the sheer size and potential to provide ripe soil for investors willing to break ground on new opportunities.

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US Border Patrol seizes thousands of fake vaccine cards and Pfizer stickers

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The US Border Patrol has reported seizing thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and Pfizer inoculation seals, the latest confiscation in what has been at least several thousand counterfeit cards found by customs officers this year. The latest batch arrived at the Port of Cincinnati in multiple shipments.

The latest Customs and Border Patrol seizure of counterfeit COVID-19 cards was reported by the agency on September 16. A total of 1,683 blank COVID-19 vaccination record cards were seized across five shipments that arrived starting on August 16, according to the agency. As well, these shipments contained 2,034 Pfizer inoculation stickers.

The report came only one day after CBP officials in Pittsburgh reported that they’d likewise confiscated fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, though a lesser amount at 70. In the latest case, the agents noted that the cards originated from China and were being imported by people who lived in private residences in multiple states, including Texas and Maryland.

As with previous seizures involving counterfeit cards, the Customs officials noticed that the latest fake cards featured “substandard printing,” as well as misspelled words. Other confiscated counterfeit vaccination cards featuring the CDC logo have also been reported at ports in Anchorage, Chicago, and Memphis.

The FBI has repeatedly warned that making, buying, and selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards is illegal and could result in penalties. Despite this, many anti-vaxers continue to seek ways to fake vaccination records in an effort to get around vaccine mandates.

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HBO Max lures in new subscribers by cutting its premium price in half

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HBO Max, one of the largest streaming services on the market, is luring in new and returning subscribers by slashing the cost of its premium plan for up to half a year. The price decrease makes the premium plan cheaper than the ad-based plan, at least during the promotion, giving subscribers access to new theatrical movies from Warner Bros., HBO originals, and more.

HBO Max is now the destination for streaming HBO content; the platform’s parent company recently made the move to remove its now-defunct HBO app from Amazon’s Prive Video Channels platform, leaving those customers to finally make the transition to the new service.

That change happened earlier this week, with the new discount promotion coming only a couple of days later. The new deal is available only for the Ad-Free plan, which ordinarily costs $14.99/month but is temporarily lower at $7.49/month.

The ad-free plan includes access to 4K UHD resolution content, the ability to download for offline viewing, and the rest of Warner Bros. 2021 movie premieres with same-day streaming access. It appears the new promotional pricing is available for new and returning subscribers, as well as those who are jumping to HBO Max after Amazon Prime Video Channels lost access to HBO.

Overall, this is a great deal for those who want to catch up on their favorite HBO shows or stream the latest Warner Bros. theatrical movies from the comfort of their homes. The same-day theatrical movie releases only apply to 2021, however — it’s unclear whether this holiday season’s COVID-19 cases will fuel another series of lockdowns and whether Warner Bros. will extend its hybrid releases into 2022.

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Watch Apple break down the iPhone 13 differences

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It’s iPhone 13 preorder day, and if you’ve been scratching your head about whether to go iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, or iPhone 13 Pro Max, a new Apple video could help filter through the options. Announced on Tuesday, there’s no shortage of information out there on what changes Apple made in 2021, and what sets its four new smartphones apart.

Now, it probably shouldn’t come as a great surprise to you that Apple is very impressed by Apple’s new smartphones. If you’re hoping for unbiased, impartial commentary on the new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro, this really isn’t the video for that.

However, with Apple’s virtual event meaning no opportunity for hands-on reports from media, along with the fact that we’re not expecting the first round of reviews until sometime next week, for the moment we’ll have to take what we can get. Given the four-strong line-up again this year, too, it’s also an opportunity to compare and contrast if you’re on the fence about which iPhone model fits your particular needs. As ever, that’s not necessarily an easy decision.

Like was the case in 2020, for most people the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro seem likely to be the sweet spot in 2021. The iPhone 13 mini is most affordable, but the smaller display could leave it too small for some. We also need to see whether Apple’s claims that it has addressed the mini battery life are accurate, too.

At the other end of the scale, the iPhone 13 Pro Max clearly has appeal for those who don’t want to compromise: whether that’s on screen size, cameras, or anything else. With a starting price of $1,099, though, that’s a whole lot to spend on a new smartphone. Meanwhile, unlike with the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, there aren’t any obvious differences in the cameras this year.

Last year, the iPhone 12 Pro Max got sensor-shift image stabilization and a larger lens. This year, though, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have the same camera specs. It means you don’t have to find space in your pocket for the very largest handset if you want the very best camera tech Apple has to offer.

Clearly, you shouldn’t be basing your entire purchasing decision on Apple’s video. All the same, if you’ve been wondering about new features like macro photography support, the new Super Retina XDR display with its 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate, and the new AI-powered Cinematic mode, this video offers a more in-depth look than Apple had time for during its keynote on Tuesday.

Preorders of the iPhone 13 family are open now, with deliveries expected to begin next Friday, September 24.

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