- Curtis Wong, a former SpaceX engineer, says he can cut housing costs by 30% with modular apartments.
- Cloud Apartments plans to build at five sites in the Bay Area, including in San Jose and Berkeley.
- A 25-year venture-capital veteran just led a $3 million funding round for Cloud Apartments.
Imagine you had an apartment that cost 30% less to build than a typical listing in your city, with more luxury features and cutting-edge technology.
Factories tooled to produce modular apartment units can make this possible. It’s something Curtis Wong, a former SpaceX engineer who graduated from Harvard Business School, says he’s fixated on as a way to help solve the housing-affordability crisis.
“All I do is obsess over this,” Wong, 33, told Insider.
In 2021, against a backdrop of skyrocketing rents, Wong founded Cloud Apartments, a rental development company that uses modular-construction processes more often associated with single-family housing. Cloud’s partner factories, such as the modular builder Autovol, will manufacture units in an assembly-line fashion with raw materials and ship the products to the building sites. Once that is done, a team of engineers and construction experts will assemble the units into a high-rise apartment building.
The business has captured the interest of venture capitalists including Tim Connors, a former Sequoia investor and 25-year venture-capital veteran who led a $3 million funding round that closed on Monday. Wong said Cloud, which is based in the Bay Area, would use the funds to hire additional engineers, construction experts, and designers.
Wong said prefabrication of the apartment parts “lets you sprint through” the process of assembling a building. The shorter construction time frame should result in dramatically lower costs, he said.
A building of Cloud apartments doesn’t yet exist but the company has plans for five Bay Area sites, in San Jose, Concord, Berkeley, Redwood City, and Watsonville. It’s waiting for approval from these cities to start building.
Wong said that in San Jose, the company is planning a 200-unit building, targeting a cost of $340 per square foot compared with the city average of $475 per square foot, as quoted by local general contractors. Cloud has three designs: a 500-square-foot studio, a 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom, and a 2,000-square-foot two-bedroom.
Wong said his background in construction and development coupled with his experience in the tech industry made him uniquely prepared to tackle this task.
Reflecting on construction startups, Wong suggested that many were hubristic, with leaders who think, “I’m from tech, I’m smarter than all these fools in construction, we’ll do it ourselves.”
“I don’t think any of those are true,” he said, though he acknowledged that tech plays an important role. “There are a lot of companies that have tried to reinvent the wheel and then mess up on the basics, such as pouring concrete.”