The Seattle-based construction tech startup Unearth has announced a $3M round of funding led by Madrona Venture Group and Vulcan Capital. We wrote about the startup back in late 2016 after it closed a nearly $2M seed round; Unearth was founded by CEO/entrepreneur Brian Saab, who sold his first startup, Buuteeq, to Priceline, in 2014 and comes from a construction background in Texas, which is where Saab got the idea for Unearth in the first place (according to Geekwire).
Unearth aims to “revolutionize construction productivity through the introduction of place-based progress documentation.” Its product helps construction project teams get better informed about what’s happening in the field in real time in order to prevent schedule and cost impacts before they happen. The product is geared for large commercial and heavy civil infrastructure projects.
The company is using a combination of drones, satellite imagery, remote sensors, and Internet of Things technologies to centralize communications between field and home office personnel in order to keep teams on schedule and on budget through better, data-driven decision-making about their projects.
The software does this by providing teams with a digital snapshot of what’s happening at any given moment on the project in real-time or even historically. This is obviously useful for many reasons, including to back up payment applications, change order requests, and other issues or disputes that can arise on projects and erode contractors’ already-too-tiny margins.
“Margins are too thin in construction to not have protection against disputes,” Unearth’s website observes. “By automatically creating a complete record of your build, you’ll always have the ability to pull up the right facts at the right time to make disputes a thing of the past.”
The company – which is based in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood – currently has 12 employees and plans to use this new funding to expand headcount. Madrona will gain a seat on Unearth’s board in connection with this round of funding.
“Our customers tell us they’re saving hours per day across all the stakeholders because we cut down on travel time to project sites, have prevented rework, and keep the key decision-makers aligned on actual build progress,” Saab told Geekwire. “We’ve even heard that builders are expanding their business footprint because they can confidently serve larger geographic territories and bid on more projects with our software.”
AEC Labs Analysis:
In the Geekwire article, Saab describes Unearth as “the peanut butter and jelly solution for the [construction] industry, putting all of your tech’s data together to make it better.” As Saab also points out, there are a lot of software products and tech solutions on the market that are mostly siloed – he calls them “point solutions.” We agree with this characterization of many of the construction tech startups that have popped up to date.
Yet these are also critical points. While data is great, without context, and particularly in the construction industry, it is mostly useless. This is a people and a relationship business and understanding what is actually going on in the field is a necessary underpinning to making decisions that have real bottom-line impact on a job or within a firm.
Unearth’s ability to aggregate data in a meaningful, visual way seems incredibly powerful, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the startup here at AEC Labs as its product rolls out in the next few months.