Design-build firm Clayco has launched an investment arm called Treehouse Adventures to provide financing and operational infrastructure to startups, including those serving the AEC industry.
“We see a lot of opportunities in construction services,” says Michael Latiner, who joined Clayco last November as Treehouse’s President and Principal.
The goal is to create an environment where fledgling companies can concentrate on innovation and worry less about running a business. Clayco has dedicated the 14th floor of its headquarters in Chicago to provide space for the startups.
Treehouse’s first investment is Chicago-based Ventana Design-Build Systems, a five-month-old company that designs, supplies, and installs high-performance glass curtain wall façade systems. Latiner says Ventana’s President, Bob Trainor (center in photo, flanked by VPs Marty Trainor, left, and Ryan Murphy), was known in the business and had the ideas and processes, but needed Clayco’s operational backbone for support. “We were able to get them up and running in a week,” says Latiner.
Trainor says that Treehouse uses Clayco’s back-office services to provide marketing, IT, legal, and accounting support. It also provides an experienced senior management team and a network of relationships that startups like Ventana can leverage.
Treehouse doesn’t have a dedicated fund set aside for investment, but Latiner says he anticipates investing in two or three companies a year. A second deal has already been cut, with a technology startup whose expertise is making buildings smarter.