Brick & Mortar: This Venture Firm Founded By Darren Bechtel Has Closed A $97.2 Million Fund

By Amit Chowdhry ● August 19, 2019
  • Brick & Mortar Ventures recently announced it closed a $97.2 million fund, which will be used to invest in emerging companies developing innovative software and hardware solutions

Recently, Brick & Mortar Ventures announced it closed a $97.2 million fund. Brick & Mortar is going to use this fund to invest in emerging companies developing innovative software and hardware solutions for the industries of architecture, engineering, construction, and facilities management. This funding close is considered Brick & Mortar’s first institutional capital.

Brick & Mortar was founded by Managing Director Darren Bechtel — who has been previously been investing personal capital into Built World technology startups since 2012 starting with his participation as the largest investor in the seed round of PlanGrid (acquired by Autodesk for $875 million).

“We are excited to formally announce our first institutional venture capital fund and publicly introduce our corporate strategic investors and partners,” said Bechtel in a statement. “While angel investing across a wide variety of verticals, I observed that out of my portfolio of roughly forty companies, the Built World investments were standout performers and looked to be the start of a larger trend. Whether by good intuition, pure luck, or something in between, my first four construction tech investments were into the seed rounds of PlanGrid, BuildZoom, BuildingConnected, and Rhumbix. The rapid growth, impact, and early success of these companies strengthened my conviction there was ‘gold in them hills,’ and now was the time to invest and double down on our built world tech investment thesis.”

Brick & Mortar is backed by a number of leading industry powerhouses in the construction value chain including Ardex, Autodesk, CEMEX, Ferguson Ventures, FMI, Glodon, Haskell, Hilti, Obayashi, Sidewalk Labs, and United Rentals. Brick & Mortar calls its corporate anchor investors “Preferred Industry Partners.”

And each such organization enjoys a strategic relationship with the Brick & Mortar team so that each is able to share information concerning challenges its organization faces, to collaborate on opportunities it sees, and to explore emerging technology solutions that might be available for proof-of-concept pilots, co-development, or commercial use.

The Bechtel Group — which is a 120-year-old multinational engineering and construction firm founded by Darren’s great, great grandfather and is now run by his brother Brendan Bechtel — is not an investor in Brick & Mortar or any of its portfolio companies. But due to Darren’s familial and past professional relationship with Bechtel, Brick & Mortar has named the company a Preferred Industry Partner along with its anchor investors.

The Preferred Industry Partners each work with Brick & Mortar to identify to the industry their challenges and explore solutions to their needs and consider the benefits offered by early-stage companies known to Brick & Mortar regardless of whether or not the venture firm is an investor in those startups. And in addition to the individual support and partnership between Brick & Mortar and each Preferred Industry Partner, the firm facilitates knowledge sharing and direct collaboration between its partners.

“We are excited to be a Limited Partner of Brick & Mortar and support their efforts to accelerate promising startups that are developing built-for-purpose solutions for the construction industry,” added Kevin Barnes — a VP and Managing Director at Ferguson Ventures. “Darren, his team and the participating industry-leading LPs will add tremendous capability to our industry.”

Ever since the initial closing of the fund in January 2018, Brick & Mortar has already built up a portfolio of 16 deals from its current fund including ManufactOn, FieldWire, Serious Labs, BuildingConnected (acquired by Autodesk), Branch Technology, Canvas, Cumulus, Connect Homes, Illumagear, SafeAI, Veerum, Ynomia, Curbio, Wingtra, Timber, and SafeSite. And the firm is planning to continue to lead seed and Series A financing rounds globally with a focus on the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia. And it will invest between $1 million to $4 million into new opportunities with reserved capital for follow-on participation over the life of its portfolio companies.

“Brick & Mortar has shown a true commitment to creating value for their LPs, not just talking about it,” explained Cutler Knupp — the Director of Strategy and Technology Investments at Dysruptek (CVC arm of Haskell). “Industry expertise in combination with a disciplined focus on real solutions that scale sets Brick and Mortar apart. They have a real passion for advancing technology in the AEC industry and it shows with the quality of investments and willingness to get a little dirt on their boots. The team works hand in hand with us (the LPs) and their portfolio companies as a true partner to build lasting value.”

Through its expertise and strategic LP relationships, Brick & Mortar’s portfolio founders gain access to incomparable industry experience and connections to leading players in the construction value chain. And Brick & Mortar provides detailed feedback on product/market fit, helps shape product roadmaps, and aids in helping companies land an early POC or pilot with a pathway to scale.

“Brick & Mortar Ventures is certainly one of the leading investors in construction tech and a key driver in developing the ecosystem in this space,” noted Vivin Hegde, the Director of Technology at Hilti. “We very much appreciate and benefit from our close partnership.”

Brick & Mortar Ventures is based in San Francisco. And its team of five includes Bechtel, Alice Leung (associate), Kaustubh Pandya (principal), Curtis Rodgers (principal), and Austin Yount (senior associate).