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Why Menlo Ventures is betting on this construction tech startup

Construction tech startup Fieldwire announced Monday that it has secured a $33.5 million Series C round led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from Brick & Mortar Ventures, Hilti Group and Formation 8. Part of the new financing comes from Menlo Ventures’ $500 million Inflection Fund, an investment vehicle launched by the VC stalwart in February to focus on early-stage investments in “soon-to-breakout companies.”

Based in San Francisco, Fieldwire was valued at $50 million in 2017. The company is the creator of an app that helps connect team members throughout the construction industry—including managers, sub-contractors and craft workers. PitchBook spoke to company co-founder and CEO Yves Frinault and Menlo Ventures partner Tyler Sosin to better understand how the startup’s focus on field workers is helping it solve a missing piece of the puzzle for the construction industry.

A focus on field workers
Yves Frinault and Javed Singha (current COO of Fieldwire) were working for French computer game developer Ubisoft when they dreamed up the idea for Fieldwire. They went on to co-found the business together in 2013.

“At the time, mobile technology and cloud computing were no longer limiting factors. The big question remained—companies were developing construction software for the office, but nobody was focusing on the workers in the field,” Frinault told PitchBook.

As the co-founders discovered the physical gap between field workers and office staff, they decided to create an app that helps users manage different elements of a project, allowing them to view drawings, track progress, record mark-up costs, have conversations and share documents on a single platform.

“Think of Trello for tracking work and Dropbox for sharing information,” said Frinault.

Menlo Ventures partner Tyler Sosin, who will join the company’s board as part of the round, explains that there’s a new generation of construction workers on site who have higher expectations for how companies leverage technology to efficiently schedule tasks and track progress. Fieldwire’s “bottom-up” approach helps achieve gains through cloud-based workflow automation software.

Mitigating labor costs
During the last recession, the construction industry lost around 1.5 million workers, per data from the Federal Economic Reserve. And according to figures compiled by the Associated General Contractors of America, 80% of US construction firms were still finding it difficult to hire craft workers in 2018.

Frinault says that roughly 30% of a craft worker’s day is spent “swinging the hammer” on-site, and 70% is related to coordinating tasks. Because a shortage of labor is one of the factors driving up costs in many developed economies, it’s become all that more important to adopt technology that helps save time, effort and costs related to managing labor.

Fieldwire saves its customers an average of one hour per person each day, based on a customer survey of 10,000 users.
Scope & scalability
Sosin highlighted Fieldwire’s focus on markets in Europe, Australia and the US. The business is also running experiments in emerging markets such India and South America, where the cost of labor is cheaper. And while construction represents roughly 10% of the world’s GDP, the use of tech in the space is at a nascent stage and offers the opportunity for scalability to companies building construction and infrastructure-related hardware and software.

Frinault says that the industry’s first phase was all about the digitization of plans and documents and the current one is focused on coordinating everyone involved in a construction project. He believes that the next phase will continue to focus on tightening the sharing of information between offices and field workers.

“Construction is ubiquitous, and it’s never going away,” says Sosin.