ProptechM&A / Funding

BKwai snags $2.9M seed round to put construction data in engineers’ hands

For many counties, global infrastructure is aging and performing beyond its design life and intended capacity. As a result, the construction industry is working to better understand how existing assets are performing, so it can get more out of using minimal resources.

However, assessing the condition of assets can be difficult. One such company attempting to tap in to infrastructure’s big data is London-based BKwai – a proptech that is turning numbers into engineering intelligence to better understand the asset lifecycle.

On Tuesday, the proptech announced that its construction data technology received £2.2m in Seed funding (approximately $2.9m USD) in a round led by Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s largest early-stage investors, with participation from Deeptech Labs and Cambridge Enterprise (the investment arm of the University of Cambridge).

At its core, the BKwai software platform combines data from multiple sources – on site sensors, environmental data and remote satellite data – to give a whole view of the asset, as well as its surrounding environment. The tech is working to overcome logistical challenges that visually inspecting remote and hard to access assets can incur.

As global infrastructure sees massive digitization in the UK, construction companies are also facing more government regulation with an increased emphasis on building information modeling (BIM).

“In the longer term, the industry is also under pressures associated with the climate crisis and extreme weather events, which add an additional strain to the condition and structural health of assets, making assessing their condition increasingly important,” BKwai said in a funding release.

After aggregating the data, BKwai then works to help engineers sift through these huge volumes of data to find patterns, predict what is going to happen and identify early warning signs so companies can make quick decisions.

Founded in 2019, BKwai is already being deployed on construction sites and major infrastructure assets like Thames Tideway, Laing O’Rourke, Kier, WSP and Highways England. The company is also supported by Geovation, part of the Ordnance Survey, UK, an accelerator association that provides startups with mentors, specialists and funding.

“The proliferation of new sensors and satellite technology has the potential to fuel a revolution in the way the built environment can be monitored,” said Sakthy Selvakumaran, BKwai founder.

“However, in an industry rooted in spreadsheets and manual interventions, it becomes impossible to sift through such volumes and find key insights and values. One sensor or source of information does not fix all problems – the industry is crying out for better tools to help understand the complex challenges facing our built environment,” Selvakumaran added.

Construction is one of the world economy’s largest sectors, worth £7 trillion. McKinsey estimates that if the productivity levels were to catch up with the progress made by other sectors over the past 20 years or with the total economy, it could increase the industry’s value added by £1.2 trillion a year, noted Akriti Dokania, Investor at Octopus Ventures.

“We’re delighted to be backing such a formidable founder who is taking on a giant industry and we’re excited by BKwai because it is giving the industry the tools it needs to meet its potential,” Dokania added. “Not only is it helping companies optimize their builds and assets, it is also moving the industry to more green, sustainable practices that have long-term impact.” 

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