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Crazy for ConTech with Mauricio Tessi Weiss, Zacua Ventures


Welcome to ‘Crazy for ConTech’ with Romey Oulton, a Q&A focused on the Construction Technology Industry. 

This Q&A series is an opportunity for our Head of ConTech, Romey Oulton, to discuss all things construction technology with key players who are championing innovation and digitalisation in the construction space. 

This week we have been in touch with Mauricio Tessi Weiss, Founding Partner at Zacua Ventures.

Zacua Ventures is an early stage Built Environment focused Venture capital fund investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs solving the Construction industry’s most important problems in Sustainability, Productivity and Infrastructure resiliency. The fund is run by experienced construction tech professionals who have set up run Corporate venture arms of some of the world’s largest Built World conglomerates. The fund is backed by leading corporations in the Built Environment globally and invests in startups across the globe.

What inspired you to pursue a career in venture capital, and how did you initially break into the industry? Walk us through your journey from your early career to your role as a founding investment manager at Zacua to currently being the Founding Partner at Zacua! 

Moving to VC was more a consequence of different things, most of which were unintended. I started my career working in a construction company, and for almost 6 years I found out about most of the inefficiencies that characterize the industry. Then, I decided to switch careers, hence, I did an MBA at IE business School, in which I focused a lot on entrepreneurship and working with startups. After a few years working at Rocket Internet, I gained some experience in the VC and Venture Building worlds, which I put into practice at CEMEX, supporting them to launch their Corporate VC division. 5 years down the line, we decided together with my partners Juan and Vivin, to launch a VC fund that leveraged our previous experience and expertise, both in the construction sector and the corporate VC world.


What key lessons have you learned from both your successes and failures in the venture capital world?

My experience has been around corporate VC, hence, I’ll focus in this area for the lessons learned:

  • Corporates shouldn’t treat startups as regular suppliers: the opportunities that follow when they change their behavior and treat them as partners, including providing feedback, co-developing their products, etc, have the potential to create enormous benefits for them.
  • Startups should understand that companies have thousands of responsibilities and implementing their solution may not be a priority for them. A clear definition of their ICP would allow them to understand which are the corporates they should engage first and do the best usage of their limitted resources.


Are there specific areas within construction technology that you believe are ripe for disruption and innovation?  how are they shaping your investment strategies?

The entire industry is ripe for disruption and innovation, this is just a consequence of how outdated it is, the low levels of digitisation and the stagnant productivity curve it had over the past 20 years.

Our investment strategy, hence, is set upon the biggest pillars of this industry: Sustainability: reducing the industry’s carbon footprint, Productivity: making the industry more efficient and safer, and Urbanisation Solutions: supporting urban development and affordable housing.


What do you see as the most significant challenges facing the construction technology industry today, and how can startups overcome them?

Challenges in tech deployment include a fragmented industry, project based, in which hundreds of stakeholders are involved and dependent on each other. 

Low profit margins have hindered the ability to invest in new techs, and there’s a general trend to maintain certain dynamics in the industry that prevents an increase in transparency and collaboration, which are key for the success of a lot of techs.


What criteria does your firm consider when evaluating potential investments in construction tech startups?

Besides the typical criteria every early stage fund has, we’re particularly focused on understanding the workflows the startup sets and how this impacts construction companies and their dynamics. Also, a strong background of the founding team in the industry is highly appreciated.


How do you differentiate your firm from others in the venture capital space, especially concerning construction technology?

3 things differentiate us from other funds:

  1. We’re global, with offices in the US, Europe and LatAm, LPs from around the globe and an international investment mandate.
  2. We’re backed by some of the most forward thinking construction-related companies worldwide, each of them a leader in their vertical.
  3. The team background is deeply rooted in the construction industry, having worked in the industry and invested in contech since 2016.


Can you discuss any recent success stories or milestones achieved by startups in your portfolio that demonstrate the viability and impact of construction technology?

3 facts demonstrate the traction of Contech around the globe:

  1. Ecoworks closed the biggest serial renovation contract in Germany, a 41 Euros contract.
  2. Document Crunch, in North America, has just closed a $9M Series A round, to increase the deployment of AI technology to identify risks in construction contracts
  3. Construex, the leading building materials marketplace in Latin America, has on boarded over 150.000 suppliers across the region.


Why should entrepreneurs be looking towards the ConTech space? 

Over the past 10 years, funding to Contech has gone from less than $100M / year to over $4.5Bi in 2022. Tech deployment in the industry is increasing and customers are becoming more open to test different type of technologies, opening a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch and grow a business here.


Growth plans for Zacua: 6 months, 1 year, 3 years 

We’re currently focused on deploying this fund and supporting our portfolio companies to grow as much as possible. From next year on we’ll define when it will be the best timing to keep growing and launching new funds.


What is your favourite quote? What is your favorite song? If you could have dinner with any two famous people, dead or alive, who would you choose?  

¨fake it until you make it¨… LOL, just kidding. I like Argentinean music, and Maria Becerra is at the top of my lists now, a bit of reggaeton music to bring some latin rhythm. Dinner with Messi would be awesome, I don’t need anyone else other than the chef, since I’m a terrible cook.

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