For Amazon's almost inevitable entry into home design, development, finance and construction, well beyond the home tech interfaces Alexa and the echo have revolutionized, the future is now.
Amazon's Alexa Fund--set up as a $100 million venture capital partner to fuel voice tech innovation--has teamed with social impact venture capital specialist Obvious Ventures, and other investors on a $6.7 million Series A funding round for Rialto, Calif.-based offsite builder Plant Prefab. It's the first such investment by the Amazon fund in the future of home building operations.
A fast-growing 2-year-old pioneer in adapting modern digitized factory-based production methods to construct energy- and water-efficient custom and semi-custom homes and apartments, Plant Prefab plans to deploy the funding infusion in new senior hires, building the marketing and sales team, and developing a patented Plant Building System.
Per a press statement:
Plant Prefab manufactures custom single and multi-family homes that are high-quality, sustainable, healthy and durable. The company is the first home factory in the nation focused on sustainable construction, materials, processes and operations. Plant Prefab’s innovative approach reduces construction time by 50 percent and cost by 10-25 percent in major cities. Plant Prefab homes are built in ways that minimize the negative impact of development on energy, water, resources and indoor air quality. The company has partnered with some of the industry’s leading architects and designers, including Ray Kappe, Kieran Timberlake and Yves Behar.
In 2016, the Plant Prefab was spun out of LivingHomes, a design and development company that’s designed and built dozens of award-winning prefabricated homes, including the nation’s first LEED Platinum home.
Plant Prefab sees a sweet spot for itself in economically energized urban markets, many of which have aging housing stock and new-found tracts that may have run their prior course as commercial retail or industrial sites.
"When you're building in an urban infill market--where land use opportunities exist, but where cost barriers-to-entry are high--it's almost always a custom home project due to the odd-size lots, varying zoning requirements, local style guidelines, differing views or access points to the lots," Plant Prefab founder and ceo Steve Glenn tells us. "This market for urban custom, high-quality, highly-sustainable homes is a business model that would help solve for the needs of 100s of thousands of small developers, builders, architects, and clients around the country. We see this as a real opportunity."
On the surface of it, Alexa Fund and Obvious Ventures are aligning with a partner proven in over 15 years of defining itself as a trusted brand in evolved, sustainable living. The release contains statements for each.
“Voice has emerged as a delightful technology in the home, and there are now more than 20,000 Alexa-compatible smart home devices from 3,500 different brands,” said Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund. “Plant Prefab is a leader in home design and an emerging, innovative player in home manufacturing. We’re thrilled to support them as they make sustainable, connected homes more accessible to customers and developers.”
“We love working with companies that make a world positive impact on everyday lives. Plant Prefab is focused on dramatically improving efficiencies and environmental responsibility in the $330 billion market for new homes in the US. With increased costs, labor shortages, reduced affordability, and the enormous impact housing has on carbon emissions, there are few challenges more important than creating more accessible, healthy housing,” said Andrew Beebe, managing director of Obvious Ventures.
Below the surface [and behind the walls], Amazon's prowess in finding true leverage in the internet of all things, the convergence of home design and construction and home technology, intellectual property and real property, digital reality and physical reality begins to come clear in its VC position in the future of bespoke new residential development in markets around the country. It's there where residents' needs, wants, and wherewithal match Amazon's growing presence in all things consumer spending. It's about home technology products, and about home as a technology product itself.
Alexa, talk to me about cladding choices.