- U.S. construction technology investor funding has reached a record $2.1 billion so far this year, more than a 100% increase from a year ago.
- Early stage funding increased close to 100% from 2020, while late stage funding jumped more than 150% percent during that same span, according to Construction Dive analysis of data from investment information platform Crunchbase. For instance, Built Technologies, a company that provides financing and payment tools to the construction industry, landed $213 million in two rounds of funding this year.
- Industry experts say the COVID-19 pandemic sparked this boom in investor activity, but that the industry is still in the early phase of innovation.
After a slight dip in 2020 as activity in the U.S. slowed due to uncertainty caused by the pandemic, contech funding exploded in 2021. Early stage funding in 2021 reached $738.3 million, while late stage funding increased to $1.1 billion, both all-time records.
Those are big jumps from a year ago. Early stage funding in 2020 reached $374.9 million, while late stage funding reached $417.4 million, according to Crunchbase data.
"Our take on what happened was that basically two or three years' worth of construction tech adoption got squeezed into the nine months post-pandemic because everyone was shifting to being offsite, socially distancing and virtual tools," said Henry D'Esposito, construction research lead at JLL, a global commercial real estate services company. "So, there was a huge demand for adoption. If you see rising adoption numbers, new customers, more profitability, then that gives investors a good reason to want to invest in a sector."
The recent increase in contech investor activity is due to a combination of overall interest and awareness of the opportunities in the market and valuable companies emerging within certain segments, said Wan Li Zhu, managing director of Suffolk Technologies, the technology and tech startup investment arm of Suffolk.
Nashville-based Built Technologies, founded in 2015, is trying to modernize money movement processes for property developers, home builders and industry contractors as well as financial institutions. It plans to use its recently raised venture capital to hire more employees, accelerate the development of new products and expand internationally, the company said in a press release announcing $125 million in new funding last month. In total, Built Tech has now raised $237 million, a spokesperson for the company said by email.
"While there are platforms that specialize in one or another area of construction financing, we are the only one addressing the complete ecosystem—from lending to borrowing to helping contractors and suppliers front their costs," Built Technologies CEO Chase Gilbert said by email. "Our biggest competitor remains customized Excel spreadsheets that most lenders use to track and manage construction loans."
About 150 North American lenders use the Built Tech platform, which manages about $74 billion in construction loans annually, he said.
Real estate development startup Veev raised more than $100 million in funding in March. OpenSpace, a data visualization software, raised $55 million in funding in April. Briq, a payments software company, raised $30 million in June. The Suffolk Technologies portfolio company EquipmentShare announced a $230 million round in July. Numerous other companies have also raised millions of dollars in 2021.
Some of the largest funding rounds by amount since 2019
|EquipmentShare||$230 million||July 2021|
|Prescient||$190 million||May 2021|
|Built Technologies||$125 million||September 2021|
|Veev||$100 million||March 2021|
|Built Technologies||$88 million||February 2021|
|Versatile||$80 million||September 2021|
|OpenSpace||$55 million||April 2021|
|Drone Deploy||$50 million||February 2021|
|Percepto||$45 million||November 2020|
|Doxel||$40 million||August 2021|
SOURCE: Based on Construction Dive reporting
Digital collaboration, scanning, safety and wearables and BIM were among the construction tech categories most boosted by the pandemic, according to JLL. On the other hand, equipment, payment tools, 3D-printing, artificial intelligence and modular construction were the least strengthened by the pandemic.
"One point we're considering is whether every type of construction tech has benefited from the pandemic,” said D'Esposito. "I would say it's clear that software has really benefited, whereas hardware is maybe more of a mixed bag."
For example, while contech funding has skyrocketed to record levels year to date, modular builder Katerra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the summer. The company was a technology-driven offsite construction company, largely funded by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, that ultimately could not overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
"There have been other areas where we've seen some challenges, I think the most common example is probably going to be modular construction," said D'Esposito. "There's been a ton of success in modular but others haven't done so well, so that's probably one negative. But the majority of the story for contech is positive."