30 minutes for tomorrow – Innovating in times of crisis – Ray Levitt and Darren Bechtel

Despite representing a several trillion dollar investment opportunity, innovation in the AEC industry had to wait for the mid 2010s to garner interest from the venture ecosystem which was quickly followed with a structuration of innovation departments in large corporate enterprises

ConTech investments alone rose from USD 3B in 2017 to USD 6B in 2018 and was forecasted to reach USD 8B in 2019. The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every link of the value chain from design, to supply, operations and maintenance. How will it impact startups and venture investment which ultimately depend on the ability to adopt new solutions on the job site and in the drawing room?

Ray Levitt (Blackhorn Ventures) and Darren Bechtel (Brick & Mortar Ventures) are two of the investors most involved in the development of Construction Tech in the United States.

Ray Levitt joined Blackhorn Ventures as an Operating Partner in 2017. Blackhorn invests in Seed, A and B Rounds of startups with defensible breakthrough technologies that can dramatically enhance resource efficiency in the built environment, transportation/logistics and energy sectors of the real economy. Ray leads Blackhorn’s Built Environment investments.

Civil Engineering undergraduate degree from U. of Witwatersrand in South Africa. MS and PhD in Construction Management from Stanford University.

Prior to joining Blackhorn, worked five years on the civil engineering faculty at MIT and then moved to Stanford. Retired from Stanford in 2017 as Kumagai Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Emeritus after co-leading the “Digital Cities” initiative in Stanford’s Global Projects Center with Adjunct Professor Mike Steep. Past research, teaching, executive education and consulting has focused on organization design for projects and project-based companies, entrepreneurship, and governance arrangements for private-public partnerships to develop infrastructure in developing and developed countries.

Co-founded three software startups in the Built Environment sector: as CEO and Chairman of Vité Corporation, and as Non-Executive Chairman of Design Power, Inc. and Rackwise.  President of Stanford’s “Farmers” angel investor group.

Darren Bechtel is the founder and Managing Director of Brick & Mortar Ventures, the leading sector-specific venture capital fund focused on emerging technologies to improve the way we design, build, and maintain our built environment. Darren has been the single most active early stage investor in AEC and FM tech over the past five years, with his first four construction tech deals being Seed round investments into PlanGrid, BuildZoom, BuildingConnected, and Rhumbix. Since then, Darren and the Brick & Mortar team have invested in over 25 startups aiming to improve productivity, safety, and environmental impact of constructing and caring for the built environment. Darren Bechtel brings over 7 years of engineering, product and architectural design, and construction management professional experience to the Brick & Mortar team, as well as over 8 years of venture investing as the founder and managing director of South Park Ventures.
Darren holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a Product Design focus from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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