homes for everyone

Houston-area construction tech startup prepares for next phase at SXSW

A Houston startup that uses tech to speed up and lower the cost of home building will pitch at SXSW this year. Photo via 3spacemakers.com

Conroe-based construction tech company that specializes in creating technology to develop cost-efficient high-quality homes built in half the time is gearing up for new growth due to their recent selection as a finalist in SXSW Pitch 2020.

3Space Makers was at first selected as an alternate in the "Artificial Intelligence, Robotics & Voice" category for the 12th annual SXSW Pitch, formerly known as SXSW Accelerator, but was recently bumped to finalist.

"It's gratifying to learn that we have been selected," Ted Cox, CEO and co-founder of 3Space Makers, tells InnovationMap. "Our team has been working really hard for this moment. I think that not only do we have a good product, but the mission that we are on is what is resonating the most."

3Space Makers uses robotics, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing to spur innovation in the construction industry, allowing for faster manufacturing processes which, according to Cox, will enable homes to be built better, faster, and cheaper. The typical 3Space Makers home takes one month to build, drastically reducing the time frame of construction projects and thus reducing their cost.

"Everything in the construction industry right now is manual and human-driven," says Cox. "Until now that has been enough to get the job done. A typical home currently takes 3 to 6 months to build, 3Space Makers dramatically takes the inefficiencies out of the construction industry."

The company is developing new innovative technology marrying autonomous robotics and cloud-based control systems to produce detailed data to validate building standards. Their Fab & Fill process uses eco-friendly material known as BioSilicate to manufacture complete metal-framed walls and roofs using semi-automated processes.

The eco-friendly material can be made from natural materials native for particular regions such as corn husks and sugar cane, converting waste material into revenue for local farmers.

"We are building homes that are safe, durable, and affordable to those who are most in need using our processes," says Cox "We can cut the time of construction in about half along with the cost, that makes homes available for those who couldn't afford it otherwise, it's a bringing the promise of technology to the construction industry."

The idea for 3Space Makers was born out of the need to help vulnerable members of society, including low-income families and homeless veterans who cannot afford to buy a home with current high real estate prices.

The construction start-up aims to meet its '50/50/50' performance target to benefit veterans and low-income families.

"Any technology or process we develop," says Cox. "Must be 50 percent faster, 50 percent less expensive and 50 percent better than current methods on the market."

At their SXSW pitch, 3Space Makers will premiere as Integra Homes, a rebrand that represents a focus on increasing affordability for homes. The company is also currently working on raising a round of funding this year, along with gearing up to grow their facilities to finish their current projects, including building 5,000 homes in the U.S. and Jamaica.

"When we were originally founded, our focus was on serving homeless veterans, that remains to this day," says Cox. "But we also found that there is quite a need, not only in the U.S. for affordable homes. By being able to come in and build high-quality affordable homes with the help of our technological processes, it's going to make a big difference for many individuals."

Houston small businesses are struggling to pay their rent with doors closed and operations ceased — but where should the relief come from? Getty Images

It's not too huge of an assumption to make that many Houston startups and small businesses failed to pay their rents in full yesterday. Since the city's stay-at-home mandate on March 24 — and even preceding that — most businesses have seen a slowdown of revenue as a result of COVID-19-caused business disruptions.

Business owners are frantically looking in their leases and searching online to see what rights they have and what sort of protection they have in such an unprecedented time.

"People are confused. They don't know what to do, and finding information is hard," says Meredith Wheeler, co-founder and chief creative officer of Sesh Coworking, which opened earlier this year.

Wheeler and Sesh's co-founder, Maggie Segrich, have created a petition to get on the radar of local elected officials to challenge them to pass legislation to protect small businesses in this time.

"At the end of the day, it would be so wonderful and idealistic to say that we could rely on the niceties and the moral compasses of our landlords, but it's probably not true for everyone and so that's why we need legislation to dictate what is right," Wheeler says.

But landlords are also in unchartered territory, says Josh Feinberg, who has worked in Houston as a commercial real estate broker and co-founded CRE tech platform, Tenavox.

"There's this idea that there's this acrimony between tenant and landlord, and I think, as a former broker, we're set up that way to get our side the best deal. But in reality, that's just not true," Feinberg says. "The majority of commercial real estate is owned by regular people — not usually some faceless, gigantic corporation."

And they have a piper to pay too, Feinberg adds. Ninety percent of CRE is owned by debt, he says. If the government steps in anywhere, it should be on the lender level, as well as creating some sort of tax relief.

"If there's any relief here, it's going to have to come from lenders, and I think you'd hear that from owners and brokers," Feinberg says.

In somewhat convenient timing, Tenavox has recently co-founded a new company that provides a bit of a solution for small businesses. Otso provides landlords with an alternative to cash security deposits. Traditionally, deposits are held onto by landlords — they aren't legally allowed to spend it unless the tenant defaults.

"In general, I think cash deposits are wasteful," Feinberg says. "It's critical capital that the business can hire with, invest, and use."

Tenavox teamed up with Euler Hermes, a 135-year-old credit insurance company, to create Otso, and the credit company backs the lease performance of each tenant that is approved by Otso. The transaction calls for a fee added to the rent, but no large cash deposit would be required.

The tool can be used on new leases, and, in light of the current situation, Otso can also be used to create an addendum in existing leases so that the tenant can get back their deposit and use it in this time of crisis. Either landlord or tenant can apply online and hear back that same day — Feinberg says he's focused on a speedy response to help get this deposit money back to the tenant.

"If we can get some liquidity back into the hands of the business, they have some a better chance of survival," Feinberg says.

Other than looking into Otso, Feinberg has some other recommendations for small business owners. He says they should be applying for relief from the Small Business Administration, which has more money to dole out than they have ever had. And, as it pertains to working with their landlords, communication is key. Show financials and specific information — like what March 2019 looks like compared to 2020 — so that landlords can take that to their lenders.

"An unprecedented crisis is going to require unprecedented solutions," Feinberg says.