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Fifth Wall’s Brendan Wallace on coronavirus, WeWork and what’s shaking up proptech

Last week, we interviewed Brendan Wallace, a real estate-focused venture capitalist whose portfolio companies include Opendoor, which buys and sell homes, and scooter company Lime, which helps building owners navigate around parking requirements by installing docking stations instead.

We first talked with Wallace almost exactly three years ago when he and partner Brad Greiwe took the wraps off their venture firm Fifth Wall Ventures and its $212 million debut fund. What really stood out to us at the time is that it was backed by a long list of real estate heavyweights. They’re understandably eager to get a peek at up-and-coming technologies and, in some cases, deploy them.

Wallace and Greiwe have been awfully busy since that initial conversation. Last year, they closed a second flagship fund with $503 million in capital commitments. Fifth Wall is also working to close two other funds, including a $200 million retail fund focused on matching online brands with real-world real estate and a reported $500 million carbon impact fund whose capital will enable its limited partners to expressly invest in sustainable technology.

Wallace declined to discuss the last two funds, presumably owing to SEC regulations, but he did talk with us about what he says is the biggest thing to shake up the real estate industry in “the last five decades.” We also chatted about how the coronavirus impacted a recent fundraising trip to Singapore and how WeWork’s public retrenching has affected how investors feel about real estate startups right now (he suggests WeWork’s fall definitely made an impression). Some excerpts from our conversation follow, edited lightly for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: We’d read that you were recently in Singapore meeting with new investors.

Brendan Wallace: Yes, I was in Singapore meeting with our existing investors and it was a pretty unique time to be there. When I went, which was about two weeks ago, the outbreak of coronavirus was fairly contained in China. But then as you probably read, it spread pretty rapidly in Singapore, so at the moment, I’m actually kind of self-quarantining myself in my own house.

Fifth Wall’s Brendan Wallace on coronavirus, WeWork and what’s shaking up proptech

Last week, we interviewed Brendan Wallace, a real estate-focused venture capitalist whose portfolio companies include Opendoor, which buys and sell homes, and scooter company Lime, which helps building owners navigate around parking requirements by installing docking stations instead.

We first talked with Wallace almost exactly three years ago when he and partner Brad Greiwe took the wraps off their venture firm Fifth Wall Ventures and its $212 million debut fund. What really stood out to us at the time is that it was backed by a long list of real estate heavyweights. They’re understandably eager to get a peek at up-and-coming technologies and, in some cases, deploy them.

Wallace and Greiwe have been awfully busy since that initial conversation. Last year, they closed a second flagship fund with $503 million in capital commitments. Fifth Wall is also working to close two other funds, including a $200 million retail fund focused on matching online brands with real-world real estate and a reported $500 million carbon impact fund whose capital will enable its limited partners to expressly invest in sustainable technology.

Wallace declined to discuss the last two funds, presumably owing to SEC regulations, but he did talk with us about what he says is the biggest thing to shake up the real estate industry in “the last five decades.” We also chatted about how the coronavirus impacted a recent fundraising trip to Singapore and how WeWork’s public retrenching has affected how investors feel about real estate startups right now (he suggests WeWork’s fall definitely made an impression). Some excerpts from our conversation follow, edited lightly for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: We’d read that you were recently in Singapore meeting with new investors.

Brendan Wallace: Yes, I was in Singapore meeting with our existing investors and it was a pretty unique time to be there. When I went, which was about two weeks ago, the outbreak of coronavirus was fairly contained in China. But then as you probably read, it spread pretty rapidly in Singapore, so at the moment, I’m actually kind of self-quarantining myself in my own house.

Where top VCs are investing in construction robotics

Venture capital has been flooding the various subverticals under the robotics umbrella in recent years, and the construction space is one of the largest beneficiaries.

Last November, we surveyed 13 of the top robotics-focused VCs to find out which areas of robotics are exciting them most going into 2020. One of the most common areas of attention respondents highlighted were startups focused on construction and manufacturing. In 2019 alone, the robotics space saw roughly 600 venture-backed fundraising rounds, while construction companies successfully raised roughly 200 venture rounds.

With our 2020 Robotics + AI sessions event on the horizon in early March, we’re diving back into the sector to learn about the attributes of construction attracting robotics VCs the most and which types of startups VCs are actually writing checks for in 2020. We asked 16 leading people who actively invest in construction robotics and work at firms spanning early to growth-stage to share what’s exciting them most and where they see opportunity in the sector:

 

Rohit Sharma, True Ventures

True Ventures has been investing in industrial automation broadly for 4+ years and focusing on founders who bring technology to market that eliminates repetitive manual labor and multiplies human productivity by automating routine tasks.