Construction Tech Startups’ Meteoric Rise

Todd Burns, president of JLL's project and development services group, explains what led venture capitalists to invest more than $1 billion in these companies in the first half of 2018—a 30 percent increase over 2017's total.
Todd Burns

In his 28 years with JLL, Todd Burns has risen to the role of president of the firm’s project and development services group, as well as its general contracting units. As part of a candid podcast interview, Burns sat down to discuss how construction technology is helping his clients’ businesses perform better within the constraints of expanding labor shortages, increasingly costly materials and exacting project timelines.

Burns also offered his insights on where the construction technology sector is headed in light of other  real estate market trends, including a renewed interest by venture capitalists in the rapidly innovating segment. In 2018’s first half, JLL reported record-high investment by venture capital firms in construction technology startups: $1.05 billion globally. Already, this volume represents a 30 percent increase over 2017’s total.

According to the firm’s research, offsite construction, big data and artificial intelligence are a few focus areas for construction technology startups, due to their potential to execute projects faster, at lower cost and with fewer resources than ever before. “Collaboration software and capital planning technology tools … allow owners, occupiers and investors to make quicker decisions with more information than they’ve had in the past,” Burns noted. 

At JLL, Burns’ responsibilities include mobilizing a global team of 6,000 project managers to deliver around $30 billion worth of construction projects annually—nearly 50,000 projects each year. He draws on his training as an architect and previous experience working as a contractor and owner’s representative to provide the firm’s clients with tech-enabled project management solutions.