Blokable Set to Expand into California

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Seattle-based startup Blokable—which is working to disrupt housing development with modular smart home units—has generated $23 million to expand manufacturing into California and prepare for new projects. As GeekWire reports, funding was provided by Vulcan Capital, Salesforce, Building Ventures, LAUNCH, Kapor Capital, Motley Food Ventures, Ten Eighty Capital and Dennis Joyce (an angel investor). Since delivering a project in Edmonds in 2018, Blokable has held off on additional builds and instead has “focused on nailing down the business model and making sure the manufacturing meets housing regulations.”

Aaron Holm, the Co-CEO of Blokable tells GeekWire that the company isn’t in a hurry to get to maximize production: “It’s really about the engineering of the building system and getting that 100 percent ready for scale and then looking for opportunities to spread across the country.”

Holm, was a product manager at Amazon and helped with physical retail locations including Amazon GO and Amazon bookstores. After advising the company for a couple of years, Nelson Del Rio joined as Co-CEO in 2017. Blokable has pitched a turnkey approach to development and aims to disrupt traditional processes and foster affordability. The company will facilitate the entire process through partnerships with architects and contractors.

GeekWire notes that Blokable revenue comes from two different sources: “For market-rate housing, Blokable owns the units and makes money off the equity they gain. For affordable housing, Blokable develops units for nonprofit partners for a fee in addition to the cost of the project.”

Travis Connors, one of the donors to Blokable and co-founder of Building Ventures, says “What’s unique about Blokable is they have thought through an entire business model disruption to target a particular problem that is very acute and massive around high quality affordable housing.”

Blokable homes are constructed with steel frames and standardized “bones” but all other selections and appointments are fully customizable. Right now, Blokable can build up to three-story buildings with a long-term goal to increase to five. Each unit includes BlokSense (a smart operating system) that is meant to cut maintenance, operating and insurance costs by monitoring air quality and notifying a homeowner when a repair is needed.

In July 2019, I looked at housing affordability on local and national scales, with an emphasis on California-based startups aiming for affordability. With Blokable’s recent fundraising and manufacturing adherence to California’s stringent building laws, it seems this Seattle-based startup could be poised for success in The Golden State.