As Covid-19 takes its toll on everything including the built environment, the industry is coming to terms with the true impact of this pandemic. Gonzalo Galindo, CEO, CEMEX Ventures shares his thoughts on the implications of the COVID-19, how ConTech is transforming the industry and which technologies to watch out for in the future.
How is Covid-19 impacting business and what is your response to this?
The impact on the business has been substantial. Despite the fact that construction has not yet stopped completely, even in places where a lockdown is in place, the speed of projects has slowed substantially. As a result, many companies like us are triggering rapid response programs to ensure our employees and their families and our operations are safeguarded. Sending people to work from home, managing sales and operations accordingly and reducing cash outlays as much as possible to ensure sufficient cash flow.
The issue now, is how long is it going to take? If it is a few weeks, government stimulus packages will kick in during the summer and the problem is solved. Assuming the virus doesn’t return in the Autumn. But if it drags on longer, everybody will be in for a rough ride.
Has ConTech gained traction over the last 12 months and how is the industry responding? Well, ConTech has been increasingly gaining traction over the last 2-3 years but, interestingly, during 2019 it attracted a broader interest from several stakeholders. We saw industry agnostic VCs increasing their bets in the space. Some dedicated ConTech VCs also closed or are about to close new funds. Industry stakeholders are keen to collaborate with startups and land Proof of Concepts and cooperate with other industry players. Collaboration is always welcome in our industry
What technologies are you investing in and what are you looking for when funding a start-up? During 2019 we closed several new investments in the supply chain, logistics, energy and new construction segments. We're actively looking for solutions promoting a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly industry, innovative construction methods and supply chain disruption. All of these can be clustered within our focus areas: https://www.cemexventures.com/about-us/. We are looking for startups that are willing to change and bring the construction industry to the next level, with persistence and thanks to technology
Can you highlight any particular recent transactions you have made which stand out? Last year we invested in a new energy storage system called Energy Vault: https://www.cemexventures.com/projects/energy-vault/. Their transformative energy storage technology solves a key challenge for renewables, enabling them to deliver baseload power below the cost of fossil fuels 24 hours a day. We've
been working closely with the entrepreneur from different CEMEX departments. Right after our investment, they received a 110M USD ticket from relevant private investors
Which technology do you see as a “dark horse” in terms of the way it will transform the construction industry? We don't see a "dark horse" itself. Probably something coming from the transformation of the way we build. Perhaps 3D printing, Offsite construction or human work replacement like Robotization or AI.