Robots and data analytics promise to improve project management and make the construction industry more efficient. KEWAZO GmbH has developed the LIFTBOT robotic hoist and ONSITE analytics platform, focusing first on scaffolding assembly.
The global market for construction robots could reach $190 million by the end of 2033, according to Infoholic Research. Similarly, Intelligence Market Report forecast a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.97%, from $319.55 million in 2021 to $512.09 million by 2028.
KEWAZO today announced that it has raised $10 million in Series A funding, which it plans to use to expand its logistics and digitization offerings. Artem Kuchukov, co-founder and CEO of KEWAZO, replied by e-mail to the following questions from Robotics 24/7 about the Munich, Germany-based company's funding and outlook.
Finding funding becomes more difficult
How challenging was it getting funding between the pandemic and incipient recession?
Kuchukov: Pre-Series A in 2021 was relatively easy. We started reaching out to investors at the end of February 2021—all virtual, had zero live meetings—and already at the end of March 2021, we received a few offers.
You could feel that the market situation was much better. Prominent U.S.-based investors were fine with going outside of their comfort zone and fishing for deals in Europe.
Series A in 2022 was tougher, though. We started fundraising at the beginning of April, right when things started to slow down. We had a founder's camp organized by True Ventures in Napa Valley in March, and nobody was even talking about the recession yet.
But a few weeks later, it started. Some of my fellow founders suggested waiting until fall with the raise, but we decided to not rely on the unstable political-economic situation in the world. As a result, we received an offer at the beginning of July.
Before that, we met almost all new investors in person; they visited us in our offices in Munich.
In general, as time goes by, more and more investors are interested in construction robotics. Compared to the first pre-seed and seed raises we've done in 2018 and 2019, fundraising was easier, despite the pandemic and recession.
Here are some interesting facts about KEWAZO's new investors:
- Fifth Wall—the world's largest ConTech/PropTech [construction and property technology] fund
- Cybernetix Ventures—Boston-based firm focused on robotics, automation, and AI startups
- Unorthodox Ventures—the investment firm by contrarian entrepreneur and Big Ass Fans founder Carey Smith
- Nemetschek—a Munich-headquartered construction industry software concern. Nemetschek Group includes companies such as Allplan, Bluebeam (PDF software for construction instead of Adobe), Graphisoft (developer and distributor of ArchiCAD), Scia, Vectorworks, and others.
Robots plus data equals better site management
What feedback have you gotten so far on LIFTBOT and ONSITE? Have you adjusted the technologies?
Kuchukov: Bringing multiple units to the market and selling several units to the same customers helped us to refine our value proposition. We realized it's not enough just to deliver high daily savings; it's also important to create an environment for a high utilization rate.
Saving $2,500 per day is just one part of the equation, and making sure that the system is deployed 10 to 15 days per month is the second part of it. We understood that installation flexibility is what makes the difference for high utilization and made sure to reflect it on the product level.
Today, LiIFTBOT can be reinstalled from one location to another in no time.
Another learning was that the understanding of the value of digitization in the industry is still quite low. Customers usually contact us about having robots automating their sites rather than, for example, having full transparency of on-site activities.
However, that changes once they start deploying LIFTBOT on multiple sites and after having longer exposure to the advantages that digital services bring. In this way, LIFTBOT becomes a gateway to the digital world for our customers.
Can you give an example of the operational insights that the data has yielded so far?
Kuchukov: By having our robots on-site, we collect operational data and provide it to our customers in the form of a data analytics platform. ONSITE enables more proactive management of both individual projects and companies overall.
Today, ONSITE focuses on three key metrics:
- Efficiency: transported weight, operational height, time stamps, and utilization rate
- Internal factors: status of individual LIFTBOT components such as motors, breaks, and battery
- External factors: GPS and local weather conditions
After all this data is processed, essentially customers get access to a storyboard of their projects. Instead of entering the project data manually, the data is transferred from LIFTBOT to ONSITE completely automatically.
Now a team lead can check the project status online and also receive automatic daily notifications on the project status. If something doesn't go according to the plan, the leader has the opportunity to intervene promptly. This way, the problems can be discovered days and weeks earlier, preventing schedule and cost overruns.
One of our main goals for the upcoming future is to expand our offering in terms of digital services. One way of doing this is via adding additional features to ONSITE. Such features can be enabled using the capabilities of today’s robotic system or by adding additional hardware or sensors to it.
KEWAZO looks forward to more markets, regional expansion
What are you working to automate or analyze next?
Kuchukov: With minor hardware changes—such as exchanging the transportation base of LIFTBOT—we'll apply it beyond scaffolding assembly to further verticals:
- On construction sites for transportation of insulation, roofing, painting, facade materials (customers: construction subcontractors, general contractors)
- On industrial sites for transportation of industrial insulation, welding and sandblasting equipment, mechanical material, and tools (customers: industrial service providers, general contractors, owners of refineries and chemical/nuclear/power plants, etc.)
We'll start collecting data, not only from our hardware, but also from other tools, sensors, and solutions available on-site. ... Simultaneously, we'll keep expanding in terms of automating on-site logistics by introducing robotics solutions for further steps of the process—loading, unloading, reloading, horizontal material-transport tasks, etc.
Will you be hiring in North America as part of your expansion?
Kuchukov: We are currently in the process of setting up a service location in the Houston area.
As a first step, we will be looking to hire a service representative for this location. Going forward, we will work on expanding our business development team in the region.