Announcing our investment in ICON

Image courtesy of ICON
“It is existentially urgent that humanity finds a solution to the problems around housing and shelter.”
-Jason Ballard, Co-Founder and CEO, ICON

The world has a housing crisis, and it is a ticking time bomb. It is projected that, globally, the number of people who live in informal housing will exceed 1 billion by the year 2020. That is a staggering number.

To put that in perspective, that would mean that in 2020, roughly 1 out of every 8 people in the world would not have adequate housing. That, I believe, is a SOBERING number.

We cannot continue to ignore this issue. As a global population, we need to completely reimagine the way we are housing ourselves. For this reason, and others, we are excited to announce our recent investment in ICON, a company combining cutting-edge 3D printing technology with the latest materials science to print homes that are cost effective, efficient, safe and beautiful.

In March 2018, with support from an incredible non-profit called New Story, ICON unveiled the first permitted, 3D-printed home in North America at South By Southwest in Austin, TX. The announcement took the world by storm, igniting imaginations and generating nearly 850 million impressions globally. The company was inundated by phone calls and emails from developers, governments and global non-profits asking them to immediately start building durable and sustainable communities in their countries. Clearly, their achievement had struck a nerve.

One of my Kauffman Fellowship classmates, Evan Loomis, is one of the co-founders of ICON. Evan reached out to our class after the response to the SXSW announcement in order to leverage our collective experience (one of the core benefits of the Kauffman network). The day I saw his email, I happened to be in Houston, Texas, so I rented a car and drove to Austin to meet Evan and his co-founders, and to see the house with my own eyes. When I arrived, I was blown away.

When I first heard “We 3D printed a concrete house.”, images of what that house might look and feel like floated through my head. All of them were completely wrong. The house is beautiful, bright, warm and very liveable.

I spent two days in Austin during that trip, where I got to spend many hours with Evan and his co-founders Jason Ballard (CEO) and Alex Le Roux (CTO). We talked about their histories, their motivations, and their plans for moving ICON forward. I walked away incredibly impressed with the team and their progress, and shortly after that trip we offered to lead their Series Seed financing round.

At Oakhouse Partners, we believe the most valuable companies are those which contribute meaningfully to solving the world’s most pressing challenges. We partner with teams that have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of people, and we are deeply proud of the challenges that our portfolio companies are solving. By applying 3D printing technology and the latest advancements in materials science to help solve our global housing crisis, ICON fits perfectly into our community of portfolio companies.

Over the last few months the ICON team fielded countless inquiries from interested investors, and we introduced them to a few who we’ve co-invested with in the past. The team lead a transparent and professional financing process right up through the closing. Now that the dust has settled, we are incredibly excited about the syndicate of investors who participated in the round. It is an amazing group, and we look forward to working with them over the coming years.

Jason Ballard and his team have ambitious goals for the next 6 months, and a robust product roadmap that will carry them through the next few years. Jason told me, “As exciting as it is, one 3D printed house in Austin is not going to solve the global housing problem. We have better printers in the works and much more ambitious projects taking shape. I’m proud of what our team has accomplished, and I can assure you that this is just the beginning in terms of where we plan to take this technology.”

As many of you know, one of the most important parts of any technology company is the people who work there. ICON continues to assemble a very talented team, especially in the areas of mechanical engineering, software engineering and materials science. If you, or someone you know, are experienced in any of these areas, and would like to apply your skills and knowledge to help solve one of humanities critical challenges, please contact me through LinkedIn or Twitter.

What the ICON team has accomplished in such a short period of time is not only a transformational breakthrough in homebuilding, it is an inspiration for the entire world to think outside the box about how humanity will confront the global housing crisis. ICON’s technology can help the entire world print ourselves out of our current housing shortage, improving the lives of millions of people in the process. Please join us as we congratulate the ICON team on closing their financing round and wishing them success on their important journey ahead.