Architizer raises $7 million to launch online products marketplace

Business news: American media company Architizer has received $7 million to develop an online products marketplace for architects that aims to be as revolutionary as Airbnb and Uber.

The funding, which equates to approximately £4.9 million, will go towards the development and launch of Architizer Source, an online tool that enables architects to more easily specify products.

Architizer CEO Marc Kushner said the service was aiming to be as disruptive for architecture as Airbnb and Uber have been for traditional tourism and transport industries.

"It's no secret that there are huge transformations going on in entrenched markets, whether Airbnb for accommodations or Uber for taxis," said Kushner in an announcement published on Medium. "Architecture deserves its own revolution."

Products account for about 17 per cent of a building's total budget – which adds up to roughly $97 billion (£68 billion) each year in the US, said Kushner.

"Finding the right building products today involves some combination of searching Google, calling up salespeople for quotes, collecting PDFs and layering them into their construction drawings," said Kushner. "In short, it's a disaster."

"You might think an industry with this kind of purchasing power would be showered with tools and conveniences to help make these choices, but we aren't," he said.

Architizer raises 7 million dollars to launch new online products database
Marc Kushner co-founded American media company Architizer in 2009

The Series A financing was led by August Capital, a venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, California. Series A is a term used to denote a company's first significant round of venture capital financing.

Two large architecture firms – SHoP and Handel Architects – have also invested money in Architizer, which was co-founded in 2009 by Kushner.

"Architizer was founded by architects, for architects, and having these savvy professionals join our team is a big win," said Kushner.

The sum of their contributions is being kept confidential.

Architizer unveiled a private beta version of Architizer Source in July 2015, with 10 New York-based firms invited to test it. "I can't reveal everything yet, but so far the results are astounding," said Kushner, stating that the beta testers specified $50 million (£35 million) worth of products.

A public launch is slated for the end of this year.

Based in New York, Architizer was started in 2009 by Kushner, a founding partner at the New York studio HWKN, and KKLD, a creative agency. At the time, Kushner – who holds degrees from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, both Ivy League institutions – couldn't find a job as an architect, as the recession had decimated the profession in the US.

Architizer's initial focus was on enabling architects to create online portfolios and share their work, earning it the nickname Facebook for Architects.

Its website now offers editorial content and a database of 120,000 projects by firms around the world. In 2013, it launched the A+ Awards, an international awards program.

In February 2014, Architizer received $2 million (£1.4 million) in seed funding from a collection of investors. The company launched with $1 million (£702,000) raised from Kushner's family and friends, according to reports.

Kushner said this year's investment underscored the value of architecture.

Architizer raises 7 million dollars to launch new online products database
Kushner is also a founding partner at the New York studio HWKN. Photograph by Michael Moran

"I have endured endless complaints about the perceived value of architecture  – about how architects don't make enough money, about how we aren't respected," he said.

"Sometimes dollars speak louder than words."

Architects oversee construction projects totalling $570 billion (£400 billion) in each year, said Kushner.

"That's why the Architecture Billings Index is a leading economic indicator," he said, referring to the monthly index produced by the AIA, which tracks firm billings. "Economists figured it out: If architects are busy, that means that contractors and building product manufacturers will be busy, too."

"At Architizer, we believe we can unlock the inherent power of that vast sum to empower the entire industry, not just track the economy."

Architizer is one of the leading US-based digital media startups focused on architecture and design. A main competitor is Houzz, a Palo Alto-based company that has raised over $213 million (£149 million) in funding since its 2009 launch.

This past November, Kontor – an online platform focused on workplace design and products – was unveiled. The New York-based company was founded by a group of design-minded entrepreneurs, including Kevin Ryan, who started the popular sites Gilt and Business Insider. It has received $5 million (£3.5 million) in funding, according to CrunchBase.