To achieve scale, founders, executives, and investors in construction technology need to eliminate the barriers to efficient growth. Here’s how.
Construction sites in 2023 might in many ways resemble those in 1923, with manual bricklaying, paper blueprints, and scaffold towers. At $12 trillion,1 architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) is one of the biggest industries in the world, but historically it has been among the slowest to digitize and innovate.
This, however, is changing fast: strong demand for infrastructure, a shortage of skilled labor, and increased stakeholder pressure for data transparency and integration are all accelerating digital adoption. As a result, the AEC tech ecosystem has experienced an explosion of investment and a wave of start-up launches. An estimated $50 billion was invested in AEC tech between 2020 to 2022, 85 percent higher than the previous three years. During the same period, the number of deals in the industry increased 30 percent to 1,229 (Exhibit 1).
Although the AEC tech industry is maturing, it is not yet at the scale and sophistication of more established software markets like logistics, manufacturing, and agriculture. The industry boasts fewer scale-ups and unicorns relative to its size. And it is hard for AEC tech companies to grow efficiently due to several dynamics among AEC customers, including fragmentation, low IT spend (relative to other industries), and entrenched analog ways of working.
In this environment, how can AEC tech companies accelerate adoption and sales and achieve scale? To answer this question, we surveyed approximately 100 investors and AEC tech players in 2022 and interviewed founders, investors, and large software companies in the industry. Using primary research and publicly available data, we also mapped and analyzed more than 3,000 AEC tech companies.2 In this article, we review the findings of that research. We outline the investment trends that are accelerating the digitization of the industry, and we suggest how tech businesses, and their investors, can address challenges to get on a path of efficient growth.