Venture capital investment globally just posted its sixth straight quarterly decline, according to industry data, but startups in construction and real estate technology sectors remain a significant bright spot.
Looking to tap into these still growing areas, Suffolk Technologies recently closed on a $110-million inaugural fund focused on those fields. So far, the affiliate of Boston-based Suffolk, the $5 billion construction firm, says it has made 30 different investments in various startups.
The deals come as the overall flow of investment dollars into construction technology is starting to swell as the industry seeks better ways to build projects amid a labor shortage and rising material costs, said Jit Kee Chin co-founder and managing partner of Suffolk Technologies. It now has seven full-time employees, up from one when it launched in 2019.
Despite construction, at $1.4 trillion, being roughly the size of the financial services sector, its amount of invested venture capital has dwarfed the industry's, she said.
“Money is starting to flow" into construction,” Chin said. “Lots of people are looking for ways to be much more productive and efficient.”
The startups Suffolk Technologies helps finance work on developing new ways to deal with an array of industry and societal challenges.
These include the need to curb emissions from construction and real estate projects, address the national shortage of affordable housing and find more project efficiency as the federal government ramps up infrastructure spending.
One startup, called Canvas, said it provides technology to help ease the labor shortage in the skilled trades with a robotic system that aims to speed up drywall work. Moxion electrifies worksites with a mobile power system, while WIMT works to prevent water damage by embedding smart sensors in buildings while they are built. Kojo reduces waste and boosts efficiency through its procurement platform for the trades, according to the firm.
“We are known to the VC world to be a really good judge for whether a construction tech solution would work because we have a construction tech background,” Chin said.
Acelab, which won the 2020 Harvard Real Estate Venture competition with help from a Suffolk mentor, earlier this month raised $5.3 million for its online platform that helps design firms select and order building products.
“Our growth goal is to get deeper adoption in a project team,” said Vardhan Mehta, its co-founder and CEO.