Autodesk invests in actual construction startup

Jul 10, 2019 | Hot Topics

You know that Autodesk invests in tech startups. Did you know that they also invest in makers of actual, physical things? Apparently, they do!

Autodesk just announced that it has increased its investment in Factory_OS, a “volumetric modular construction start-up” that aims to “displace conventional construction practices for affordable multi-unit residential properties”. That seems to be PR-speak for making prefabricated homes, somewhere away from the construction site where factory-like automation can be used to build better, faster and more economically, and then trucking them to their permanent locations, where they are assembled.

Unlike other Autodesk investments that are purely technological, building new products for simulation, design, construction planning or execution, or more typical CAx/PLMish applications, this one seems to be about the physical buildings.

Factory_OS will use its new funds to expand its Factory Floor Learning Center to develop new techniques for industrialized construction and to build what Autodesk calls a “Rapid Response Factory”, where Factory_OS will ultimately fabricate housing as quickly as possible to meet demand after a natural disaster or other emergency.

Factory_OS says it already builds “well-designed, tech-ready multifamily homes 40% faster [that are] 20% less expensive than conventional housing … We do this by building the bulk of the home off-site, right down to the toilet paper holders. Then we ship it and assemble it on-site”.

In announcing this investment, Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost said that “Factory_OS is a pioneer that is revolutionizing the approach to modularized homebuilding and making the dream of affordable housing in cities, a reality. We’re honored to support their mission, in collaboration with Citi [the other investor in this round] of giving families safe and affordable homes to call their own. I have no doubt our continued collaboration will serve as a springboard to addressing the growing housing crisis nationwide.”

Autodesk’s press release didn’t say how much this round totaled, but I did find an SEC filing that said that Factory_OS raised just under $23 million in May/June.

Image courtesy of Factory_OS.