When architects and designers plan a project, they spend days searching for the right products and materials, from fabrics to timber, tiles, carpets, metals, wallpaper, paints and more. However, suppliers and manufacturers still rely heavily on offline sales methods, such as catalogues, showrooms or design conferences, typically spending less than 0.5% of revenues on serving their customers digitally. This stands in contrast to the way design professionals work, with more than 95% of product discovery beginning online.
Stylib, a startup revolutionising how design professionals search, review and specify architectural products, wants to solve this problem by bringing hundreds of leading suppliers onto its digital platform, equipping designers with product discovery and design stack tools that make it easier than ever to find, review and include suppliers’ products in their specifications.
This UK-based startup has just raised €1.7 million in pre-seed funding led by Foundamental, a global early-stage construction tech investor. The funding, which includes participation from AEC/O software provider Nemetschek Group and Redstone Built World Strategy, will be used to accelerate the company’s product development and UK operation.
Noam Naveh, co-founder and CEO at Stylib, said: “As architects, we’re facing a ‘classic’ data access problem: globalisation and the rise of digital have led to the markets being flooded with products, however, the tools used to search and manage these products remain the same as 20 years ago. Currently, both suppliers and designers remain dependent on catalogues, showrooms and salespeople. The result is inefficient product discovery for designers and ineffective pre-sales workflows for suppliers. Stylib is transforming this by creating tools that complement the work of design professionals in the digital world. We’re delighted to have the support of such an experienced group of investors who will help us to reshape our own industry.”
Founded in 2021 by Noam Naveh (CEO) and Fabio Galicia (CTO), two architects who met whilst studying for a Master’s degree at UCL in Design Computation, Stylib is on a mission to help specifiers find, curate and manage architectural products from suppliers and manufacturers. Currently, architectural product discovery is a time-consuming task. Designers spend days browsing through vast catalogues and are unable to cover the constantly-growing market offering when searching for products for their projects. While product suppliers and manufacturers remain focused on showrooms and catalogues to reach potential buyers, Stylib is taking a ‘vertical Shopify’ approach that aims to equip companies working in the field with digital tools that enable digital specification journeys.
Fabio Galicia, co-founder and CTO at Stylib, commented: “Suppliers haven’t been able to keep pace with the technological revolution in design and architecture, preferring to rely on old-school methods which are limiting their reach and curbing the inspiration process for designers. We’re excited about the potential for Stylib to revolutionise material search by using AI product search and management tools to make finding the best products seamless for both architects and suppliers.”
Patric Hellermann, General Partner at Foundamental, added: “Having to rely on manual methods to find materials is holding back suppliers from connecting with designers and making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to track product details for environmental and safety purposes. This is an exciting opportunity for a digitally-native product and we believe Noam and Fabio have the drive and the team to do so.”
Stylib’s proprietary machine vision tools allow designers to use their own inspiration images to search for relevant products from trade suppliers. It is then coupled with the company’s vast product database, which helps specifiers to further narrow down their search using technical filters that include critical information like sustainability criteria, fire rating, slip resistance and more. By doing so, the company saves designers dozens of working hours every month and allows them to explore a vast array of product alternatives without being limited to salespeople’s availability. To complement its search technology, the company is developing tools such as digital moodboards and personalised material libraries, that help designers to manage their architectural materials’ knowledge base.
Stylib is more than a technology-enabled marketplace – it is also developing tools and infrastructure for suppliers to streamline their digital activity. For instance, customers can integrate Stylib’s product discovery technology into their own websites using the company’s API and widget solutions. Suppliers can manage their entire catalogue database using the platform’s vertical Product Information System (PIM), which enriches their data using machine learning and has been designed to suit the needs of architectural product suppliers and manufacturers. They also benefit from search insights which inform them what the latest trends are based on analysis of user searches.
The European architecture materials & finishes market is worth $300 billion annually and $1.2 trillion globally, with over 10,000 potential B2B customers in the UK alone. To serve this growing market, Stylib has raised its pre-seed funding. The company will use the funding to grow its team to 12 by 2024, scaling its product development and UK operation.
Tanja Kufner, Head of Ventures at Nemetschek Group, said: “The lack of standardisation and searchability across suppliers is holding back the digitisation of material-related workflows. The Stylib team is leveraging AI and machine learning to solve the material search problem and make it highly scaleable, in a way we’ve never seen before. We look forward to supporting Noam, Fabio and the team on this journey.”
Niklas Grunewald, Managing Partner at Redstone Build World Strategy, commented: “Tapping into both designer and supplier workflows in the materials space, the team at Stylib are building a platform that solves a long-standing problem for the whole ecosystem. This is not about replacing trade shows, but about streamlining the everyday processes in between. With the massive volumes that are being transacted in the materials space, we believe that the team has uncovered an enormous market opportunity and the right experience to execute.”