The construction materials market is fragmented, according to GlobalFair CEO Shaily Garg, because it involves layers of both supply chain and logistics complexities. In a 2021 survey for the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo, the vast majority of builders said that the time it takes to obtain materials — and the cost of materials — continue to be the top issues they face.
Garg posits that technology can help, which is why she launched GlobalFair in 2020 with Ashish Chandra. A business-to-business startup, GlobalFair aims to simplify the procurement of “ready-to-install” materials such as countertops, quartz countertops, cabinets, natural stones and tiles with a digital marketplace for U.S. construction contractors.
GlobalFair today announced that it raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Lightspeed — a mix of equity ($12 million) and debt ($8 million) — with participation from Saama Capital, India Quotient, AUM Ventures and Stride Ventures. It brings the company’s total raised to $22 million following a $2 million seed round last February.
“The idea of GlobalFair was something Chandra and I felt strongly about, given the fragmented nature of construction businesses,” Garg said. “Across the world, global supply chain challenges are resulting in construction delays and labor shortages.”
Garg says she developed an interest in construction at an early age. Her family owned a quartz manufacturing business and she was trained as an engineer, going on to work for P&G prior to founding GlobalFair after stints at PwC and TransUnion. Chandra is also an engineer with an infrastructure consulting background, having worked as a director at PwC India and co-founded TrueCover, a startup creating blockchain-based insurance tools.
With GlobalFair, Garg and Chandra drew on their technical backgrounds to create a platform with predictive modeling capabilities. While the platform’s flagship product is a marketplace that connects contractors, distributors, fabricators, architects and construction companies to procure materials, GlobalFair also offers a tool to automate construction material cost estimates from architectural plans and site shop drawings. Beyond this, the company hosts a material visualization app to help architects and designers anticipate how things might look once installed, as well as an automated enterprise resource planning system to — in Garg’s works — “enable swift response time for customers and suppliers across multiple geographies.”
“[W]e have created an end-to-end synchronized supply chain from discovery to the final delivery of materials at a customer’s doorstep,” Garg said. “Our one-stop-shop platform is transformational for supply-side manufacturing, opening up the pockets of manufacturing that exist in India, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries for the global markets. We aim to become the largest technology-first global supplier of building materials, providing an easy, cost-efficient and seamless cross-border procurement experience for construction contractors.”
To this end, GlobalFair claims to be working with “hundreds” of contractors and retail customers across the U.S., specifically for multifamily and hospitality projects with budgets ranging from $100 million to $500 million. Garg says that GlobalFair’s clientele runs the gamut from big manufacturers and local distributors, to exporters, to retail chains buying from distributors.
Garg attributes the company’s recent success in part to the pandemic and the subsequent supply chain chaos. A report from Buildertrend found that the average number of days of delays more than doubled in 2022 compared to last year — a result of volatile material costs, shipping backlogs and scarce labor.
Construction tech startups have broadly benefited from the tailwinds over the past two years. In H1 2022, alone, funding in the sector totaled $1.3 billion, according to Pitchbook — up 44% from H2 2021.
“COVID-19 has had a seismic impact on global production networks, such that logistics costs and existing supply chains have altered fundamentally,” Garg said. “Businesses today are more worried about the resilience of their supply chains and are therefore looking to expand their supplier networks … At GlobalFair, we are disintermediating the long cross-border supply chain, connecting contractors directly to the suppliers.”
Garg claims that GlobalFair is maintaining “unit profitability” despite the current economic uncertainty, having seen “strong customer pull and growth” between the seed and Series A rounds. The new capital will be put toward growing the company’s team (from around 100 people to more than 200 by mid-2023), building products and scaling GlobalFair’s tech offering to new markets, she said.
Lightspeed partner Bejul Somaia shared via email: “The pandemic created stress in supply chains across industries, heightening the need for transparency, visibility and geographic diversification in the global procurement of construction products and building materials. By using technology to stitch together a network of manufacturing facilities across India and South East Asia, GlobalFair enables buyers in any country to discover new supply in an efficient, transparent and secure electronic market.”