Investor momentum builds for construction tech – TechCrunch
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.
The BMW XM’s Boldest And Brightest New Options, Ranked
Thank heavens BMW resisted the urge to grab the new XM with eye-searing paint colors. Instead, it has the typical blacks, whites, and grays, but it does have a bright red (Toronto Red Metallic) and a deep blue (Marina Bay Blue metallic) hue at no extra cost. The eccentric madness of options starts with the wheels — the XM’s 23-inch M Light alloys in gold (pictured above), which is a unique touch for a large SUV. Thankfully, you can have the same wheels in a more subdued steel gray option, and the standard 22-inch rollers are not that bad.
The BMW XM gets a standard Merino cowhide upholstery with a black-on-black theme, but the $1,500 Sakhir Orange leather option is worth every penny, standing out even more with a combined black accent. For $1,000 more, however, the Silverstone gray leather with a vintage coffee ceiling and door panels is a refreshing aesthetic. However, BMW’s vintage coffee interior theme looks best with the Deep Lagoon teal leather upholstery (pictured above), which costs the same at $2,500.
BMW wants XM buyers to go crazier with its NightGold Metallic exterior trim, a no-cost styling option that matches well with the gold wheels. The package includes a gold-metallic accent band that runs from ahead of the A-pillars and wraps around the side windows (pictured above), the outer border of the front kidney grilles, and the rear diffuser. Another no-cost option is M Sport Brakes with blue or red calipers, and exclusive M logos.
With base prices starting at $160,00, the all-new BMW XM is a big, bold, powerful SUV that screams money and privilege. It exists in a world littered with Lambos, Aston Martins, Maybachs, Bentleys, and Rolls-Royces, but none feels more forward-looking as the XM.
This Jet-Powered Soviet Airliner Had A Unique (But Dangerous) Design
As any aviation enthusiast will tell you, the name “de Havilland” is synonymous with the history of the jet engine. The British de Havilland Comet was the first of its kind — a jet airliner that would revolutionize air travel and pave the way for other airliners to follow. Its first prototype launched in 1949, according to the Royal Air Force Museum. After two disasters, the result of structrual deficiencies, the Comet 1 was retired.
But the Soviet Union unleashed its own jet airliner: the Tupolev TU-104. The body of a TU-16, another Soviet bomber, was adapted to add more passenger space inside, and the aircraft switched from a military to a commercial capacity.
In authorities’ zeal to put the Soviet stamp on the history of global jet travel, about 10,000 staff members worked on the plane, and its flight debut occurred several weeks earlier than originally intended. This seemed to mean, though, that testing wasn’t as rigorous as it could have been, and the aircraft was plagued by problems as a result.
Apple’s Vision Pro Headset Is Also A 3D Camera
According to Apple, all of the videos and photos captured using the Vision Pro’s 3D camera will offer a more immersive experience compared to content captured with ordinary content. That’s not to say that you can’t experience your existing Photos library with the headset, however, and Apple notes that panoramas can be viewed wrapped around the user — though only if those panoramas were captured with an iPhone, by the sounds of it.
The content appears within large windows placed in the user’s own environment, meaning the videos are watched on a large virtual screen that, in a way, is like a huge living painting positioned in one’s living room or office. These videos can be played alongside other apps available on the Apple Vision Pro, and they include expected controls like the ability to scrub through the videos, pause videos, expand photos to larger sizes, and similar. To no one’s surprise, the camera and headset both play well with other Apple products like FaceTime, as well.
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