Funding Lab: Meet Eva, Founder of DataForm Lab.
DataForm Lab’s mission is to accelerate the integration of automation technologies in off-site construction. We were lucky enough to meet the founder Eva at this year’s Funding Lab, our new fast-paced, two-part programme for founders looking to raise investment from a VC. The course is designed to help early-stage founders tune their pitch and prepare for a raise with straight-talking, actionable learnings direct from our VC investors and industry specialists from our Studio team.
We sat down with Eva to discuss how the idea for DataForm Lab came about, what she’s working on now and where she’s planning on taking the business in the future.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
DataForm Lab is a start-up accelerating the integration of automation technologies in offsite construction. We are developing a B2B Construction Marketplace to facilitate the adoption of automation in the industry at a larger scale.
Auto/Mate is a procurement platform for off-site manufacturing that automatically translates design parameters into manufacturing code, providing a seamless digital workflow that links design and fabrication.
Our vision is to promote a new business model for construction, linking demand and supply, while encouraging the fast adoption of modern methods of construction. By de-mystifying automation, we help more manufacturers make informed business decisions and enter the automated off-site construction market, enabling an overall mentality shift towards automation in construction.
How did the idea come about?
The need for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) that will allow the digital transformation of the sector and help achieve zero carbon emissions has been highlighted in the UK government's Industrial Strategy Challenge for Transforming Construction. Nevertheless, the mainstream adoption of MMC is delayed, as demand is inhibited by low supply capacity and suppliers are reluctant to increase capacity because of the uncertain constancy of demand.
The main reason for this delay is a general fear of automation. Investment in new technologies is deemed risky if it is driven by the needs of a specific project rather than a general business plan for application throughout the manufacturer’s activities.
Our aim is simple – Auto/Mate de-risks investment in automation technologies for offsite construction. The platform is linked to a database of UK manufacturers who can bid for projects. It creates a clear return on investment (ROI) strategy through a constant pipeline of projects. It also eliminates the complexity of robotic programming by automatically converting design into manufacturing code.
What's the story so far?
There is strong traction so far, with two ongoing projects and many more in the works. Through these real-world applications, we have the opportunity to test and validate our business assumptions, based on our client's feedback. We also recently received funding from Innovate UK and are in the process of expanding our team.
So far we have also secured partnerships with ABB Robotics, the Centre of Natural Material Innovation of the University of Cambridge (CNMI), the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction (UCL) and the School of the Built Environment of the University of Reading, who are at the forefront of innovation in the field. Our commercial and academic partnerships allow us to develop an industry benchmarking process, get access to real-world projects, collect technical and market data and develop a new business model for construction.
What are you hoping to achieve in the next 12 months?
In the next 12 months, we are hoping to expand our team even further and to keep testing the Auto/Mate platform with early adopters, to maximise the value it provides to the construction sector. We intend to continue developing Auto/Mate’s features through pilot projects before scaling up. After the first year, we anticipate making Auto/Mate widely available in the industry.
What advice would you give to other early-stage founders looking to launch a company?
I would advise them to test their idea and share it with people in their market to validate and refine their business assumptions as early as possible.
It is important to follow passion and intuition, while at the same time keeping an open mind and embracing the changes that will inevitably happen at the early ideation stage. At the end of the day, listening to what the customers need provides the most valuable feedback, so I would advise them to avoid working in a silo and engage with their potential clients straight away.
What did you learn during Forward's Funding Lab?
Participating in Forward’s Funding Lab was a great experience. I received very valuable feedback on my pitch, while at the same time I learned how VCs assess startups in general and what are the thoughts and approaches behind investments. It was also very interesting to see how Forward Partners support the companies in their portfolio through the Studio and how they work together to maximise their growth.
It’s onwards and upwards from here. We wish Eva all the best as she continues to grow her startup. If you'd like to learn more about DataForm Lab, head to their website here or you can read more about the July 2022 Funding Lab cohort here.
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