To spreada UK-based construction technology company that provides an artificial intelligence (AI) powered platform to help project managers track work and capture data from construction sites has raised $16 million in funding.
Founded in London in 2015, Disperse essentially creates a digital version of an entire construction site, including visual snapshots that track work progress to help all stakeholders – no matter where they are based – keep up. For this, someone who works 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 images and applies computer vision techniques to find out what is going on.
For example, this can help show the status of a project at a particular point in time and resolve disputes as they arise to determine whether a job has been completed as it should have been. It also automatically highlights potential problems or bottlenecks while they can still be resolved.
More broadly, Disperse combines drawings, plans, construction schedules and all the elements of a construction project to help those at the helm keep everything digitally, reduce risk and ensure everyone is aligned.
While the trillion dollar construction industry often gets a bad rap for its inefficiencyDisperse founder and CEO Felix Neufeld said this has nothing to do with attitudes, more that it is a case of insufficient access to digital technology that can really shift the needle.
“I consider this perception or construction to be ‘laggards’ to be a misconception,” Neufeld explained to londonbusinessblog.com. “After years of working on projects and with companies in both Europe and the US, we can say emphatically that there is no attitude problem, but a serious technology problem. Many construction companies and teams are willing to give new solutions a chance, despite false promises from technology companies, and end up suffering more from using technology than adding value.”
Indeed, Neufeld pointed to a range of technologies that include workflow, robotics, and building information modeling (BIM) tools as examples of companies investing in the next hot thing, but ultimately going nowhere.
“We are seeing most of the technology on sites quickly either being completely abandoned or becoming ‘zombie software’, meaning the initiatives are still technically active, but only kept alive for perception or contractual obligations, without their functional purpose,” Neufeld said.
Other notable players in the space include San Francisco-based OpenSpace, which recently launched $102 million in funding raised, and Israel’s Buildots, which closed $60 million in financing. So it’s clear that investors are still eager to support the next big movers and shakers in the construction industry.
“I would say that the challenges of the pandemic have helped in part to drive investment in this space, but also the productivity problem is still a huge elephant in the room in one of the largest industries in the world,” Neufeld continued. “Construction accounts for about 12% of total GDP and affects almost every other industry that depends on it, but construction productivity has completely stagnated for the past 40 years or so. It’s a huge problem to solve, and not an easy one.”
Since the previous $15 million fundraiser in 2019, a lot has changed at Disperse. Previously, the company was mainly focused on London, with major clients including construction giants mace and plywood, although it had just launched in New York City at the time. In the intervening years, Disperse has expanded into both markets, with projects currently underway in the Midlands and the North in the UK, as well as across the water in Ireland. Meanwhile, Disperse has expanded its work in New York and now has projects in Washington DC and Florida, with clients including Gilbane.
“Until now, the bulk of our business is still in the UK where we work with many of the top contractors and developers, but given the momentum we have in the US and the size of the market, the US probably the UK next year,” Neufeld added.
From a product perspective, Disperse has also broadened its horizons beyond residential and commercial projects and now includes all types of buildings.
“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 another $16 million in the bank, Neufeld also teased a major new product it has in the works, though he was hesitant about the details.
“We can’t announce anything explicitly yet, but we’ve focused our product and engineering efforts heavily over the past two years on enabling proactive decision-making on construction sites, and the initial soft launch has gone well,” he said.
Disperse’s latest tranche of funding was led by 2150, with participation from Northzone and Kindred Capital.