In just the first half of the year, investments in construction technology have surpassed last year’s total amount by 30%, according to a Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. report released today.
Spending in the segment is outpacing overall tech startup investment growth in the United States, the report found. “It’s no mere accident that this uptick in [construction technology] investing coincides with an industry plagued by cost fluctuations, labor shortage issues and overall lack of productivity improvements — creating what many venture capitalists view as a prime opportunity for disruption,” it said.
Funding will be injected into construction technology-focused startups through approximately 120 deals by the end of the year, according to JLL’s estimates.
JLL’s analysis, which is echoed in Construction Dive’s recent reporting on mergers and acquisitions in the space, indicates that collaboration software and project management purveyors, which account for a total of around 112 startups, make up the lion’s share of construction technology-based firms, followed by about 50 firms focused on off-site techniques and nearly 40 mobile-centric startups.
Three unicorns, or startups valued at more than $1 billion — Katerra, Uptake Technologies and Procore Technologies — are in the top five construction technology startups in terms of amount of funding received, at $1.1 billion, $287 million and $180 million, respectively.
They lead their respective categories of construction technology. Procore Technologies aims to optimize workflows through cloud capabilities, mobile platforms and dedicated design software in the collaboration software niche; Katerra’s tech-nuanced, building prefabrication expertise leads the off-site sector; and Uptake is winning in the big data and artificial intelligence sphere.
“Off-site construction, cloud-based software and new, tech-focused hardware are capturing the largest investor dollars and customer bases,” the report said. “Artificial intelligence and big data solutions are a close second, but are positioned to make even larger impacts.”
The U.S.-based unicorns are joined by Chinese e-commerce steel trading platform Zhaogang.com, which has been infused with $361 million, and Blu Homes, a California-headquartered residential offsite construction firm that has raised $180 million.
While investors in the space are wide-ranging, the pack is led by firms known for backing startups, such as Y Combinator, which has 13 construction technology-based firms in its portfolio. Big corporations, however, aren’t throwing as much money at the segment, JLL noted.
“While construction venture capital activity has quickly picked up in recent quarters, corporate investors remain notably absent from the active pool of investors,” the report said. “Surprisingly, Google Ventures and Caterpillar are the only corporate entities to make multiple bets in construction technology since 2012.”
Y Combinator has given funding to PlanGrid, Airwave, BuildZoom and more, while Brick & Mortar Ventures has backed BuildingConnected, HoloBuilder, Rhumbix, Serious Labs and others. Caterpillar has invested in Uptake Technology, Airwave and BusyBusy, to name a few. Borealis Ventures has supported Newforma, Smartvid.io and Blokable.
Correction: The amount of funding that Katerra, Uptake and Procore have received to date has been updated to reflect an error in a previous version of this story.