Business

Deconstructing the world of construction tech

“Construction tech” sounds like one tech too many; we sit down with an investor to understand what it’s all about.

Shubhankar Bhattacharya is a believer. “There’s a total addressable market of $10 trillion,” exhorts the partner at Foundamental, a global venture capital firm with offices in San Francisco, Berlin and Singapore, with one of its main focus areas being what is known as construction tech.

The startup world is enamoured of the “-tech” suffix: foodtech, adtech, fintech, agritech, the list goes on. Construction, though, is not the first sector that comes to mind—cement, bricks, yellow excavator machines and lots of manual labour are hardly what you associate with the heady world of unicorns and venture funding. But that may be changing.

Around the world, startup after startup is popping up, touting everything from supply chain refinements to real-time monitoring with structural sensors and drones to artificial intelligence and robotics. A decade ago, construction technology was barely a sector. VCs had invested less than $10 million in construction tech deals back in 2010. Last year saw deals totalling $1.3 billion, following $1.6 billion of deals in 2018, bolstered in no small part by over $1 billion of SoftBank-led investments.

We sat down with Foundamental’s Bhattacharya, whose firm invests in early-stage companies across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, just to understand what construction tech is, and where he sees it going. Edited excerpts from the interview follow.

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Photo by EJ Yao on Unsplash.
 
Update: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Foundamental invests in Africa as well; this has been corrected.

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