Katerra, a Construction Start-Up, Raises $865 Million


Not every project makes use of all of Katerra’s suite of offerings. The Union South Bay residential apartment complex in Carson, Calif., for example, is being built by Katerra from a design created by Architects Orange.

The idea, according to Mr. Marks, is to approach construction more like a factory run by Toyota, which is known for efficient mass production, rather than the current method of assembling disparate components in a less organized fashion. The business model has similarities to that of the electronics industry, which Mr. Marks and one of the company’s biggest investors, Foxconn, know well.

The idea is to not have every building be a one-off prototype, the company says.

“It’s shocking how poorly things work,” Mr. Marks said of the construction industry in a telephone interview. He added, “There’s a lack of quality processes throughout the system.”

By contrast, Katerra’s approach, he contends, allows clients to save money and erect buildings like offices and multifamily homes more quickly.

While Katerra loses money now, Mr. Marks said that the company was on track to become profitable as soon as next year.

That different approach had already drawn the interest of prominent investors like Foxconn; DFJ, the venture capital firm; and Louis Bacon, the hedge fund mogul. About four months ago, Katerra began talks on raising a new round of capital, and a number of connections — including Foxconn’s chief executive, Terry Gou, and Jerry Yang, the Yahoo co-founder — put the start-up’s leaders in touch with Masayoshi Son of SoftBank.

“Katerra is leveraging the latest technologies to radically transform the way people build,” Jeffrey Housenbold, a managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a statement.

As part of the investment, Mr. Housenbold and Adam Fisher of the Soros fund will join Katerra’s board.

While Mr. Marks declined to comment on the valuation that this new round has bestowed upon Katerra, he said that it was a sizable step up from the roughly $1 billion of the previous round.

The new money will allow Katerra to build yet more factories — up to four over the next few years — and finance more research and development, he added.

Further down the line, Mr. Marks said, is an initial public offering.

“Over time we expect that we might get offers, but this is intended to stay an independent company,” he said. “This will be a public company at some point.”

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