Venture East Day One: Early-Stage Investing, LATAM Markets and the Future of FormWork Labs

Day one of the 2022 Venture East Conference in Miami, Florida is officially in the books. In an action-packed day filled with expert speakers, the audience heard from eighteen different industry leaders and six startups during BuiltWorlds’ Demo Day. Day one focussed primarily on Early-Stage Investing, covering topics such as strategic funds in building tech, a digital transformation in the industry, the state of the built world in Latin America, and many more. 

As attendees shuffled in and found their seats, Director of Venture Investment for BuiltWorlds, Dan Laboe, gave a brief welcome before handing the mic to Daniel Fetner, General Partner at Alpaca Ventures and Co-Founder of Soil Connect, for the opening keynote. As Dan spoke, he recalled his beginnings as a “glorified garbageman” on his father’s construction sites before finding his way to Venture Capital, investing in construction technology and the built world. In a phrase he uses often, the most effective way to introduce new technology to the construction industry is through “gentle disruption” instead of “moving quickly and breaking things,” as you might see in Silicon Valley. Toward the end of Dan’s address, he provided his opinion that it’s critical for at least one founder to have “founder-market fit,” meaning they have first-hand experience in the space they’re trying to disrupt.  

Following the keynote address, Dan Laboe retook the stage to discuss “The Rise Of Strategic Funds In Building Tech” with Ross Bosn, Corporate Strategy Leader for Owens Corning. The two took a deep dive into Owens Corning’s Venture Investments and what Owens Corning looks for when investing. 

The next panel highlighted four data-driven companies, including Chloe Smith, CEO and Founder of Mercator AI, Omar Ghazzaoui, Co-Founder and CEO of Vos Systems, Matthew Hudelson, Founder and CEO of Inertia Systems, and Rene Morkos, CEO and Co-Founder of ALICE Technologies. The group discussed how the construction industry’s project delivery lifecycle has been affected by the utilization of real-time data and solutions previously unavailable to the built world.  

As the conference continued, the focus shifted to assessing “The State of the Built World in Latin America.” Gabriela Rodas, Project Manager with Progreso X, Chris Anderson, Founder & CEO of Vantem Global, and Bernardo Gamboa, Partner for Global Project Strategy, explored the state of the LATAM market and the differences between the US and European markets from an investor and startup lens. 

Following lunch, attendees reconvened for a brief presentation from Dan Laboe regarding Q3 investments leveraging the BuiltWorlds index before the “ Near Term Supply-Issues Inciting Long Term Digitization” panel. Panelists included Christopher Bone, CEO of Modulous, Cliff Fetner, Founder & CEO of Soil Connect, Stephen Forte, CEO of The BuildClub, and Eric Wasserman, Co-founder and President of Rigor. The group spoke on topics such as challenges in the industry’s supply chain and what their solutions do to solve them.

The conference shifted once more to discuss the innovative possibilities that arose from the Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act. Matthew Shackelford, Senior Associate with Touchdown Ventures, and Adam Bridgman, General Partner with Ironspring Ventures, discussed the legislature’s scope in a panel titled “The Elevating Potential of Horizontal Innovation.” Matthew noted that he sees the water sector as having a strong possibility for growth.

The last panel of the day covered Lessons From Formwork Labs with former cohort member Hao Li, CEO of Multipliciti, former mentor Jay Snyder, President of Big Blue Innovations, in addition to Jack Forde of BuiltWorlds and Kaustubh Pandya of Brick & Mortar Ventures. To end this panel, Jack announced the continuation of Formwork Labs 2.0, which will kick off in February 2023. 

To end Day one, six emerging companies presented as part of the Demo Day Competition. Presenters included Wouter Devriendt, CEO at AICON, Paul Cardis, Co-Founder and CEO of On3, Henri Lee, CEO & Founder at Xpanner, Dedi Ben Natan, CEO of Cloudyo, Heather Towsley, President of FireGuardia, and Guy Benromano, CEO of LightYX. The winner will be announced on Day Two of the Conference.