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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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Apple Q1 2022 winners & losers: iPhone up, iPad down in bumper holiday

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Apple has released the earnings report for its first fiscal quarter of 2022, announcing yet another all-time record with revenue hitting $123.9 billion. The company credits a “very strong customer response” toward its latest and greatest products for the growth, noting its earnings ultimately jumped 11-percent compared to the previous year.

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Apple’s most recent fiscal quarter ended on December 25, 2021, raking in growth across the services, wearables, Mac, and iPhone products lines. The iPad was the only notable exception to the records, with the overall trend hinting at a bright future despite pandemic-related disruptions.

The company hasn’t provided forward guidance since the start of the pandemic and the most recent quarterly earnings report is no exception. Despite that, Apple CEO Tim Cook did offer some insight into the company’s expectations for the next quarter in a statement to CNBC, revealing Apple expects to see “solid year-over-year revenue growth” during its March quarter.

As with many other companies in the industry, Apple has been hit hard by supply chain disruptions. Though this issue won’t disappear overnight, Cook said Apple expects these “constraints” to be less of a problem in its next quarter compared to the December quarter.

Apple introduced its iPhone 13 series in September 2021, paving the way for typically high sales over the holiday period. As of October, the company warned that supply shortages may end up hitting the iPhone and iPad lines, potentially impacting holiday sales. This reality was reflected in consumers’ struggle to find the iPhone 13 Pro, at least in their desired configurations, for weeks after its launch.

Though the December quarter ended up exceeding analysts’ expectations, the struggle isn’t quite over. Cook explained that Apple’s “biggest issue” involves supply chain constraints related to legacy nodes, a problem we’ve heard before. However, Apple’s CEO did reveal the company is “doing okay” when it comes to acquiring leading-edge chips, which refers to the powerful hardware powering many of the smart devices used in everyday life.

The constraints aside, Cook also mentioned Apple’s ongoing environmental and social efforts as part of the company’s earnings announcement, stating:

We are gratified to see the response from customers around the world at a time when staying connected has never been more important. We are doing all we can to help build a better world — making progress toward our goal of becoming carbon neutral across our supply chain and products by 2030, and pushing forward with our work in education and racial equity and justice.

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Facebook Messenger will tell you if someone screenshots your disappearing message

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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major new feature for Facebook Messenger, one that will significantly improve privacy on the platform: Notifications when someone screenshots your disappearing messages in a Secret Conversation secured with end-to-end encryption.

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“New update for end-to-end encrypted Messenger chats so you get a notification if someone screenshots a disappearing message,” Zuckerberg wrote on January 27, 2022. “We’re also adding GIFs, stickers, and reactions to encrypted chats too.”

Facebook first introduced disappearing messages in November 2020, in both Messenger and Instagram. The move was part of a larger effort to provide additional protection across the company’s messaging platforms, with WhatsApp receiving a similar feature just weeks before.

From the very beginning, Messenger would notify users when someone took a screenshot of a disappearing message, making this latest announcement seem redundant. There’s one very important difference, however.

Facebook’s end-to-end encryption push

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Facebook has been working to roll out end-to-end encryption (E2EE) across its messaging platforms. E2EE is a significant upgrade from server-side encryption and is considered the gold standard of privacy and security. In the case of server-side encryption, the service provider has the key that can be used to decrypt your data. As a result, you can never truly be sure who is accessing your data and messages.

With E2EE, however, your data is encrypted in such a way that only you and the person you’re communicating with can read your message. Not even the provider, whose service you’re using, can intercept and read your messages. Needless to say, while E2EE offers unrivaled security, it can be more difficult to add features that are commonplace in non-E2EE services.

That distinction is what makes Zuckerberg’s latest announcement different. Facebook is now providing screenshot notifications within E2EE chats, adding an additional layer of privacy and security to such messages. The addition of reactions, GIFs, and stickers to these chats, meanwhile, will make private conversations a bit more exciting. The new features are rolling out now.

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Your iPhone could accept contactless payments in the future

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Apple is working on a service that will let you accept payments directly through your iPhone, according to a new report from Mark Gurman at Bloomberg. Gurman’s sources say that the tech giant has been working on the feature since 2020, when it purchased Mobeewave, the Canadian startup behind new tech for smartphones that lets them accept contactless payments from credit cards.

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Gurman reports that the payment system will probably rely on the iPhone’s near field communications chip (NFC). The iPhone already uses the NFC chip to process payments using Apple Pay, so it would make sense to build off of that usage with the new service.

Currently, users accepting payments via their iPhone have to rely on third-party hardware from companies like Square. With this new tech, though, businesses would be able to accept card payments by simply letting the customer tap their card against their iPhone. It’s an interesting concept, and one that could turn the world of handheld sales on its head depending on how Apple pushes it.

Apple could announce a new iPhone SE, too

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While Apple hasn’t shared any real details about the plan, or indeed any official news at all, it is something to keep an eye on. Additionally, Gurman says that the tech may debut later this year, alongside some other announcements that people are expecting from Apple. Chief among these other announcements is a new iPhone SE model, as well as an iPad Air that offers 5G connectivity. Gurman says those devices are expected to debut in March or April, and we’ve already seen previous reports about a new Mac that uses Apple’s custom-built processors, too.

Apple pushing towards accepting payments directly on its devices isn’t exactly a surprise. The company has slowly been expanding its payment options in the past, with the launch of the Apple Card, as well as a push to get Apple Pay in more stores around the world. The company also launched the Apple Cash Card, which allows you to send payments directly peer-to-peer, similarly to services like PayPal or Venmo. All we need to do now is wait and see how Apple pushes this new service, and exactly what it means for current payment providers like Square.

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