Disperse, a UK-based construction technology company that offers an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform to help project managers track work and capture construction site data, has raised $16 million in funding.
Founded in London in 2015, Disperse effectively creates a digital version of a complete construction site, including visual snapshots that track work progress to help all stakeholders, wherever they are based, keep track of things . For this, a person employed on the site (for example a project manager) walks around equipped with a standard 360° camera at regular intervals, and the resulting imagery is fed directly into the Disperse platform which processes the visuals. and applies computer vision techniques to figure out what’s going on.
For example, it can help show the status of a project at a given time and resolve conflicts if they arise to determine if a job was completed as it should have been. It also automatically highlights potential issues or bottlenecks while they can still be fixed.
More broadly, Disperse combines drawings, blueprints, construction schedules and all the elements that go into a construction project to help those at the helm stay on top of everything digitally, reduce risk and make sure everyone is on the same page.
While the trillion-dollar construction industry is often frowned upon for its inefficiency, Disperse founder and CEO Felix Neufeld said it had nothing to do with attitudes, more than it it was about insufficient access to digital technology that can really change the needle.
“I actually view this perception or construction as ‘laggards’ as a misconception,” Neufeld told TechCrunch. “Having worked for years on projects and with companies in Europe and the United States, we can say forcefully that there is no attitude problem – but there is a serious technology problem. many companies and construction teams are willing to try new solutions despite false promises from tech companies, and have ended up with more burden from using technology than added value.
Indeed, Neufeld cited a panoply of technologies spanning workflow, robotics, and building information modeling (BIM) tools as examples where companies are investing in the next big thing, but ultimately going nowhere. .
“We see most of the technology on the sites quickly either becoming completely abandoned or becoming ‘zombie software’, i.e. initiatives are technically still active but only kept alive for perception or contractual obligations, without fulfilling their functional purpose,” says Neufeld.
Other notable space players include San Francisco-based OpenSpace, which recently raised $102 million in funding, and Israel’s Buildots, which closed a $60 million funding round. It is therefore clear that investors are still keen to support the next big players in the construction industry.
“I would say that the challenges of the pandemic have partly helped drive investment in this space, but also the productivity issue is still a huge elephant in the room in one of the biggest industries in the world,” Neufeld continued. . “Construction accounts for about 12% of total GDP and impacts almost every other industry that depends on it, but construction productivity has completely stagnated over the past 40 years. This is a huge problem to solve, and not easy.
Since its previous fundraising of $15 million in 2019, a lot has changed at Disperse. Previously, the company had focused primarily on London, with big-name clients including construction giants Mace and Multiplex, although it had just launched in New York at that time. In the years since, Disperse has expanded into both markets, with projects currently underway in the Midlands and North of the UK, as well as on the water in Ireland. In the US, meanwhile, Disperse has expanded its work to New York and now also has projects in Washington DC and Florida, with clients like Gilbane.
“So far the bulk of our business is still in the UK, where we work with a lot of the major contractors and developers, but given the momentum we have in the US and the size of the market, the US will likely overtake the UK next year,” Neufeld added.
From a product perspective, Disperse has also broadened its horizons beyond residential and commercial projects and now covers all kinds of building types.
“Essentially, if it’s a building, our system can handle it,” Neufeld said. “For example, we now serve a number of projects in healthcare, education, retail and manufacturing.”
With an additional $16 million in the bank, Neufeld also teased a major new product in the works, though he remained coy about the details.
“We can’t announce anything explicitly at this time, but we’ve deeply focused our product and engineering efforts over the past two years on proactive decision-making on construction sites, and the initial launch in sweetness went well,” he said.
Disperse’s latest round of funding was launched by 2150, with participation from Northzone and Kindred Capital.