Real-time construction intelligence startup Mercator AI has raised a $1 million CAD pre-seed round to expand its technology beyond Calgary and Toronto.
Mercator uses its technology to help the business development teams of general contractors identify project opportunities early on. Finding new business in the industry traditionally requires a mix of grinding out manual research and dead-end cold calls, according to the startup.
“The industry is a black box where you’re constantly trying to meet as many people as possible to expand that network,” said CEO Chloe Smith, who co-founded Mercator with Hogan Lee, the company’s COO. “We can make that happen a lot faster and we can connect them with the right people at the right time about the right projects.”
Mercator uses AI to mine and analyze millions of data points across the construction process to identify indicators that signal early project development. Through partnerships with government entities, private data providers, and their own proprietary methods, they can track the activity on those projects through to completion. This enables customers to access early project opportunities, who’s involved, and historical trends.
“Mercator is digitizing and bringing intelligence to historically analog and manual aspects of the construction industry.”
– Michelle McBane, StandUp Ventures
Standup Ventures led the round with participation from The51; Mallorie Brodie, CEO of the project management construction platform Bridgit (also a StandUp Ventures investmentC); Kerry Liu, an executive vice president at supply chain and planning company Kinaxis; and Critical Mass chair, Dianne Wilkins.
Other investors include Thiago Da Costa, CEO of data workspace Toric; Stephany Lapierre, CEO of the AI supply chain procurement startup TealBook (who invested through Fresh Founders, where she is an LP); and venture capital firm Mistral. The round closed at the end of April.
“StandUp Ventures exists to back exceptional women-led companies with ambitious and supremely talented founders, qualities we believe Chloe, Hogan, and the Mercator team epitomize,” StandUp Ventures said in a blog post.
“Mercator is digitizing and bringing intelligence to historically analog and manual aspects of the construction industry which we believe represents a massive (and growing) opportunity,” added Michelle McBane, Managing Director for StandUp Ventures.
Mercator said the fresh funds enabled Smith and Lee to go from part-time to full-time with the startup while adding five staff members. The team is currently looking for an additional eighth person to fill the role of machine learning lead.
The money will also enable Mercator to expand from its current markets of Calgary and Toronto into key markets across Canada and in the United States.
The funding also provides some padding for Mercator during the current tech downturn. Smith said she’s been actively working with Mercator’s investors to ensure the company has a good runway, which currently extends a year without any additional revenue. Smith noted Mercator has some strong indicators that it may be able to stretch that to 18 months.
She pointed out that it’s early days for the startup, which currently has four customers through its pilot. Smith said the goal is to acquire 27 customers on the platform by the end of the year.
Smith and Hogan started Mercator in January 2021, and spent the first year doing a significant amount of market research to understand which industry could make use of their technology. “Construction is really the one that raised their hand,” Smith said. “The construction industry said ‘if the opportunity isn’t in our network, we don’t know about it.’”
While general contractors are the primary market, Smith added that the company also sees applications for realtors, who might be looking to become involved earlier with developers to line up tenants for once the building is ready, for example. She also identified manufacturers and suppliers as another potential market.
Mercator is currently focused on driving customer value, with Smith stating that the startup is “letting our customers really lead us in the direction that really makes sense for them in terms of the value they’re getting out of the platform.”