Urban Umbrella raises $9M for better-looking scaffolding

Post-Covid, company will also offer canopies for schools and restaurants

Urban Umbrella CEO Ben Krall and renderings of the startup's scaffolding (Photos via Urban Umbrella)
Urban Umbrella CEO Ben Krall and renderings of the startup's scaffolding (Photos via Urban Umbrella)

Urban Umbrella, a startup that makes elegant steel scaffolding, has secured $9 million in new funding to beautify construction sites, one sidewalk shed at a time.

The round includes $7 million in equity and $2 million in debt, and brings the company’s total funding to $18 million since 2016. Co-founder Benjamin Krall said the company raised $4 million pre-Covid, but suspended fundraising for several months this spring. Investors include unnamed developers and building owners.

“This capital is to triple down on New York City,” said Krall, who said Urban Umbrella’s biggest challenge to date has been keeping up with demand. The company currently has 80 installations around the city with 30 more in the pipeline.

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The company’s roots are in the 2010 urbanSHED design competition, organized by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and American Institute of Architects, to make construction sites less ugly. The company launched in 2016 using high-strength steel, translucent plastic panels and LED lighting to reimagine sidewalk sheds.

Urban Umbrella’s products cost three to four times as much as traditional scaffolding, but Krall said it’s a more attractive option that allows ground-floor retailers to stay open. “All the pieces are meant to be installed with another like a Lego piece,” he said. “The safety component of the product is huge.”

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When Covid-19 hit, Urban Umbrella was deemed an essential business, and between March and June, it installed 25 scaffoldings and signed $5 million in contracts for 20 more, the company said.

Krall declined to disclose revenue, but said the 21-person company would be profitable “in 60 days,” in part because it gets “good payback” on the material. Unlike wood scaffolding that eventually gets trashed, Urban Umbrella’s steel is reusable.

The company fabricates its canopies in Toronto and ships the product to a warehouse in Queens. Eventually, Krall said, “the goal is to have fulfillment centers all over the U.S.”

In addition to construction sites, Urban Umbrella found several new uses for its scaffolding this spring and summer.

It has canopies inside the lobbies of One Court Square in Long Island City and New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Milstein building while both buildings undergo construction work on their roofs. In August, the company installed a canopy outside the front entrance of the Brooklyn Lab Charter School, and Krall said he’s gotten calls from four more schools. The company is also planning a line that could be used by restaurants for outdoor dining, according to Krall.