Monograph, developer of project and cost management software for architects, raises $1.9 million

Monograph, a startup working on cloud-based software that makes project and cost management easier for architects, announced today that it has raised $1.9 million in seed funding. The round was led by Homebrew Ventures and Parade Ventures, with participation from Designer Fund, Hustle VC and angel investors.

The San Francisco-based startup was founded last year by Robert Yuen, Alex Dixon and Moe Amaya. Each has experience in architecture, design and software development, making them well-positioned to create a management platform tailored for architects.

Monograph was designed to be easy to use, with an emphasis on the onboarding process so firms are encouraged to switch from traditional project management methods, like spreadsheets, to the software. The startup says hundreds of architects, ranging from solo practitioners to firms with more than 60 people, have already signed up. Monograph has been used to help manage more than $125 million in projects, ranging in size from bathroom and kitchen remodeling to building large hotels.

Before Monograph, the three were partners in an agency called Dixon and Moe, working as UI/UX consultants for tech startups and architecture firms.

“Monograph really grew out of the agency as a product we saw solving problems that we saw in our day to day lives as architectural designers, and also in our everyday lives with our friends,” Yuen told TechCrunch. “That’s the loss in the transparency of information between how much time you are spending on work, how projects are going, who is working on it. There is really no accurate way to manage a project and they are growing in complexity each year.”

Like other tech companies in the architecture space, including PlanGrid, Procore and UpCodes, Monograph is designed to streamline aspects of the design and building process, while making it easier for teams to collaborate.

Monograph is currently designed for use by architects and consultants, and includes tools to assign milestones, manage project timelines and for timesheets, billing and invoicing. Data is then used for cost and progress analytics, like MoneyGantt, a feature for budget forecasting.

Yuen says that no matter a project’s size, each team includes architects, designers and engineers. By the end of the year, the company plans to start releasing new versions of Monograph that can be used by structural, electrical and mechanical engineers, as well as other licensed professionals.

The company’s funding will be used to hire for its software engineering and customer support teams.

In a press statement, Homebrew partner Satya Patel said “Monograph offers transformative organization and project management software that is changing the way architects and designers work so that they can deliver better client service, manage costs and earn more profit. We look forward to seeing the company’s continued growth and innovation in a market that has been waiting for modern solutions.”

XYZ Reality secures £5M to bring a hologram headset to the construction industry

Augmented reality technology did not, it turns out, light the touch paper on a booming new industry. What we got instead were a few cute applications on smartphones and devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens, which has seen pretty limited success.

Where AR has proved that it may have a future is in industry, allowing workers to look at plans whilst they assemble something, for instance.

A new U.K. startup hopes to nudge that future on further with a radical new technology which, although it resembles the HoloLens, is in fact a highly accurate helmet-mounted screen that enables construction workers to place beams or bricks in exactly the right locations, thus introducing significant savings in time normally lost due to mistakes.

To further boost its efforts, XYZ Reality has closed a £5 million Series A funding round, led by Amadeus Capital Partners and Hoxton Ventures, with participation from Adara Ventures and J Coffey Construction. The company will build out its AR cloud and software platform and build its team to serve the EU market and expand to the U.S. and Asia.

The idea behind it is highly innovative. A dedicated helmet with an attached visor projects a highly accurate hologram — based on laser positioning — in front of the wearer’s face, allowing them to place objects precisely according to plans projected in front of their eyes.

The company claims its HoloSite headset is the “world’s first engineering-grade Augmented Reality device,” that allows construction workers to view Building Information Models on-site to a five-millimeter accuracy.

The problem it’s solving is an age-old one. In today’s construction industry, buildings are designed in 3D and then converted into 2D drawings. But tradespeople are asked to interpret those 2D drawings and turn them into 3D buildings within construction “tolerances.” This process creates inefficiencies that mean up to 80% of the construction being “out-of-tolerance.” It’s estimated that 7-11% of project costs are wasted this way and, of course, in mega-projects like huge bridges, this amounts to an average of more than $100 million.

Founder, CEO and builder David Mitchell, who has spent his career in the construction industry, says: “Works are currently validated after the fact through laser scanning. But 80% of the time the construction fails to meet acceptable tolerances. With HoloSite, we can prevent errors happening in the first place.”

Mitchell came up with the idea of eliminating 2D designs after the 2008 recession devastated the industry.

I tried out the headset for myself and found that I could, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, from scratch complete a basic assembly of bricks according to the plans projected in front of my eyes.

XYZ says it is possible to build a bathroom in two hours using the headset, versus a day without it, using the technology.

The hope is that as this technology improves, any tradesperson would be able to work on a construction site with less need for training in 2D plans, but still with a high degree of accuracy.

The project is not without risk. Daqri, which built enterprise-grade AR headsets for construction, shuttered its HQ last year. Earlier, Osterhout Design Group unloaded its AR glasses patents after acquisition talks with Magic Leap, Facebook and others stalled. Meta, an AR headset startup that raised $73 million from VCs, including Tencent, also sold its assets earlier this year after the company ran out of cash.

But Amadeus is bullish. Nick Kingsbury, partner, Amadeus Capital Partners said: “Construction is a sector that’s ripe for radical innovation. This technology has the potential to revolutionize how the construction industry sets out and validates its work, reducing costs and the chance of project slippage from mistakes.”

Insurance AI startup Synthesized raises $2.8M from IQ Capital and Mundi Ventures

The insurance industry depends on data to support a number of functions the average person in the street is usually completely unaware of, such as “informed risk selection,” underwriting and claims management. Like many industries, it would like to automate much of this, but it’s just not that simple.

Synthesized is a U.K. startup that tries to reduce friction on preparing all the data that’s needed, to enable insurers to share data safely, complying with regulations. The more that happens, the more innovation can happen, such as insuring for a low-carbon economy, something that will become increasingly important.

It has now raised $2.8 million in a new round of funding co-led by Cambridge-based IQ Capital and Mundi Ventures, with participation from Seedcamp, Pretiosum Ventures and a number of finance and technology executives in the U.K. Financing from the round will be used to double the number of its employees in London, and build out its sales and product teams.

Co-founder Nicolai Baldin said: “Synthesized substantially reduces the time to develop and comprehensively test data-driven projects and as a result empowers engineers to build better products and services for end-users. With the new funding from IQ Capital and Mundi Ventures, Synthesized is well-positioned to facilitate its business operations to turbocharge development processes across many sectors, such as finance, insurance and healthcare.”

Ed Stacey, managing partner at IQ Capital said: “Responsible organizations are waking up to the need to ensure that their deployed machine learning systems are fair and unbiased, as well as being robust and accurate. Synthesized’s ability to create multiple, balanced data sets in a flexible way gives organizations and their customers the confidence they need in deployed production systems, while also greatly speeding up the development process. Javier Santiso, CEO and founder of Alma Mundi Ventures, said that “The prospects for Synthesized are bright and we see the impact of synthetic data permeating almost every industry.”

Synthesized competes in various ways with products from Gretel AI, Snorkel, Tonic AI, Hazy and Mostly AI.

Zumper raises $60M to double down on tech to grow its apartment rentals platform

The apartment rental market in the US will be worth $174.1 billion this year, and today a startup that’s built a platform to help it along by connecting renters with rentals is announcing a round of funding to fuel its growth. Zumper, which provides listings of available rental properties and services (such as rent payments) to help manage landlords’ rental businesses, has raised $60 million, money that CEO and co-founder Anthemos Georgiades said it plans to use to continue both expanding its footprint in the US (its primary market today), as well as to continue building out its platform and the data science behind it, as well as more tools for users of its two-sided marketplace.

This Series D is being led by new backer e.ventures — the VC that originally started out as BV Ventures, the strategic VC arm of publishing giant Bertelsmann — and includes participation from a number of existing investors. Zumper has raised $150 million to date from backers that include Andreessen Horowitz, Axel Springer, the Blackstone Group, Breyer Capital, CrunchFund, Dawn Capital, Goodwater Capital, Greycroft, Greylock, Kleiner Perkins, NEA, Stereo Capital, Foxhaven Asset Management, and others.

The company is not talking about its valuation but we understand that it is more than double the valuation Zumper had in its previous round. For context, that was a $46 million Series C round in 2018 that was made at over $200 million but under $300 million, putting Zumper’s current valuation at between $400 million and $600 million.

Zumper also doesn’t disclose financials but says that it’s been seeing 100% growth year-on-year for its revenues and is on track to have some 80 million people using its platform in 2020, with 13 million visitors per month, typically looking for one-year leases. And within its B2B rental big data play, some 1 million listings are analysed monthly.

The startup’s growth is coming at a pivotal time in the property market.

On one hand, Zumper competes against the likes of other fast-growing startups like Compass, as well as giants like Zillow and more recently Costar (owner of Apartments.com and many others). The latter two have shaped up to be key consolidators, acquiring smaller outfits and bigger rivals that have fallen into trouble to get better economies of scale.

But at the same time, we have seen a fair amount of stress in the industry, caused by the oversupply of inventory in the market, which puts pressure on prices; and some of the biggest and most established players getting hit hard trying to modernise their businesses. As one example, after RentPath — the owner of Rent.com, Rentals.com, ApartmentGuide.com and others — filed for Chapter 11, Costar picked it up for $588 million (that deal has not officially closed).

“Everyone is falling by the wayside,” Georgiades said.

Beyond market trends, there are also consumer trends, with those who are traditional renters looking to buy property, or those who continue renting exploring shorter leases or home shares as ways of saving money and looking for better deals. Zumper notes that some 66% of renters today in the US live in a co-living situation.

Within those wider developments, Zumper — which Georgiades describes as the largest privately-backed rentals platform — has been working on building a modern platform that provides more than just a simple place to discover what’s available in the market.

“We want to add lease signing and more financial offerings for landlords,” Georgiades said, noting that insurance is one area that it is also exploring. “The idea is to build in more peace of mind for our customers, not just more software.”

And it’s doing so by delivering a key demographic that everyone wants to target: millennial users. 

“Zumper is the single best source for younger millennials to find apartments,” he said, noting that one in four Americans will use Zumper this year to search for an apartment. A typical user, he added, is “more mobile,” and averages at 28 years old, and its user base skews female.

Working to serve that demographic and its changing tastes for where and how to put down roots, Zumper has partnerships in place with the likes of Airbnb and Facebook to target different parts of the market. Georgiades said that he does not view either as a competitor, but nor are there plans to expand these relationships at the moment (and he would not comment on whether Airbnb or Facebook has ever tried to acquire Zumper).

“We see ourselves as the Airbnb of one-year leases,” he said. “We start where Airbnb ends.” While today there seems to be a way on Zumper to search for rooms, it doesn’t seem to be optimised for that kind of search, so that is another area where you could see the startup growing.

“Zumper’s progress so far is striking, and it has quickly become the leading independent company focused on the rental market,” said Mathias Schilling Co-Founder & Managing Partner with e.ventures, in a statement. “We believe that Zumper is well positioned because of its focus on providing an exceptional product for renters and great value for landlords and multi-family properties.”

 

YC-backed Snapboard is a no-code platform for building internal tools

No-code tools are on the rise, and a YC-backed company called Snapboard is looking to join the fight.

Snapboard, led by solo founder Calum Moore, started when Moore decided to build one product a week for a year as a personal challenge. In the second week, he realized just how many apps and services it took not only to build the product, but to post about it on social media.

He wanted a way to manage all those apps and tools from one dashboard. So he built Snapboard.

Snapboard allows users to link and manage a wide variety of apps and platforms in a single, customizable dashboard. Users can create boards that act as internal tools without getting the product or engineering team involved for an internal project. Moore describes it as “Airtable, but with all of your data already in there.”

More than 50 apps are available on the Snapboard platform, including Shopify, Dropbox, Google Analytics, MailChimp, MongoDB, MySQL, Trello, Zendesk and many more. Moore isn’t concerned with onboarding new integrated apps for Snapboard, as most of the popular tools used by startups and tech firms are API supported.

The use cases are innumerable, which is just as challenging as it is beneficial. Moore detailed a few examples, including building boards for each individual customer, combining Stripe data with emails sent through Mail Chimp to try to target behavior.

However, the flexibility of the platform means that it can do almost anything, but only if you know what you want to do with it. It can be difficult to evangelize for something that is so nebulous, and can be used so many ways.

Moore says the key is to sprint on building out the template library for Snapboard, offering new users a multitude of options as inspiration.

Snapboard offers a free tier, and then charges $10/month/seat for more advanced features. Thus far, the company has 3,000 registered users and around 230 WAUs.

The company is targeting tech companies but sees the potential for other industries to tap into Snapboard’s internal tool-making platform.

Beyond the difficulty of messaging a platform that can be used in countless ways, Moore identifies UX design as one of the company’s greatest challenges.

“We’re taking something only developers used to be able to do and making it available for everyone else,” said Moore. “If you give a developer a platform, they’ll work their way through it. They’ll find some way to make it work. Whereas, with less technical people, they want products to be very obvious and easy to use. So, for us, it’s about delivering that kind of technical experience in a really non-technical way.”

Snapboard has raised a total of $150K from Y Combinator and will present in the upcoming demo day.