While we were reviewing companies for June Pitch Week, a colleague at Lateral Capital, a micro VC in Sarasota, Florida, suggested VisionTech Angels take a look at Sensytec, a tech company out of Houston with a solution for the concrete industry. When I connected with the company’s CEO and Co-founder Ody De La Paz, he explained just how old school the concrete industry is and as a result, what a bottleneck and budget buster it’s become for the construction industry. Their solution is two-pronged, wireless real-time monitoring of concrete and an app that keeps a contractor’s fingers on the pulse of a job’s concrete, potentially saving a tremendous amount of time and money. The VisionTech Screening Committee and I invited Ody to present during our June Pitch Week. Here’s a sneak preview. I hope you’ll join us to hear Ody and participate in the discussion on this investment opportunity.
BP: How did you get involved in the concrete industry?
OD: I worked in the construction industry in my late teens and early 20s and found out quickly that working with concrete, specifically pouring and breaking test cylinders, was back-breaking work. I literally waited for the concrete trucks to come to the job site, they’d fill my wheelbarrow, I’d shovel the wet concrete into cylinders, wait for it to dry, and then break the cylinders to see if it had set correctly. It was time consuming and like I said, back breaking!
Later, as a student in the University of Houston’s entrepreneurship program, I met Anudeep Reddy, a civil and structural engineering student. He was working on a “smart cement” technology for monitoring the structural health of concrete and cement. I was intrigued. We started working together and in 2016 we co-founded Sensytec.
BP: What pain point did you see in the market?
OD: Concrete is a paint point for the construction industry. (Laughs) As complicated as it can be, the process of pouring, curing, and monitoring concrete is pretty much a guessing game. It’s largely reliant on manual tests that involve casting test cylinders, waiting for them to cure, and sending them to a lab to perform a break test. This is extremely time consuming. There are also many variables that can go wrong with concrete such as weather, the wrong mixture of water and cement and human error. During this last year, we’ve seen a labor shortage, causing more issues. Finally, problems with concrete can set a project back weeks and when a project goes past a deadline that costs money and contractors lose bonuses for meeting deadlines.
Our solution, called SensyRoc™, is a wireless sensor that is embedded into the concrete as it’s poured. The sensor collects real-time data as the concrete cures, sending it wirelessly to our free mobile app where users, contractors, and their teams can instantly see and share what is happening with the concrete. Monitoring in place with Sensytec means no more cylinder tests are needed, less manual labor is needed and no waiting days for results. It’s all there on their smart phones when they need it, which is usually now. Time is money, and if you can save even a day on pouring, that’s significant. On average, we save contractors two days per pour on their projects, which equates to about $7,000- $10,000 a day.
BP: That’s impressive. What kind of data are you tracking?
OD: We’re tracking and monitoring a number of things like the in-place temperature of the concrete as that impacts the quality of the cure. We’re also tracking the setting time and compressive strength. And finally, the thing that really sets Sensytec apart is that we’re monitoring the electrical resistivity. When concrete is poured there can be voids, air pockets if you will, that won’t be detected by monitoring temperature alone. Electrical resistivity identifies the nature of voids. If there’s a problem, it can be addressed immediately and not weeks, months, or years down the road when it could become a structural or even liability issue. Electrical Resistivity also provides data on Hydration of concrete, water & cement ratio, and slump of concrete allows contractors to fully understand their concrete mix and better optimize their mix designs for their projects.
BP: What kind of IP do you have?
OD: We currently hold a worldwide patent on Smart cement technology and have a patent pending on SensyRoc that is intended to also be a worldwide patent. These patents are protecting the electrical resistivity measurements using embedded sensors in concrete, asphalt and other materials.
BP: What kind of traction do you have?
OD: We are commercial with our sensors in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Minnesota, and Iowa. Some of our customer are Flatiron, Meyer Contracting, Harvey Builders, and Silverstar Construction.
BP: What is the competitive landscape?
OD: There are competitors in this space. Hilti, which is a large supplier to the concrete industry, has a sensor solution. There’s also Giatec and Kryton that offer monitoring solutions. These products are all the same tech and only use temperature measurements. What sets us apart though is the electrical resistivity measurements. When concrete is poured, there can be voids, air pockets if you will, that won’t be detected by monitoring temperature alone. Electrical resistivity identifies the nature of voids. If there’s a problem, it can be addressed immediately and not weeks, months, or years down the road when it could become a structural or even liability issue. Electrical resistivity also provides data on hydration of concrete, the water and cement ratio. This allows contractors to fully understand their concrete mix and better optimize mix designs for their projects.
BP: What is the potential for exit?
OD: Potential acquirers include large tool companies like DeWalt and Bosch that are adding to their technology solutions. RediMix, which is the leading concrete company in the U.S., is another potential acquirer.
BP: What will this round be used for?
OD: We are raising a $1 million seed round which we will use to expand outside of Texas, scale our manufacturing, and make key hires in sales, manufacturing and electrical engineering.
BP: Why should VisionTech investors back you?
OD: The concrete sector of the construction industry has tremendous room for improvement as it is still reliant on time-intensive manual processes. We believe there is a significant opportunity as our sensors and app will save contractors a tremendous amount of time and money. We are specifically looking for investors who bring more than capital and will serve more as partners in our growth and can potentially make introductions in the construction industry.
To learn more about Sensytec, visit their website. VisionTech Angels’ June Pitch Events will be virtual on Tuesday, June 22 and Thursday, June 294at 6 p.m. Pitch events are open to our members and accredited investors interested in joining our group. To register, check your email for an invitation, go to our Events page or email Ben Pidgeon at firstname.lastname@example.org.