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We believe technology is needed to fix the broken exchange of building product and material data between parties in construction. Data “sheets”—a relic of the paper era—will just become “data.” Even more, this data will flow seamlessly from manufacturer to project owner, passing through distributors, trades, general contractors, engineers, inspectors, and others on the journey from specification to procurement. 

But, if you are any of these stakeholders above, you know today’s reality is far from seamless. The process of specifying, submitting, quoting, selecting and procuring building products and materials is riddled with inefficiencies that lead to costly schedule delays or mistakes. That’s why we’re excited to share our recent investment in Parspec, co-founded by Forest Flager and Pratyush Havelia. 

We have been following Forest through much of his career, starting as a product manager at Google-X spinout Flux; to his post at Stanford’s Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering (CIFE), where he conducted research, lectured, and published papers on computational design and optimization; and then on to Katerra, where he led the software team and, coincidentally, where he presented Katerra’s tech stack and vision at our very first Building Ventures Innovators Network Fall Summit in 2018.

Pratyush was a graduate student at Stanford when he and Forest met and began to idealize a solution to the construction industry’s building product data problem. They started from the perspective of the architects and engineers who identify and specify products and materials during design. These are the same people who are then later called on to verify that products and materials in “submittal packages” proposed by suppliers and builders actually meet the functional requirements of the client. 

Parspec Co-founders Pratyush Havelia and Forest Flager

Pratyush Havelia and Forest Flagers, co-founders of Parspec.

If you have worked in this phase of construction, you know a typical project requires dozens of submittal packages to be approved, including electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and other product categories. Each submittal package can take 20-30 hours to create and review, and weeks to months from submission to approval. You would also appreciate it’s a data problem: The world’s building product data is siloed across an endless number of manufacturer and supplier web sites and proprietary PDF formats making the creation of these packages tedious and time consuming. Because review is done by manually comparing a design specification to a product data sheet, errors are common. These mistakes can lead to multiple review cycles in the best case; in the worst case, non-compliant products are being delivered to the jobsite resulting in expensive replacements, schedule delays, and cost overruns.

This is the problem that Forest, Pratyush, and the team set out to solve first by building a platform to locate, aggregate, and normalize the world’s building product data. This is achieved in two steps. First, web crawlers identify, download, and index millions of product documents including datasheets, install guides and warranties every day. Next, NLP and machine learning is used to extract relevant attributes for search and comparison. 

Parspec focused its go-to-market motion on solving the submittal problem for lighting and electrical products first, slashing the time to prepare submittal packages from a few hours to a few minutes. The market response was rapid, with hundreds of sales agents and distributors adopting the system.

A lightbulb moment occurred when they realized that Parspec’s normalized product database could also be used earlier in the procurement process to support product selection and quoting. Currently, sales agents and distributors spend hours identifying products from their preferred suppliers that meet design specifications. By leveraging AI to enable contextual, hybrid and image-based searches, Parspec is able to do this instantly.

And just last month, Parspec launched a product finder and quoting module to its cloud-base platform. Now, sales agents and distributors can complete quotes in half the time, enabling them to bid more jobs to win more business.

Building Ventures believes this is a winning formula that can be repeated in adjacent building product sectors. For these reasons, we’re thrilled to announce our recent investment in Parspec’s $11.5 million seed round, led by Innovation Endeavors with participation from Heartland Ventures and Hometeam Ventures. And having watched Parspec from inception, we’re now super excited to join forces with Forest and Pratyush on their mission to transform the $1.7 trillion global construction materials procurement market.

Learn more about Parspec here.