Contech is the new fintech

Construction tech is the new kid on the block, offering up the most exciting and tangible challenges for software engineers. Sure, you can make truckloads of money at an algorithmic trading firm or at ‘payment provider’ startup number 1,275; that’s cool. But you know what’s even cooler? Putting humans on Mars, 3D printing buildings, autonomously assembling space stations and solving climate change. 

You mightn’t have heard of contech before, but the challenges mentioned above are merely scratching the surface. It’s just getting started, and the opportunities are crazy good.

The timing is perfect

The time is now for construction tech. Most industry workers are finally digital natives, and incumbents in the sector are ripe for disruption. Despite attempting to digitally transform themselves for years, progress is poor, and large construction companies’ margins continue to shrink. 

On top of this, the majority of the workforce are now millennials and younger. They’re used to Netflix and Spotify in their personal lives and are sick of using decades-old software tools in their professional lives.

What does this mean? Well, it’s a safe bet the world is going to keep building stuff, so it means that the entire construction sector is like a pressure cooker ready to explode. Business models need to change, and markets and labour need to get drastically more efficient to meet the needs and demands of the future. 

Thankfully we now have the tech and an army of talented software engineers looking for the next exciting challenge!

The VC floodgates are open

VC funding floodgates are the most open they’ve been to contech in years. This is because contech and adjacent innovation areas provide the most low-hanging fruit and exciting problems to solve compared to everywhere else. It also helps that the world will experience massive amounts of infrastructure spending across industrial, commercial, space and energy sectors in the coming years. Whether it be politically or economically motivated, or even if it’s just common sense. Governments will always be spending on construction to stimulate economies, and this expenditure is constantly growing as populations increase. The chart below from McKinsey show’s this strong trend. Compared to other sectors like fintech, this pads contech with a layer of protection in downturns.

Construction-related spending accounts for 13 percent of global GDP

onstruction-related spending accounts for 13 percent of global GDP
Source: McKinsey & Company

Don’t believe me? Here’s a Forbes interview with the head of Berlin-based contech VC firm, Adam Zobler, explaining why venture loves contech. Foundamental, headed by Zobler "has made 61 investments, totalling more than 50 million euro."

The breadth and depth of technologies in use are insane

Alright, the money is there, and the investors can see the opportunities, but what does the tech landscape look like? Unlike many other industries, the array of technology being used and combined in contech is astounding. Here’s a list of the major technology groups in use:

  • Big data and cloud
  • 3D/4D
  • AR / VR
  • AI / ML
  • Computer vision
  • Drones and robotics
  • IoT
  • Digital twins
  • Edge computing

As an engineer, the world is your oyster. Contech offers a playground to work with different technologies at the forefront of innovation. 

You can work across loads of exciting industries

Renewable energy is one of the most exciting and rapidly growing industries today. With the world increasingly moving toward sustainable energy sources, there’s a massive demand for skilled labour in this field. From designing and constructing solar and wind farms, to operating and maintaining them remotely, there is loads of demand for tech expertise in areas like IoT, and AI/ML. You can check out this article to understand the enormous challenges facing the renewables sector.

Space and rocketry is another industry with immense potential. While it’s not precisely contech, a lot of the industry challenges and required skills overlap, so I thought I’d include it too. As we continue to explore and learn more about our universe, the demand for talented software engineers only grows. Startups and large companies are taking on challenges like designing and building spacecraft and developing new propulsion systems, which require large amounts of complex simulations and data processing. AI/ML applied to computer vision and mechatronic optimisation are huge challenges the sector faces, and any ambitious coder would eat up. There is massive infrastructure supporting every single space program. Ambitious plans already include building infrastructure on Mars itself. There couldn’t be a better time to get behind one of humanity’s greatest missions. 

Construction is also booming thanks to the increasing demand for new infrastructure and mega-projects worldwide. From highways and bridges to hospitals and schools, there is a great demand to deliver critical projects more efficiently. From robotic remote construction, to process automation, AR/VR and real-world scanning to form digital twins of any physical structure, there are some pretty exciting things happening in traditional construction and a huge void of technical talent to make it happen. In particular, when it comes to new aged mega-projects, there are some insane technical challenges traditional players just aren’t equipped to solve, so they’re screaming out for tech talent. Never heard of a ‘mega-project’ before? You can read more about them here.

Utilities and its sub-sectors also have tremendous technological challenges in front of them. As the world faces increasing resource management challenges, there’s greater demand for talent to help deliver reliable and efficient services, it’s essentially the world's biggest optimisation challenge, and tech talent will be at the centre of solving this. Utilities like power generation and distribution, distribution water treatment, and waste management all need to be digitised and optimised to handle the increasingly decentralised nature of resource exchange. With finite resources, part of the challenge will involve designing and implementing full-cycle resource management solutions.

There are also loads of big fish and cool startups to work for

If you want to work for some of the biggest and most well-known companies, you'll want to focus your search on a few key names. Autodesk, SpaceX, Trimble, Bentley Systems, Esri, Spatial Business Systems (SBS), Google, and Microsoft are all leaders in the contech space in one way or another. They're always on the lookout for talented software engineers. So if you have the skills they're looking for, don't hesitate to apply. You could be working for one of the biggest names in the business in no time.

If you're looking for even more exciting opportunities in a fast-paced environment, plenty of cool startups are emerging too. Here are just some of the startups making waves in the construction tech space:

  • Archistar is a cloud-based parametric design and property development modelling platform. 
  • CalcTree is a calculation management platform that helps engineers better manage knowledge and data across projects and teams. 
  • Speckle is building the data-piping infrastructure to send data between existing 3D tools.
  • Shapediver is a parametric modelling tool that makes it easy to embed 3D models into any application.
  • Mastt is a financial portfolio and risk management platform for property developers. 
  • Openspace is a construction collaboration platform that helps teams manage projects and share files securely.

You’re probably already familiar with most of the languages in use

Coding languages and frameworks form the backbone of construction tech. Most startups build their solutions for the web, but desktop or hybrid solutions are still necessary for some scenarios. As a software engineer, you might focus on working with static or live data, mathematical or numerical calculations, documents or collaboration management and more.

The most common coding languages and frameworks used in construction tech projects are; javascript, react, python, node js, java, dotnet, dotnetcore. Some of these languages are pretty mature and have been in use for years, and some of them, like the JavaScript ecosystem for web applications, continue to evolve daily. Python is also gaining users in the sector fast. It’s popular with the more tech-savvy workers already in the sector, who self-teach themselves to code and start tackling the problems mentioned above. It’s easy to learn, and its growing ubiquity in the space makes it a perfect language to get started on for traditional engineers. If you’re a gun Python developer, these workers would love to have you on their teams!

CalcTree is the latest knowledge and calculation management player for traditional engineering design and construction. We’re an Australian-born, remote-first, venture-backed company, and our mission is to overcome data fragmentation and help traditional engineers build and share their creations faster.

In traditional engineering, projects all begin with a conventional design process. Architects, civil, mechanical, electrical and geotechnical engineers, contractors and builders all work together to design structures down to the last bolt before a shovel even touches the ground. This process is slow, expensive, and a complete mess, both literally and digitally. It’s rife with data fragmentation and complexity, and we’re solving that.

So we’re strategically placed at the forefront of the project lifecycle. We’re in the box seat to become a critical piece of digital infrastructure for all projects. As a potential CalcTree software engineer, you’ll be front and centre to learn about all different types of projects, design and construction processes. As our technology bleeds downstream and is utilised for endless kinds of projects, the challenges facing you will be vast and complex, potentially varying across all the technologies we mentioned above.

Additional factors why CalcTree is a fantastic place to start in contech:

  • CalcTree is product-led, meaning engineers at CalcTree lead the way in solving complex problems for users and growing the business. Read about our conviction on why we value PLG (product-led growth) here
  • We’ve attracted excellent pre-seed investors who back our vision. Autodesk and Bentley are unquestionably two of the largest software providers for the engineering industry. And guess what? We have individuals from both companies as private investors in CalcTree. On top of that, we have the co-founders of contech startup Assignar onboard which recently raised over $20M USD for their Series B, adding Tiger Global Management, Fifth Wall, Ironspring Capital, Second Quarter Ventures to their cap table. We were also fortunate to receive our first check from Antler and get incredible coaching from their brain's trust of advisors. Antler back exceptional people to build incredible companies. Read more about our investors here
  • At CalcTree, we’re building a company that conscientiously considers culture at every turn. We want to realise our values in our actions to create a great place to work. We’re anti-burnout culture and have plenty of startup experience to build in a calm, mature fashion. Read about our culture and values here

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