Construction data company BKwai raises £2.2m in seed funding led by Octopus Ventures
BKwai, a construction data company that helps engineers develop smarter, more sustainable built infrastructure, has today announced it has received £2.2m in Seed funding. The round was led by Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s largest and most active early-stage investors, with participation from Deeptech Labs and Cambridge Enterprise (the investment arm of the University of Cambridge).
Global infrastructure in many countries is ageing and performing beyond its design life and intended capacity. It is an industry that has 2-8% profit margins and is going through a period of rapid digitization in the UK. This has been given an initial push by government regulation such as the mandate for BIM Level 2, and accelerated by requirements imposed by the covid-19 pandemic.
Therefore, the construction industry needs to better understand how existing assets are performing, so it can get more out of them using minimal resources. However, assessing the condition of assets can be difficult. There are logistical challenges-visually inspecting remote and hard to access assets can be expensive and hazardous. Even in new construction, it is important to ensure safe environments and understand the short and long term environmental impact of a site. Covid-19 further exacerbated these challenges as it meant the number of people who were allowed on site were limited. 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.
The BKwai software platform combines data from multiple sources (on site sensors, environmental data and remote satellite data) giving a whole view of the asset, as well as its surrounding environment. The company deploys advanced data techniques to help engineers sift through huge volumes of data to find patterns, predict what is going to happen and identify early warning signs. The platform puts this insight into the site engineer’s hands quickly and in real time, enabling construction companies and asset owners to make more timely, more cost-effective and safer decisions.
Although only founded in 2019, BKwai is already deployed on construction sites by some of the biggest names in UK construction and on existing major infrastructure assets. Current customers include Thames Tideway, Laing O’Rourke, Kier, WSP and Highways England. BKwai’s founder, Sakthy Selvakumaran, has over a decade of international experience in design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure assets, and she combines this with a PhD and academic research in satellite monitoring and data analysis methods in the University of Cambridge Engineering Department. The company is also supported by Geovation, part of Ordnance Survey, UK.
The business is growing rapidly and is taking on investment to scale operations and build out its roadmap. Sakthy Selvakumaran, founder at BKwai comments, “It is a really exciting time at BKwai. We are seeing increased demand and as such are expanding our offering to meet the industry’s needs. The proliferation of new sensors and satellite technology has the potential to fuel a revolution in the way the built environment can be monitored. Data can be used to make smarter, safer, more economical decisions across all aspects of the process – from planning to construction to operation and maintenance.
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. That’s where we step in – we can give them the much needed data-driven engineering insights, to find the right solutions and take action.”
Akriti Dokania, investor at Octopus Ventures adds, “Construction is one of the world economy’s largest sectors, worth £7tn. 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 £1.2tn a year. 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. Not only is it helping companies optimise their builds and assets, it is also moving the industry to more green, sustainable practices that have long-term impact.”