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Bechtel scion builds venture business

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Darren Bechtel has joined a growing band of young entrepreneurs keen to use technology to make a new fortune, away from the embrace of their family businesses

This year Bechtel started to invest $97.5 million raised by his Brick & Mortar Ventures last year, convinced he can bring efficiency in the construction sector via a digital approach.

Bechtel has said it is neither an investor in B&M nor its venture capital investments. But Bechtel is prepared to consider B&M as a preferred industry partner, which should open a few doors, along with fraternal bonding

He believes Covid-19 will accelerate the transformation in the way projects are managed.  He thinks digital scrutiny will help projects to be delivered on time, and within budget. Governments are seeking to boost their economies through construction, but they are also keen to get value for money.

Darren is the brother of Brendan Bechtel, chief executive of Bechtel Group, the largest contractor in the US, founded by their great-great-grandfather Warren, a railroad engineer.

Bechtel Group employs 55,000. It generated revenues of $21.8 billion last year and remains privately owned.

It is renowned for massive projects such as the Hoover Dam and Channel Tunnel. It has built power stations, airports, roads and Olympic stadiums. It has cleaned up for governments after man-made and natural disasters. According to Forbes, the Bechtel family is worth $7.3 billion.

Brendan Bechtel, born in 1981, was appointed chief executive in 2016. Rather than jostling for position, Darren decided to fly solo like the children of other billionaires, as outlined recently by Family Capital.

Bechtel has said it is neither an investor in B&M nor its venture capital investments. But Bechtel is prepared to consider B&M as a preferred industry partner, which should open a few doors, along with fraternal bonding.

B&M is also separate to Fremont Group, the Bechtel family’s investment office, which invests in industries, services and auto dealerships. 

Fremont is well connected in its own right, recently agreeing to co-invest with Terence O’Toole’s family office, Macanta Investments. O’Toole co-founded Goldman Sachs’ captive private equity business, one of its most elite operations.

For his part, Darren Bechtel is close to Brendan Wallace of venture capital group Fifth Wall, a serial investor in real estate projects. Over the last five years, Bechtel has become a top early-stage investor in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) companies. 

He launched B&M in 2015 and raised last year’s $97.4 million from corporate investors, including Autodesk, Cemex, Obayashi and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs.

This year’s investments include IFM which lists, and policies, approved contractors, and Trade Hounds, which facilitates site communications through an app. 

Alice Technologies breaks down complex construction challenges to deliver results effectively, and within budget. B&M also aims to put 3D Printing, robotics, drones and virtual reality to work.

In a recent speech, Darren Bechtel said his sector had been too opaque for too long: “We believe the way to develop sustainable successful solutions is to get end users involved in the design process, and get them involved early.”

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