Renovate is building robots to install roof shingles

Roofing isn’t a glamorous job. In fact, one could reasonably argue that it checks off the classic three Ds of automation -- dull, dirty and dangerous -- with aplomb. It’s a prime candidate for transformation at the hands of some clever roboticists. It always ranks at or toward the top of the list of most dangerous construction jobs, and there are a lot of roofs in the world -- every human who wants one should have one.

Renovate Robotics is building systems for the express purpose of installing shingles -- including the asphalt and solar varieties at launch. This morning, the startup announced a $2.5 million pre-seed, led by Alley Robotics Ventures and featuring SOSV’s HAX, Newlab, Uphonest Capital and Climate Capital.

"We love backing ambitious founders tackling problems that really matter,” Alley Managing Partner Abe Murray says in a statement. “Renovate's solution will reduce the danger of roofing, and over time provide a path for the deployment of solar shingles at scale."

Interesting side note, HAX Associate/Analyst Dylan Crow made the jump from VC to COO of Renovate.

“I’ve seen a lot of hard tech startups go through steep inflection points from the inside during my time at SOSV, and the ones that I was always the most drawn towards were climate focused,” Crow tells TechCrunch. “All of these companies have a vision that was fundamentally disruptive, and I see the same in where we’re headed at Renovate Robotics. I have huge conviction in my co-founder Andy, as an engineer and a leader who can get us to market. There’s such a fantastic fit between the two of us, and I have a deep gut feel about the jump.”

Image Credits: Renovate Robotics

Crow is now listed as a co-founder of the company. Original co-founder Andy Stulc is a mechanical engineer, who brings 12 years of robotics experience to Renovate.

The company’s robot works on a winch-based system. The robot is tethered to a roof and moves across the surface in a gantry-like X,Y axis pattern, installing shingles as it goes. Renovate is planning a few paths to monetizing the tech, while evolving the system.

“We’ll work directly with roofing contractors, and initially help them complete jobs as a subcontractor,” says Crow. “This is a common relationship in the construction industry (contractors giving jobs to other subcontractors). We’ll then transition to a RaaS model where we will lease our robots to trained contractors who can operate the system themselves on site.”

The system currently requires a human operator to monitor progress and replace shingles. “There will always be a few workers onsite for setup, monitoring and material reloading,” Crow adds. “It’s not our vision right now to have any remote monitoring. We will collect and store this data however, which will be later integrated into other feature sets (like installation validation for insurance providers).”