Meet the Final Four startups headed to the BW Summit

Construction Robotics’ SAM100 OS 2.0 (shown here) can lay bricks at a rate of 350 per hour—or about 3,000 per day. The company is one of four that won an opportunity to present at the BW Summit in front of potential investors. (Image courtesy of Construction Robotics)

Hello and welcome to final-round coverage of the second annual BuiltWorlds Startup Bracket! The votes are in and the results have been tallied, and we can now officially announce this year’s Final Four, who will compete head to head at the BW Summit on May 3 at UI Labs in Chicago.

There were a lot of even matchups and resulting razor-thin losses in this year’s competition, including tough first-round exits for well-funded outfits Rhumbix, FieldLens, and Cazza. Truly, it’s been anyone’s tournament, and in the end, the quartet that managed to scrape and claw its way to the top was Construction Robotics, GRIT Virtual Construction, PlanGrid, and zlien, a group spanning nearly every field of construction innovation, from automation to VR to planning and management software.

Each of the companies will have the opportunity to deliver a five-minute pitch to potential investors at the Summit, and the startup that earns the most votes from its presentation will win a custom video showcasing its capabilities, to be published on the BuiltWorlds site and seen by thousands of viewers. In advance of the showdown at the Summit, here’s a quick look at the four remaining competitors and the products they’re pushing.

Construction Robotics

You’ve seen this Victor, NY-based automation company on our site before, when we recently wrote about the latest iteration of its masonry robot, SAM100 OS 2.0. The machine can lay up to 350 bricks per hour—two or three times the rate of a pair of human workers—but rather than eliminate jobs, it’s meant to handle tedious labor and free up masons to concentrate on more intricate brickwork. “[Masonry] is manual, strenuous, intensive, repetitive, and populated by an aging workforce,” president and cofounder Scott Peters says, and his company’s poised to solve many of those problems while improving efficiency.

GRIT Virtual Construction

Possibly the greatest Cinderella story of the tournament, Wichita, KS-based GRIT fought its way into the Final Four with a small team that’s working with Quickdraw Studios, a gaming company, and students from locals colleges to turn BIM models into fully interactive VR spaces. In each model, lighting and texture can be observed and objects can be moved around, allowing its owner to get a feel for the space before it’s built. “When you move into your new building, we don’t want you to be surprised by anything,” CEO Chris Callen says in his company’s introductory video. “That’s why we virtually prototype the building, allow you to be immersed in it in virtual reality, and then make the changes when there’s no dollars on the line.”


Around this time last year, San Francisco-based PlanGrid hit the 200-employee mark thanks to the popularity of its user-friendly construction app that allows workers in the field and the office to mark up and work collaboratively on digital blueprints, plans, and reports. Given its size, the funding it’s earned already from distinguished investors such as YCombinator, Sequoia Capital, and Tenaya Capital, and the fact that it has users in more than 150 countries, it’s probably the closest thing our Final Four has to a #1 seed, and it’s only going to grow as more companies employ tablets and smartphones on the job site. “Software gave office workers huge productivity gains, but the average construction worker was left behind,” cofounder and CEO Tracy Young said in a recent company blog post announcing the company’s triple-digit revenue growth in each of the past 13 consecutive quarters. “All that changed with the iPad and 3G wireless networks.”


Rising up out of New Orleans is powerhouse zlien, the most well-funded startup in Louisiana as of March 1, according to CB Insights. The company’s cloud-based platform makes management of mechanics liens and bond-claim rights simple and secure, ensuring that all stakeholders of building projects are properly paid for their work. “Everybody on a project wants to trust one another, but the risks of failure and delay are expensive, and stakeholders are handcuffed to a mountain of protection positions,” founder and CEO Scott Wolfe Jr. said in a press release. “We’re shifting the paradigm in the industry from protection first to collaboration first.” The company is continuing to build its staff, in part thanks to the $5 million in funding it racked up from Silicon Valley investment firm Altos Ventures last year as well as two rounds of funding from Brick & Mortar Ventures.

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