ConTech is on the cusp of transforming the sector into a digital-first industry. Neall De Beer caught up with Gonzalo Galindo, CEO, CEMEX Ventures, a leading ConTech investor, who believes Singapore and other Southeast Asian tech hubs have the potential to become the next Silicon Valley.
Neall De Beer (ND): Can you give me a bit more information about CEMEX Ventures, when it was founded and why?
GG: CEMEX Ventures was founded two years ago as the Corporate Venture Capital of CEMEX. With a global focus, we invest in innovative startups aiming to foster the construction revolution. We build a better and meaningful future in the construction industry, by engaging with key players of the construction ecosystem such as startups, entrepreneurs, universities and other stakeholders, creating an overall industry interactive map.
ND: Can you give me some insight on the focus areas you have already invested in the built world segment?
GG: All of our investments are focused on one of our six focus areas that define our scope of investment like smart cities & buildings, project design and engineering, supply chain management, project and jobsite management, innovative building materials and construction methods and investment and financing.
ND: How can startups benefit from your expertise?
GG: We count on a multidisciplinary team, with the right mix of the Venture Capital experience and an understanding of the construction industry. Our professional background provides this open innovation program an overall vision on the industry’s evolution, needs and opportunities.
ND: What should entrepreneurs consider when seeking investment from you?
GG: For us, fostering the construction revolution is more than investing. We engage with startups to build a journey towards success. When a entrepreneur becomes part of the CEMEX Ventures family, they gain access to smart money to promote continued growth and connect with potential investors. They gain access to construction leads and industry decision makers to pilot and test new markets. Also, our expert network, industry experts and the CEMEX Ventures team provide them with feedback and insights. Access to R&D, the CEMEX marketing team, and spaces around the globe and some of the other key fundamentals.
ND: What are the key metrics that you consider when a company seeks investment?
GG: Firstly, the startup has to work in any of our focus areas and fit in with our investment scope if we are to analyse metrics. The fundamental things we consider are human capital, scalability and a scalable business model and market validation and understanding if the market has any space for the startup value proposition.
ND: Do you see a lot of potential in the Asia Pacific region?
GG: We see lot of potential in this region, we received a lot of startups contacts from the region and most of them were "high quality" (one of the finalists from our 2018 Construction Startup Competition was based in Singapore). Geographically speaking the region is a hotspot and as such tools that empower productivity and maximize resources are a "must" during any construction project. New entrepreneurial hubs are arising all over the region, with rumours of the new "Silicon Valley" being created here and we would love to be part of this and help promote innovation.
ND: Is there a stand-out transaction you have been involved in recently?
GG: PRYSMEX, a Mexico-based startup that offers a solution capable of detecting and helping to prevent workplace accidents through the Internet of Things and real-time data collection. This solution offers CEMEX and the rest of the construction industry an important tool to promote its employees’ health and safety. PRYSMEX enables a comprehensive analysis of data such as impacts, light and noise levels, locations, temperatures, and the presence of toxic gases, among others. Placed on the workers’ helmets, PRYSMEX devices monitor and communicate in real time users’ conditions, alerting them to potential situations and high-risk areas.
ND: Are there other transactions that demonstrate Cemex’s expertise?
GG: Another stand-out transaction is Concrete Sensors, developer of wireless sensors designed to provide General Contractors with real-time data on their concrete. The company's durable, wireless sensors, combined with a simple mobile experience, send strength, temperature and relative humidity data.
Struction Site was our last transaction of 2018, they create digital worksite models through 360º cameras providing data to its software, which digitalizes and documents worksite progress.
ND: What key advice would you give to entrepreneurs seeking investment from venture capital and may not be familiar with the process?
GG: Show strong commitment and be resilient. Seeking investment and resolving any challenges requires a daily effort to find the best and most competitive path. A successful entrepreneur is the one that is really focused on the solution, has a good background, and places value on smart money and not pure investments.
Gonzalo is a speaker at BWT Asia, 1-2 April 2019, Singapore.
Interview conducted by Neall De Beer, Director, Built World Technology Alliance.