Our Investment in Modumate
Modernizing the building blocks of architectural design
As a seed-stage investor, so much of our investment decision making comes down to our belief in the entrepreneur and their ability to execute. This is made ever more complicated because we don’t always have the luxury to get to know a founder over many months before we decide to commit to a deal. Given the timing of when we engage in a process, we might have a very truncated time frame in which we evaluate the operator’s drives, motivations, and vision for the space. Modumate, however, was not one of those cases. Given the uniquely ambitious scope of the opportunity, I am thankful for this fact.
Modumate is an intelligent 3D modeling-based software platform that gives architecture, engineering, and construction professionals the BIM tools they need to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings. What got me most excited me about the opportunity, personally, was the concept of bringing video game development principles to designing architecture – the key insight Richman Neumann had in founding Modumate.
Way before Fortnite, game developers like Modumate CTO Jason Shankel were leveraging architecture design principles in popular video games. Thanks to the technological watershed that is Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, now practiced hands like Jason’s can bring these game design principles into the architectural design process. By the way, those of you that (like me) spent countless twilight hours building, tearing down, and rebuilding your dream houses in The SIMS have Jason to thank for that.
Richman and I first met almost a decade ago when he joined me on Carnegie Mellon’s a cappella team “The Originals”. As he grew into leadership roles within the group, even as a college student, Richman had an impressive talent for corralling easily distracted tenderfoots and leading those around him towards a singular vision of establishing the team on the national competitive circuit. (Side note: This team eventually won Second(!) place at the prestigious ICCAs in 2016).
That belief in his ability to conceive of, plan for, and execute on an ambitious vision was what led me to first reach out to Richman when I heard he had left his full time role as an architect to build software to help smaller architecture firms work more effectively and efficiently. What began initially as an “office hours” session on his deck and pitch turned into a deeper discussion on an architecture industry long overdue for a software revolution. Richman had noticed that his industry’s last 20 years of software enhancements were only making architects’ jobs more complex and over-customized, in ways which hindered their core value: designing good buildings. We delved deep into the opportunity to empower the long tail to focus on high-value work (i.e. designing, fetching new projects) while automating lower-leverage tasks (especially the drafting of construction documents). Our countless discussions with prospective and pre-order customers alike testified to the staggering amount of time small firms (or junior-intermediate staff at large firms) can spend on these rote tasks, and their excitement for an automation-based solution.
Joining Richman on this exciting journey are Jason Shankel and CRO Larry Neumann, each with his own impressive background of scaling multiple organizations — many on to successful exits. Throughout our diligence process, Richman and team exemplified a high-level of transparency, thoroughness, and introspection that made us feel consistently comfortable that this team can deliver architecture professionals the modern tools they need to build for a modern world. We believe these same attributes to be core to why Richman will be able to recruit even more talented team members to win against entrenched players like Autodesk Revit, Sketchup, and ArchiCAD — many of whom paywall key features behind expensive plug-ins and are content to, so to speak, slap a new coat of paint on an old country home with each new version release.
We are excited to be investing alongside old friends at RiverPark Ventures again as well as with new friends 205 Capital and TeleSoft Partners, and are joined by a group of great angel investors including Clark Valberg, founder and CEO of InVision. Each investor brings a really complementary set of experiences as operators and industry SMEs to advise and support Richman, Jason, Larry & the growing team as they complete development and launch Modumate to the world. The platform will be coming to wide release soon but if you’re an architect excited to learn more and become a Beta customer, reach out directly to Richman.
Finally, if you’re passionate about re-designing the building blocks of architecture from the ground floor up, check out open positions at Modumate here!