Construction insurance company Billy announced today the closing of an additional $2.5 million led by Entrada Ventures and MetaProp, bringing its total funding to $6.7 million.
Nyasha Gutsa and Grant Robbins started the company in 2020 as a pandemic project. Gusta combined his background in construction product management with Robbins’ decade of experience running a construction business to launch Billy, which digitizes and streamlines the construction compliance management process.
The company has two revenue models: a SaaS platform that collects, verifies and tracks compliance documents like business licenses and W9 forms for general contractors, developers and property managers. The second model uses the data from the SaaS platform to operate a marketplace that provides insurance solutions. So far, Billy says it has been used to build high-speed rail projects, as well as residential buildings and homes. Gusta and Robbins were inspired to launch the company after noticing that risk in the construction sector was steadily increasing.
“In construction tech, nobody has built workflows for the insurance industry,” Gusta told TechCrunch. “That means carriers don’t have visibility to their client’s risk, and that’s important because typically, on a construction site, there’s like two people getting hurt or killed every hour. That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Billy provides them with that visibility.”
Robbins added to that, saying Billy hopes to reduce friction and confusion that comes with managing the insurance requirements for a project. “We’re seeing demand surge from general contractors who enjoy automating their entire compliance management systems,” he said.
As CEO, Gusta started fundraising for Billy in May 2022 and said he experienced the routine highs and lows that come with pitching. Last year, Black founders raised just 1% of all venture capital funding, a slight dip from the record 1.3% allocated to them in 2021. Gusta himself was not immune to snide remarks from investors. “The process was a little tough,” he recalled.
Billy met its lead, Entrada Ventures, through another investor in Gusta and Robbins’ network. Eric Kanowsky, a managing partner at Entrada Ventures, told TechCrunch that the firm invested in Billy because it was attracted to the deep knowledge its team had regarding construction technology. “With this capital infusion, Billy is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity and is now capable of moving quickly to scale,” he said.
Zachary Aarons, the co-founder of the firm Metaprop, which co-led the round, saw Billy’s value. “When I was working as a project manager on small ground-up construction projects, I spent most of my time dealing with insurance issues,” he told TechCrunch. “Now, thankfully, there is an app for that.”
Others in the round include Central Coast Ventures, Gaingels and angel investors Doug Hirsh and Levelset founder Scott Wolfe. Billy plans to use the money to accelerate sales and increase customer retention. It is a licensed digital broker representing more than 30 insurance carriers to help them manage workflow. It just closed a deal to start providing its services to the construction software company Procore.
This journey has been one full circle for Gusta. Born in Zimbabwe, he was a childhood pen pal of the late Michael Tyler Fisher, a member of the billionaire Fisher Family real estate dynasty. The family would fly Gusta to New York each summer to spend time with Michael until the boy’s untimely death at age 12. After his death, Gusta kept in touch with the family, and after graduating from high school two years ahead of schedule, the Fisher family offered him a private scholarship in Michael’s honor to work for their construction company.
He worked his way up and learned the ins and outs of construction. Then he moved to Procore, where he worked as a senior product manager and was one of few Black employees.
There, he helped digitize the process of managing construction finances. Now, the Fisher family uses Billy to power insurance and compliance for one of their Las Vegas properties; it’s also one of the first Black-owned companies to be integrated into Procore.
“This moment represents the culmination of a journey that started in Harare, Zimbabwe,” Gusta said. “I hope my stories inspired others to embrace vulnerability and pursue their dreams.”
Published in TechCrunch