At first glance, automating construction makes sense. It is one of the world’s largest industries. It is also one of the most expensive and often dangerous. It certainly very clearly ticks off the three D’s (boring, dirty, dangerous) of automation.
We came across Kewazo several years ago when the Munich-based startup was participating in a pitch-off of TC Sessions: Robotics. Startups sometimes need a lot of explanation. This is not one. Central to the offering is the company’s first product, Liftbot. The system is basically an automated lifting system that ascends and descends scaffold systems.
It takes two workers about 20 minutes to install (according to the company), is fully battery-powered and wireless, and can arrive at its destination without manual intervention. Like a number of construction robotics companies, Kewazo got a nice boost during the pandemic as construction reopened, but many companies suddenly struggled to fill roles.
“Despite the pre-existing labor shortage, it became impossible for foreign workers to commute back to their home country and come back,” co-founder and CEO Artem Kuchukov tells TechCrunch. “Many sites in Europe, the Middle East and Singapore suffered enormously because a large percentage of their workforce was simply no longer there. That was a huge catalyst for construction automation, as companies looked for ways to support their business without relying on an insecure labor supply.”
Today, Kewazo announces a $10 million Series A. The round, which brings the entire fundraising to approximately $20 million, was led by Fifth Wall, with participation from Cybernetix Ventures, Unorthodox Ventures and Nemetschek. It follows a $5 million “Pre-Series A” in September 2021.
“I think it is very useful that companies like Kewazo disrupt our business,” says Bart Gyssels, CIO of Altrad Services Benelux, in a press release linked to the news. “We will have problems finding and retaining good staff – this will be our main focus for years and decades to come. These innovations are very helpful in attracting and motivating our colleagues and helping us provide cost-effective and secure services to our customers.”
Kuchukov tells TechCrunch that, despite the general bullishness surrounding construction automation, raising it in 2022 was no easy feat.
“Series A in 2022, however, was more difficult. We started raising money at the beginning of April, just when things started to slow down’, he says. “We had a founders camp hosted by True Ventures in Napa Valley in March and no one was talking about the recession yet. But a few weeks later it started. Some of my co-founders suggested waiting until the fall to make the raise, but we decided not to rely on the unstable global economic situation.”
One of the plans for the money is to increase the workforce. Kewazo currently employs 26 full-time and 11 part-time employees and plans to hire an additional 15 this year, primarily in business and product development.