What is OMRT?
A digital design platform that allows project developers to quickly design houses. OMRT’s (algorithmic) software produces thousands of design variants at once that account for factors such as wind, noise, energy consumption and cost.
If, for example, a developer wants to build an apartment complex in Amsterdam South, the system also takes into account local height limits and noise contours along the highway. With this approach, OMRT claims to shorten the design phase of a housing project by up to 80 percent.
In today’s construction world, ‘calculate and draw’ is still a fragmented, slow and error-prone process, says OMRT co-founder Jasper Spiegeler. “I have seen a project where the various parties only found out after a year and a half that a residential tower should not be a hundred, but seventy meters high. Tons of money has already been invested at that point.’
As students at TU Delft, founders Jasper Spiegeler and Andreja Andrejevic (Forbes 30 under 30 of 2021) were introduced to ‘the coolest things’ about the future of construction. ‘But in practice you work with MS DOS systems that don’t communicate with each other,’ noted Spiegeler and Andrejevic when they started working for an engineering company after their studies.
‘Then you must make a sum each time the energyfootprint changes. It gets very confusing and requires you to communicate very well. That’s where we saw an opportunity.’
Spiegeler and Andrejevic began working in the evenings script and tool. Landing their first client (an architect) was the push they needed to say goodbye to their jobs. Four years later, the OMRT team consists of thirty people, many of whom, like Spiegeler and Andrejevic, come from a technical university.
Who’s waiting for it?
OMRT mainly focuses on project developers. As guardians of quality and budget, they play a central role in housing projects (sometimes involving hundreds of parties, from architects and engineers to constructors and real estate agents).
Indirectly, the entire housing market can benefit from faster development. The design process accounts for 20 percent of a home’s cost, notes Spiegeler. ‘If you can reduce that and make the design more efficient, you’ll end up paying less for your home.’
OMRT also wants to contribute to a more sustainable world of construction, a sector responsible for around 40 percent of all CO2 emissions worldwide. With smart designs, you can save, for example, building materials and reduce energy costs per housing.
OMRT’s algorithms could also contribute to the recycling of materials from old buildings (circular construction). “You need a lot of data for circularity,” says Spiegeler. ‘The kind of lots of customization you will only manage with smart technology in the design process.’
How far is OMRT?
The startup took off two years ago thanks to a partnership with developer Vorm. The Rotterdam developer provided an initial capital injection and set up a joint venture with OMRT to design 5,000 homes a year.
So far, the design service has been deployed on 120 construction projects. The largest of these was a 1.2 million square meter (‘5,000 to 8,000 houses’) project near Amsterdam.
According to Spiegeler, the platform currently processes approximately 7,500 homes on an annual basis, approximately ten percent of the total annual new construction in the Netherlands. The turnover is expected to grow to 1.5 to 2 million euros this year.
Spiegeler: ‘We now see evidence that it can be done more sustainably and faster. In the beginning we had to call everyone, now we get called’.
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What is the business model?
Spiegeler notes that SaaS (Software as a Service) is the holy grail for many people, not least for investors. But such a one hands off According to him, the business model is not yet feasible. ‘The system is so complex, broad and valuable that you will have to charge tons per customer. This is not a Google or Airtable where you can go for 20 euros a month.’
OMRT now focuses on clients’ design requirements on a project-by-project basis (as a “design studio”). A housing price is then settled, analogous to the business model of many architects. ‘A species success fee. It gives us the opportunity to further develop and invest.’
The startup is now working on ‘a more technology-driven model’, where architects can manage the system themselves. “It looks for the balance between perfect designs and scalability.”
Do you still need money?
OMRT announced a series A round of 5 million euros last week, with impact investor Shift Invest as to leadinvestor. That amount also includes the growth money the startup previously raised from an (anonymous) angel investor and developer Vorm.
The new capital round allows for a “heavy software investment,” says Spiegeler. ‘To make this robust and controllable by others, some more people need to be added. So we are now in a sort of recruitment drive. In addition, we must become stronger in relation to trading and handling even larger customers, also internationally.’
Looking forward to a possible next round, Spiegeler believes that it is still a little too early. ‘Our Goal is to be able to continue for two years, partly because of the current investment landscape.’