How to build a home in 30 days: Con-tech startup Diamond Age raises $50M

Phoenix-based firm partners with homebuilder Century Communities to produce first 72 affordable homes

From left: Diamond Age co-founder and CTO Russel Varon; Diamond Age co-founder and CEO Jack Oslan (Diamond Age, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
From left: Diamond Age co-founder and CTO Russel Varon; Diamond Age co-founder and CEO Jack Oslan (Diamond Age, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

The U.S. is short a few million homes. A construction-tech startup is betting it can bridge the gap without swinging a hammer.

Diamond Age, which says its automated manufacturing tools can produce a single-family home in 30 days instead of the typical seven months, raised $50 million in Series A funding to scale its business.

The Phoenix-based company, co-founded in 2018 by CEO Jack Oslan and CTO Russel Varone, said this week that it partnered with Century Communities, the nation’s ninth-largest homebuilder, to build 72 affordable homes in its own backyard — a base from which the startup plans to eventually stage a national expansion.

On the surface, Diamond Age’s business looks similar to that of Icon, an Austin-based 3D home printer. But the company, which takes its name from a science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, bills itself as a “full-stack robotics startup.”

“It has to be more than just 3D printing, because 3D printing alone isn’t going to solve the problem,” Oslan said.

The problem, Oslan said, is the lack of affordable housing due to runaway home price inflation. The median U.S. home price jumped 16.9 percent year-over-year in 2021 to $347,000, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“Our mission is to get more entry-level housing in the market faster,” Oslan said.

Like Icon, Diamond Age’s main building material is concrete. But instead of building custom homes, Diamond Age is looking to partner with production builders like D.R. Horton, Lennar and KB Home to churn out mostly uniform three-bedroom homes of up to 2,000 square feet. The builders supply the architectural drawings, floor plans and elevations.

“We are basically taking the entire ecosystem of trade suppliers and bringing that to them as a one-stop-shop package,” Oslan said. Diamond Age takes a 45 to 55 percent cut of the sale price, which is typically between $250,000 and $300,000.

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Diamond Age is borrowing its tools, too. The company’s engineers, many of whom came from Tesla, appropriated them from the automotive and other industries, only tweaking their design. Its automated rigs, which are organized into “cohorts” of seven to construct multiple properties at once, look like the skeletons of a concert stage, each with a maneuverable robot at the center. They require only about half the manpower usually used on site, the company says.

The Series A funds will be used to launch Diamond Age’s first full cohort, which can produce an estimated 250 homes a year, by the end of 2023.

The challenge is as tall as the company’s ambitions: Other construction-tech startups, like San Francisco-based Social Construct, have tried and failed to fundamentally change the way homes are built. Diamond Age will have to partner with major tool manufacturers like Hilti or Bosch to get 1,000 or more cohorts up and running, which will require piles of cash that may not be available in a potentially volatile economic climate.

“If we aren’t building 200,000-plus homes a year, we’re never going to solve this problem,” Oslan said.

Diamond Age claims it is technology and materials agnostic; if a better tool or material comes along, it can adapt it quickly for its robotics system. While the build process is unconventional, the final product looks and feels like a home built with traditional methods — a factor Oslan expects will speed up adoption.

“We’re delivering familiarity to consumers and the homebuilders themselves,” he said. “We’re not selling them technology. We’re just delivering keys to the front door.”

Prime Movers Lab led the Series A round. Alpaca VC, who co-led the company’s $8 million seed round in December 2020 with Prime Movers, also participated in the Series A, alongside Dolby Family Ventures, Timber Grove Ventures, Gaingels and Signia Venture Partners. An unnamed group of homebuilders and land developers contributed 20 percent of the total funding.

Diamond Age has roughly 40 employees after doubling its headcount last year.

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