The Future of Construction
Self-Driving Construction Equipment
When I was growing up in rural Vermont, my dad was a contractor, and I spent most summers in high school working for him. I’d wake up at 6am and spend the day scraping and painting, roofing, running electrical wires, picking up trash around the job site — whatever needed to be done. Needless to say, as a sixteen-year-old on summer vacation, I hated every minute of it.
I went on to study computer science at UPenn, work at Google, and start an ecommerce company called Twice that eBay bought in 2015. Starting my first company was an intense experience, and I learned that I loved the excitement of startups and the potential impact of engineering, but there still was something missing.
I remembered driving through my hometown and seeing my dad point out houses he’d built, shops he’d worked on, even a small theater he’d helped renovate. He had literally built the community he lived in, and the things he made will still be used by people in a hundred years. If I was looking for meaning, this was it.
As I learned more about the industry, I came to understand some of the pressing issues facing construction: a chronic labor shortage, productivity that has fallen by half since the 1960s, and an industry that, despite significant improvements, remains the most dangerous in America. And on top of it all, construction has been relatively untouched by the digital age. I knew technology could help fix these issues, and I knew it could be a huge opportunity.
After talking to dozens of contractors, developers, operators and engineers, I came up with an idea. We could take the latest sensors from self-driving cars, retrofit them into off-the-shelf, time-tested equipment, and develop autonomous software designed specifically for the requirements of construction. And because heavy equipment moves slowly and construction projects are already controlled-access sites, we could safely deploy the technology years before self-driving cars hit the road.
Over the past two years, with a team of talented engineers, roboticists, and construction experts, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We built our first autonomous track loader (ATL) — named Mary Anne after Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel — and we completed our first commercial project this summer. Today, I’m excited to announce the next step in our journey.
We’ve raised a $15 million Series A led by Forest Baskett and Aaron Jacobson at NEA. We also have the honor of working with Founders Fund, Lemnos, Combine and some incredibly insightful angel investors including Eric Stromberg, Maria Thomas, Edward Lando and Justin Kan. In addition, Carl Bass, the former CEO of Autodesk, has joined our Board of Directors to help guide our strategy at the intersection of construction and technology.
Building Mary Anne, our first ATL, is just the first step; in an $8 trillion global construction industry, there will be many, many more. Over the coming months, we will push forward on our R&D road map and begin to deploy our robots at scale. And over the next few years, I believe our autonomous equipment will play a key role in helping make construction safer, faster and more affordable.
Founder & CEO