Currently valued at over $3bn, Katerra, which aims to revolutionise the construction sector with its technology, is said to be the most well-funded construction tech startup.
Speaking to Forbes in a recent interview, Katerra’s co-founder and executive chairman Michael Marks, who previously served as interim CEO at automotive company Tesla and as CEO of supply chain services Flex – previously Flexotronics – for 13 years, described the group as a fully integrated turnkey supplier that designs, engineers and constructs buildings, and whose goal is to streamline the entire building process with time and cost-efficient services.
Marks said: “While most construction projects involve hiring a developer who then subcontracts each task, from the walls to the countertops to the windows, Katerra is choosing to do it all.”
Katerra’s activity thus spans design, software and building engineering, manufacturing, supply chain and construction. The large-scale prefabricated structures produced by the group – such as wall panels with built-in windows, for instance – have already helped secure $1.3bn in bookings for new construction, spanning multi-family, student and senior housing as well as hospitality facilities, according to the group.
With a valuation now exceeding $3bn, Katerra recently benefited from a boost to its balance sheet, with telecoms and internet company SoftBank having led a $865m investment in the company last year, investing from its $100bn SoftBank Vision Fund. Other new investors in the series D round included global investment management firm Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, VC firm Navitas Capital, real estate group DivcoWest, Bahamas-based private investment firm Tavistock Group and another private investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management. Existing investors, meanwhile, included electronics manufacturer Foxconn, consumer internet investment group Greenoaks Capital, VC firms DFJ Growth and Khosla Ventures, and hedge fund Moore Capital Management.
The series D round, which was to fund Katerra’s manufacturing expansion and further investment in research and development, brought the total raised by the company since it was created in 2015 to $1.09bn. Previous rounds included a $130m series C provided by Foxconn, Greenoaks, Khosla, DFJ, Moore Capital and private investment management firm Paxion Capital Partners in 2017. The company, which had just emerged from stealth, was valued at around $1bn at the time.
Commenting on the series D, Jeffrey Housenbold, a managing partner at the SoftBank Vision Fund who, as part of the transaction, joined Katerra’s board, said: “The $12 trillion construction industry is extremely fragmented with tens of thousands of companies using minimal levels of technology. While labour-productivity growth has skyrocketed in the overall global economy, construction]has averaged only 1% annual productivity growth over the past two decades.” In other words, as co-founder Marks put it, the sector is “ripe” for digital disruption.
Housenbold added: “Katerra is leveraging the latest technologies to radically transform the way people build. Drawing on his experience leading Flextronics, Marks’s unique vision and talented team are taking the great lessons of electronic manufacturing and applying them to an industry that is in dire need of change. We are excited to support Katerra as they expand across markets and geographies and unleash a new wave of productivity.”