Trend of the Year: Silicon Valley capitalizes on construction tech
No. of 2017 deals:
Deals $50M & up:
Collaboration software is considered the strongest candidate for investment, as are the smaller categories of risk and financial management software.
Katerra, Uptake Technologies, Procore
Construction's productivity gap gets a lot of press — and it's usually not the good kind, focusing instead on the continuing shortage of workers and the industry's slow uptake of technology. However, that gap, which was valued at $1.6 trillion by McKinsey research earlier this year, has become a target. And a growing roster of technology-focused upstarts are taking aim.
Those companies, many just a few years old, are capitalizing on the growing use of mobile, the increased acceptance of the cloud, and the near-ubiquity of technology like BIM in the back office and in the field.
They didn't just have to convince investors that their products held promise. They also had to sway the contractors who would be the ultimate end-users
"I remember the first few meetings we had with construction companies," Yves Frinault, CEO and co-founder at Fieldwire told Construction Dive earlier this year. "They would say: 'We're not comfortable with the cloud. Are you crazy? A foreman is never going to get a smartphone.'"
Fieldwire and its peer upstarts must have been convincing, because they've since been in hot pursuit of investor cash — and they're finding it.
According to data from CB Insights, the construction-technology sector snagged about $433 million in disclosed funding across 56 deals this year, as of early October. Two of those deals were at or greater than $50 million. Modular-minded construction company Katerra (winner of the 2017 Construction Dive Awards Innovator of the Year) brought in $130 million in a Series C round in April. That month, Uptake Technologies, which makes data management technology for industries such as construction, mining and agriculture, brought in $90 million in Series C funding.
A few companies lead in investment
Companies' shares of the top-20 construction technology deals from 2012 through mid-2017Hallie Busta/Construction Dive, data from CB Insights
Katerra had already reached "unicorn" status at the time of its April raise. Meanwhile, construction workflow software company Procore got the bump to the $1 billion-plus level late last year, following a $50 million funding round.
Many con-tech upstarts are pulling in cash, but few are seeing amounts as considerable as these. CB Insights analyst Anagha Hanumante said it's a sign investors are consolidating their bets around a select few companies.
"Construction tech mega-rounds aren't happening every day, so if a large deal happens, the company is likely doing something right," Hanumante said.
Collaboration software is the strongest candidate for investment, she said, as are the smaller categories of risk and financial management software. Frontier technology — such as robotic bricklayers, augmented and virtual reality, and drones — could see more investment ahead. And corporate venture arms like those of Autodesk and Caterpillar are placing their bets, too.
Workflow software a winner for investors
The top construction tech categories by number of upstartsCredit: Hallie Busta/Construction Dive, data from CB Insights
Funders may be on board, but fully implementing these tools remains the biggest challenge ahead for the companies making them.
"When you see digitization of the industry, it starts with point solutions, but you want to have end-to-end digital," 3DR CEO Chris Anderson said. "Everyone's using digital files, everyone's using mobile devices, and that information flows up and down the chain."
The industry was slow to adopt technology, but it has made up for that sluggishness. Expect more large and niche players to sit at the table for this trillion dollar feast. Read more.