Marrying tech-based venture investment with real estate - Albuquerque Journal

Marrying tech-based venture investment with real estate

Cuby Technologies’ mobile micro-factory is encased in a plastic shed, as shown in this mock up. Everything — including the machinery, equipment and the shed itself — is fully transportable. (Courtesy of Cuby Technologies)

Scott Goodman of the Goodman Realty Group plans to build an affordable, multifamily housing project in Taos using a new “turnkey, transportable factory” for rapid, low-cost, onsite development.

It would be the first New Mexico project employing the new system, developed by Cuby Technologies Inc., a construction innovation startup with headquarters in New York. The firm, which began developing its compact factory in 2018, emerged from stealth mode in 2021 to begin selling and licensing its mobile micro-factory to developers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Goodman hopes to be Cuby’s first New Mexico customer. But he’s also an investor in the company, committing $50,000 to Cuby in January through GOS Capital, a venture investment platform that Goodman established in 2021.

The Cuby commitment is one of two investments made this year from a new pool of capital that GOS is raising, after investing a total of $250,000 since late 2021 in 10 companies from GOS’ first fund. Goodman is targeting $1 million in commitments for Fund II, with a first close of $300,000 expected later this month.

GOS expects to invest in at least a dozen more companies through the new fund. But unlike the first GOS fund — which made small capital commitments to a variety of technology-based local startups around New Mexico — Fund II is specifically structured to target innovations in property technology, or “PropTech,” which refers to products and services directly linked to real estate development and management.

That’s a first among venture platforms operating in New Mexico, according to Goodman, and it’s an ideal strategy for GOS Capital, allowing Goodman to combine GOS investments with Goodman Realty Group’s own development efforts.

“I’m in real estate, so I can incorporate these new technologies that GOS Capital invests in into our realty portfolio,” Goodman told the Journal. “Rather than just write checks as an investor, we can also become a customer of the company we invest in.”

Focusing on PropTech is generally less common in the venture investment industry, Goodman added.

“It’s not as prominent as investing in companies with innovation in things like robotics or software, because, historically, real estate is not as cutting edge in terms of technology development,” Goodman said. “Generally, you either buy a property or build a building and rent it out. It’s not a very tech-savvy industry and it’s slower to adapt.”

But when new PropTech does emerge, it can offer significant opportunities.

Cuby Technologies’ mobile micro-factory was particularly enticing, Goodman said, offering potential to radically accelerate the pace of housing development while significantly lowering costs.

Cuby has developed proprietary machinery and equipment to produce building components in an assembly-like fashion inside inflatable-looking micro-factories, which are basically plastic sheds that can be placed directly on or near construction sites. Everything — including all the machinery and the factory itself — is fully transportable, allowing developers to deploy them wherever needed.

Using onsite prefabrication and modular building, the company says its technology can cut individual housing construction down from months to just one week, and the factories are designed to produce between four and eight single-family homes per month.

Cuby’s advanced machinery allows developers to employ relatively unskilled workers. And with all production done onsite, developers can hire local employees and source most materials from local suppliers.

Overall, Cuby projects its technology can reduce costs by 30% to 40%.

“We can put down factories all over the world to build housing more efficiently with much lower capital investment,” Cuby cofounder Aleks Gampel told the Journal. “We look to partner with developers like Goodman Realty Group to deploy the technology.”

Goodman Realty is now working on its first pilot project in Taos, where the company owns 50 acres of land that it’s targeting for a 50-unit apartment complex.

“We want to create affordable workforce housing there with this technology,” Goodman said.

For Cuby, partnering with local developers is critical.

“Our goal is to deploy hundreds of micro-factories in partnership with first-movers like Goodman,” Gampel said. “We need developers like (him) to step on board.”

GOS Capital also made a second, $75,000 investment from Fund II in January in another PropTech company, New Jersey-based Piñata, which is marketing a first-of-its-kind rent rewards platform that confers points to renters when they pay their rent on time. The points can be redeemed for gift cards, or for an in-app currency dubbed “Piñata Cash” that participating renters can spend at name-brand places like Amazon, Starbucks and Target.

Goodman Realty, which is developing the Winrock Town Center in Uptown Albuquerque, wants to implement the Piñata platform at the multifamily housing complex it’s building there, and then deploy it at other Goodman properties.

“We’ll begin with the multifamily development first, and then focus on shopping center tenants,” Goodman said. “Goodman Realty has a big retail portfolio here and in the Southwest, so I see us piloting and beta-testing this new concept for Piñata.”

GOS Capital’s first fund generally targeted New Mexico-based companies with small, micro-investments ranging from $10,000 to $40,000. In contrast, the new fund will make somewhat larger investments in companies nationwide, while still committing funds to local startups that develop new, compelling PropTech.

“The PropTech focus in Fund II gives GOS Capital a good, competitive edge,” Goodman said. “We’re getting into deals that most micro venture funds generally wouldn’t consider.”

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