“Alexa, build me a house.” We’re not quite there yet, but it seems that Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has taken the first step. The e-commerce giant has invested an undisclosed amount in a California-based startup that manufactures custom single-family and multifamily homes using sustainable materials, construction practices, processes and operations.
The company, Plant Prefab, just closed a Series A venture funding round of $6.7 million. According to data from Crunchbase, Amazon’s Alexa Fund was one of at least three investors in the round. Another is Obvious Ventures, a venture capital firm created by Twitter founder Evan Williams. The third, according to Crunchbase News, was a “large, unnamed multi-billion private equity fund” that led the investment round.
The Alexa Fund was established to invest up to $100 million in voice-activated technologies, and if that seems like a stretch in this case, Amazon is ahead of you again.
Plant Prefab’s manufacturing process is set up to make it easy to build smart homes. For Amazon, that means the company can get Alexa voice-controlled gear into homes while the home is still on the drawing board rather than having to leave it to homeowners to figure out how to add all those new Alexa-powered gadgets Amazon unveiled last week.
In a statement announcing the investment, Amazon’s Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund, said:
Voice has emerged as a delightful technology in the home, and there are now more than 20,000 Alexa-compatible smart home devices from 3,500 different brands. Plant Prefab is a leader in home design and an emerging, innovative player in home manufacturing. We’re thrilled to support them as they make sustainable, connected homes more accessible to customers and developers.
Plant Prefab claims to have reduced the construction time for a home by 50% and the cost of a home by 10% to 25% in major cities. The homes are “built in ways that minimize the negative impact of development on energy, water, resources and indoor air quality.” The company focuses on custom, high-quality sustainable homes and has a special facility and a patented building system optimized to build these homes. These are not the mobile and manufactured homes most Americans think of when they hear the term “prefab.”