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Construction is expensive. In a city like New York, the average cost of building in 2017 was upwards of $354 per square foot; in Zurich, the next-priciest locale, it was $328 per square foot. Building materials and labor add up, and although real estate investment in the world’s costliest cities exceeds tens of billions collectively ($14.3 billion in New York alone in 2016), funds don’t always come through when they’re needed most.
Billd aims to ensure that such gaps in funding rarely happen. The financial technology company, which quietly secured $8.4 million in equity funding in November 2018, works with regional and national materials suppliers across the U.S. to extend short-term loans to construction contractors. There’s healthy demand for its services, it would seem: The Austin startup today announced that it has raised $60 million in debt and equity financing in a series A funding round led by LL Funds, an independent investment firm focused on fixed-income and specialty consumer finance investments.
Billd CEO Chris Doyle said the capital raised will be used to “expand product capabilities” and scale operations.
“The construction industry is known for inefficient supply chain financing across all major sectors, and subcontractors and suppliers are the last in line,” he said in a statement. “Billd provides subcontractors solutions so they can take that extra project, grow their business, and simplify their process, while also giving suppliers more payment options to share with their customers.”
Generally, construction suppliers expect payment for building materials within 30 days, a window far narrower than the average 60 to 90 days it takes for contractors to receive payment for their work. Billd solves this problem with 120-day terms. When contractors sign up, they receive a range of financing options for material orders, which suppliers can see and approve the same day. Contractors pay a fixed monthly interest rate — without application costs — and suppliers get upfront, guaranteed payments from Billd on the contractors’ behalf.
Billd says it currently works with “thousands” of contractors across the U.S.
“LL Funds focuses on asymmetrical investment opportunities, where we can combine our extensive experience in lending, capital markets, and risk management with disruptive business approaches, especially in industries as large as the U.S. construction sector,” said Shivraj Mundy, an operating partner with LL Funds who will join Billd as its executive chair. “We are excited about this opportunity to significantly improve supply-chain financing in the construction sector.”
Construction startups are having a moment, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise — analysts peg the global industry at $10 trillion. In the third quarter of 2018 alone, North American construction tech startups raised $220.7 million, up 348 percent year-over-year from $49.3 million in 2017. Moreover, architecture, engineering, and construction companies attracted $1.38 billion in investment last year, according to CB Insights, clearing 2017’s record $882.3 million.
In July 2018, SoftBank-backed Katerra, an end-to-end provider of building services that is valued at over $3 billion, announced plans to open an advanced manufacturing factory in Tracy, California. Paris-based Finalcad, a provider of software products that help construction companies manage processes and derive insights through predictive analytics, raked in $40 million toward the end of last year. And Tel Aviv-based autonomous crane company Intsite in September secured $1.35 million in pre-seed financing.
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