We believe then that new, transparent and efficient1 business models for delivering new and rehabilitated buildings across both private and public sectors are pivotal if we are to rise to the challenge of providing healthy work and living environments to the billions that still don’t have them, without the irresponsible depletion of natural resources. – Federico Negro, CANOA Manifesto 

Adaptive reuse is not a new solution. Over the past two decades, architects have embraced the idea of transforming industrial structures and older buildings into residential and commercial spaces. Even a year ago, a discussion of adaptive reuse would mainly center around noteworthy examples of grand scope including Vienna’s Gasometer City, London’s Battersea Power Station, and Zurich’s railroad viaducts. We know the practice is not limited to special purpose buildings or the most grandiose projects, yet now more than ever we have an urgent need to adapt our existing built environment to meet the rapidly changing requirements of people and our planet.

Covid-19 has brought with it foundational changes to what we expect from our cities and neighborhoods. In quick succession, we have seen suburban shopping malls become last mile logistics centers; hotels change to housing; office buildings turn to training and education centers; retail spaces to clinics; parking lots to covid testing facilities; all in service of urgent, critical needs in response to the pandemic. However, the proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube, and it is indeed true that our present tragedy has accelerated and amplified changes in real estate and construction that were already underway. Malls were already vacant; housing is in perilously short supply; office spaces were already poorly designed for today’s workforces; too much space was allocated and underutilized in service of cars. Yet, due to misaligned incentives and fragmented, unaccessible solutions, change has been stagnant until these most urgent of times.

CANOA Founder & CEO Federico Negro and his founding team understand the difficulty of managing, updating or expanding a portfolio of physical locations and have built the platform to make this difficult process as simple and user friendly as possible. They are also founded on a core promise and manifesto that the practitioners of the built environment can and must have a net positive impact on people and the planet by transforming our existing structures into highly usable and sustainable spaces. This group of spatial designers, software engineers, building scientists and product specialists are building a  portfolio management and team collaboration platform for 21st century operators, occupiers, portfolio managers and brands. The platform will feature automated: building & zoning code and pricing engines for modular design; specifications & sustainable procurement engine; and an intelligent space planning tool for modular and responsive environments. The mission is to enable customers to quickly expand or shrink their real estate footprint while drastically reducing costs and environmental impact.

We have followed Fed since 2008 when he co-founded CASE, a design and technology consulting company together with David Fano and Steve Sanderson, through the company’s acquisition by WeWork in 2015. It was in that next chapter at WeWork that the CASE team demonstrated what it truly meant to design and build interiors at scale. We witnessed the team shrink an office’s acquisition-to-opening cycle from 18 months to 5 months while also opening more locations than any other company in history. So when Fed reached out to say he and the team could work similar miracles for the entirety of the real estate asset class spectrum, we were intrigued and excited to explore this opportunity with them.

In the BV lexicon we categorize our portfolio by their impact on how we design, build, operate, or experience our built environment. Since it is part of the mission to reduce friction and break down existing silos in the current built ecosystem, it is not surprising that several portfolio companies overlap between two of the phases. CANOA is unique in that its solutions feasibly span the entire lifecycle. While we categorize CANOA as operate since the company’s current customer set is the owners/operators/occupiers of space, the team is developing a platform that delivers improved, flexible designs, utilizes standardization and modular construction techniques, and, ultimately, produces spaces that can be experienced by occupiers in a far more impactful and delightful way. This also means CANOA uniquely exemplifies both key trends of our investment thesis, Constructuring, the industrialization of construction, and Space as a Service, the shift from treating property as an asset to a customer-centric business. Talk about a systemic approach to delivering a built world in service to people and the planet!

We are thrilled to participate in CANOA’s $1.5M Series Seed led by TrailMix Ventures and joined by Gemini Ventures. We look forward to working with Fed and his team as they use these funds to develop and deliver a scaling platform #forabetterbuiltworld.

Learn more about CANOA here.

1Vertically Integrated Research: An Unusual Business Model, Daniel Davis, 1 April 2019