As building costs rise, this startup says real-estate developers can save millions by ditching spreadsheets. Here’s the 12-slide pitch deck it used to raise $25 million.
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- Northspyre uses AI and automation to help real-estate developers track and manage their projects.
- The company pitches itself as an alternative to the complex spreadsheets that developers use now.
- CEO William Sankey walked Insider through the pitch deck he used to raise a $25 million Series B.
William Sankey was managing commercial real-estate projects in New York when he had an epiphany: His job would be much easier if it involved fewer spreadsheets.
The developments he oversaw — among them, the $850 million renovations of Madison Square Garden — were complicated, involving hundreds of vendors, financial partners, and investors. But, like the vast majority of the industry, the companies he worked for relied on intricate webs of spreadsheets to manage those projects.
“I saw a lot of problems around how teams tried to deliver complex projects using spreadsheets,” Sankey said. He described the process as “error-prone and convoluted.”
About five years ago, Sankey left his job at a real-estate private equity firm to co-found Northspyre, a platform that uses artificial intelligence and automation to help real-estate developers track their financials and manage billions of dollars worth of projects.
One primary goal of the company is to reduce cost overruns on projects, a common problem that plagues real-estate developers. Northspyre estimates that more than three-quarters of real-estate projects finish over budget, and the company says its operating system can reduce cost overruns by between 21% and 66%. On a typical $100 million project, teams can save between $2 million and $6 million, according to Northspyre.
Those savings could be crucial as building costs rise. Average construction costs for commercial projects increased 4.5% year over year through August 2021, according to the real-estate firm JLL. The company projected similar cost increases, between 4% and 7%, into 2022.
Northspyre surveyed hundreds of developers and found that more than 95% of them are using spreadsheets as the primary method of managing the millions, if not billions, of dollars they’re pouring into their projects, Sankey told Insider. For that reason, he joked that Northspyre’s biggest competitor isn’t another startup but Microsoft Excel itself.
“We want every real-estate team to be able to get to more predictable outcomes in their projects, to be able to go home earlier and not be up at 11 p.m. at night trying to debug a spreadsheet or get a report out to their financial partner,” Sankey said.
Before Northspyre, real-estate developers seeking project-management software had few options, Sankey said. They could look to an adjacent industry, such as construction, and try to adapt offerings from companies like Procore or PlanGrid. But those options “never quite fit well,” Sankey said.
Real-estate owners were also familiar with property-management software such as Yardi, MRI, or RealPage, but Sankey said those solutions were designed for managing existing properties rather than complex, ground-up projects. He co-founded Northspyre in hopes of filling that void.
Northspyre has so far facilitated more than $44 billion worth of projects across the country, and has about 130 customers, Sankey said.
In February, Northspyre announced that it had closed on a $25 million Series B, led by CRV, an early-stage venture firm that has backed companies such as Twitter, DoorDash, and Zendesk.
Sankey recently walked Insider through the 12-slide pitch deck he used to raise that money.
The pitch deck begins by laying out two key problems Northspyre is trying to solve.
The first is the unpredictability in real-estate projects. To manage their projects, developers must either rely on spreadsheets or existing software that’s not tailored to their needs, Sankey said.
“You realize this is not just one organization — this entire industry has a lot of difficulty bringing projects in on budget,” Sankey told Insider. “So I thought that was an important backdrop.”
The second is that development companies don’t have a good way to access data from across the industry that could then help them better manage their projects, Sankey said.
Every time Boeing rolls an airplane off the assembly line, it’s collecting data to improve its future operations, Sankey said. The problem is developers usually don’t have the kind of scale needed to create a similar feedback loop.
To solve for that, Northspyre wants to harness all of the data on its platform to help individual users make better decisions for their own projects.
“In the same way Boeing can see thousands of airplanes going off the assembly line and feed data back into what went right and what went wrong, we’re going to be able to do that with project delivery,” Sankey said. “So hopefully it’s easier for teams to deliver projects and mitigate risk more effectively, because they’re working with this broader data set that they never had access to historically.”
Northspyre aims to be the point of entry for all of a project’s data.
Every Northspyre customer is working with an average of about 230 different vendors on each project and dealing with hundreds of invoices, contracts, proposals — the list goes on, Sankey said.
“Anywhere from $5 million to $2 billion of capital is flowing through each one of our customers every single year through Northspyre,” Sankey said. “Historically, there’s just been no single place, except spreadsheets, where information about all this capital was stored, and there was no ability to take action except manually inputting this data. That’s all starting to change with Northspyre.”
Northspyre is targeting a huge industry.
Since it’s a software-as-a-service company, Northspyre makes money by charging customers a fee per project managed on its platform.
Northspyre started out serving customers in New York and Boston, but has since expanded nationally, and is now eyeing international growth as well.
Sankey pitches Northspyre as a “comprehensive product” for real-estate developers.
This slide highlights three main functions of Northspyre’s platform: increasing productivity, aiding decision-making, and managing relationships with stakeholders by automatically compiling key reports.
Sankey said Northspyre’s tools help real-estate developers negotiate more effectively with vendors such as architects or general contractors, as it has more data on how much things should cost.
That data also helps project managers anticipate and mitigate risks in a project — Sankey likened it to “an early warning system.”
Sankey added that projects often go over budget because they didn’t have the right budget in the first place.
“Sometimes it’s not what you did execution-wise, it’s just the numbers were wrong,” Sankey said. “Northspyre helps you to do that more effectively by leveraging all the historical data that you have so that you can make smarter assumptions about what things should have cost in the first place.”
Northspyre’s $25 million funding round will be used to launch new products, expand its presence in the US and internationally, and grow its internal teams, Sankey said.
One of Northspyre’s new products is a marketplace where developers can discover new vendors and learn about their cost structures and tendencies. Today, that marketplace has information on roughly 15,000 vendors, Sankey said.
“We know what vendors charge,” Sankey said. “We know which vendors bid low to get their foot in the door but then hit you with change orders to make them money after you’re stuck with them. We can see all that.”
Northspyre’s leadership team features a mix of engineering and real-estate experience.
“One of the things that makes our team pretty special is we have real-estate domain experts, but we also have brilliant technologists,” Sankey said. “More importantly, from a culture perspective, I think something that ties all of our leadership together is we try to be ethical, nice people, and we tend to work well together.”
Sankey said Northspyre is currently hiring for a range of roles.
“We love people that previously were in the traditional side of real-estate development, project delivery,” Sankey said. “So if people were running real estate products in the past and they want to help other people do that with technology, we have a place for you here at Northspyre.”
The company is also hiring for engineering talent across experience levels.
Northspyre has raised $34.3 million to date.
Aside from CRV, other participants in Northspyre’s latest funding round included Craft Ventures, Tamarisc Ventures, and Des Traynor, a co-founder of Intercom.