Disperse’s London team

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AI-based construction software start-up targets US after raising $15m

29 October 2019 | By Denise Chevin

A London-based start-up which has developed AI based software to boost construction efficiency has raised $15m (£11.65m) in funding to expand in the US.

Disperse integrates construction schedules, 2D drawings, 3D models and visual snapshots from a construction site and processes them with proprietary AI to create an interactive digital twin, complete with analytical capability. The system quantifies progress, highlights bottlenecks and flags early warning signs of potential issues, allowing for improved delivery and standardisation of best practices across the organisation.

Disperse was founded by Felix Neufeld in 2015 out of a London School of Economics entrepreneurship incubator and has grown rapidly through co-innovation with strategic customers in the UK. The company’s technology is now deployed across more than 14 million square feet of construction in the UK and the US, and has been selected by Meyer Bergman, Lodha, Mace and Canary Wharf Contractors.

“I grew up on construction sites, in a big construction family. We’re frequently contrasted with industries, like manufacturing, where productivity has accelerated,” said Neufeld.

“The big problem in our industry is that as soon as things start going wrong, everybody starts looking for someone to blame; developers blame general contractors and general contractors blame subcontractors, but the finger pointing and subjectivity only causes more productivity loss.

“The truth is, the weaknesses are systemic. All my life I've witnessed first-hand the pain that broken processes cause to people in this business, but I’ve also seen the eagerness and capability to innovate and change from the people who understand the underlying problems and want to move the industry forward,” he said

Michiel Kotting, partner at Northzone, which has provided the funding, said: “We see industries that have traditionally been slower to innovate, increasingly being disrupted by technology.

“If applied in the right way, AI can strongly accelerate this momentum. As the construction industry has a trillion dollar productivity gap, we have been on the lookout for bold entrepreneurs that address this challenge.

“Felix and his team impressed us with their ability to create a solution loved by everyone in the industry, from boardroom to project site. We’re excited to partner with them.”

“What struck us right away when we first met Disperse was the balance of vision and pragmatism in their approach to solving problems,” said Paul Connolly, director of technical services at Mace. “Most solutions coming out of tech labs just can’t adapt to the real-world complexity that construction companies are dealing with today, and others are too basic in their functionality.

“Disperse is actually partnering with us to transform our delivery processes. This isn’t just about optimising workflows or doing things faster, but rather about changing the way we operate to do things in a more integrated, consistent and data-driven manner.

Andy Campbell, director of data centres at Multiplex, which is also using, Disperse commented: “There’s been a flurry of activity in the ConTech space recently, so we avoid temptation to trial every shiny product that we come across. We prioritise solutions that solve real problems and add significant value, and with the volume of data produced across the vast territory of a large-scale construction project, Disperse’s solution made absolute sense.”