Spread outa UK-based construction technology company that offers an artificial intelligence (AI)-based platform to help project managers track work and collect data from construction sites has raised $16 million in funding.
Founded in London in 2015, Disperse effectively creates a digital version of an entire construction site, including visual snapshots that track work progress to help all stakeholders – regardless of where they are based – stay on top of things. For this purpose, someone employed on the site (e.g. a project manager) walks around equipped with a standard 360° camera at regular intervals, and the resulting images are fed directly into the Disperse platform, which processes the visual images and applies computer vision techniques. to find out what’s going on.
For example, it can help show the status of a project at a point in time and resolve disputes if they arise over whether a job was completed as it should have been. It also automatically highlights potential problems or bottlenecks while they can still be resolved.
More broadly, Disperse brings together blueprints, plans, construction schedules and all the elements that go into a construction project to help those at the helm keep up with everything digital, reduce risk and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
While trillion dollar construction industry often gets a bad rap for its ineffectivenessDisperse founder and CEO Felix Neufeld said it has nothing to do with attitudes, but rather a case of insufficient access to digital technologies that can really move the needle.
“I actually consider this perception or construct as ‘backward’ to be a misconception,” Neufeld explained to TechCrunch. “Having worked for years on projects and with companies in both Europe and the US, we can definitely say that there is no attitude problem – but there is a serious technology problem. Many construction companies and teams are willing to give new solutions a chance despite the false promises of technology companies and have ended up facing more burdens from using technology than added value.”
In fact, Neufeld pointed to a range of technologies spanning workflow, robotics and BIM (building information modeling) tools as examples of companies investing in the next hot thing, but which end up going nowhere.
“We see most technologies on sites quickly either being completely abandoned or becoming ‘zombie software,’ meaning initiatives are technically still active but are kept alive solely for perception or contractual obligations without fulfilling the functional you’re a target,” Neufeld said.
Other notable players in the space include San Francisco-based OpenSpace, which recently raised $102 million in fundingand the Israeli Buildots which closed $60 million in financing. So it’s clear that investors are still looking to back the next big drivers of the construction industry.
“I would say the challenges of the pandemic have in part helped drive investment in this space, but also the productivity issue is still a huge elephant in the room in one of the world’s largest industries,” Neufeld continued. “Construction accounts for about 12% of total GDP and influences almost every other industry that relies on it, yet construction productivity has completely stagnated over the past 40 years or more. It’s a huge problem to solve, and it’s not easy.”
After its previous fundraising of $15 million in 2019, a lot has changed in Disperse. The company was previously focused mainly on London, with large clients including construction giants Mace and Multiplex, although it had just been released in New York at that time. In the following years, Disperse expanded into both markets, with projects currently underway in the Midlands and North of the UK, as well as across the water in Ireland. Meanwhile, in the States, Disperse has expanded its operations in New York and already has projects in Washington and Florida, with clients including Gilbane.
“So far, the majority of our business is still in the UK, where we work with a large proportion of key contractors and developers, but given the momentum we have in the US and the size of the market, the US is likely to overtake the UK next year.” , Neufeld added.
From a product perspective, Disperse has also expanded its horizons beyond residential and commercial projects and now covers all types of buildings.
“Essentially, if it’s a building, our system can handle it,” Neufeld said. “For example, we now serve a range of projects in healthcare, education, retail and manufacturing.”
With another $16 million in the bank, Neufeld also teased a major new product in development, though he was tight-lipped about specifics.
“We can’t announce anything specifically yet, but we’ve focused our product and engineering efforts deeply over the past year or two on enabling proactive decision-making on construction sites, and the initial soft launch has gone well,” he said.
Disperse’s latest funding tranche was led by 2150, with participation from Northzone and Kindred Capital.