Some industries remain slow when it comes to adopting technology, especially on the consumer-facing side of things. Healthcare is perhaps the most notable, but that is starting to change, especially here in Boston with the likes of ZappRX, Medisafe, American Well and many others. Finance is finally seeing an explosion in tech and the world of legal is starting to provide consumers with simplified, affordable solutions through technology.
When it comes to construction and home improvement, however, technology hasn’t quite made its way into the hands of consumers. The multi-billion dollar home renovation market, where the likes of Home Depot and Lowe’s still dominate and consumers either need to do work themselves or spend impractical amounts of time and money to have something renovated, is in dire need of shake up.
Two Boston entrepreneurs with a wealth of experience in both consumer and B2B tech companies have set their eyes on the home renovation space.
In April of this year, Eric Horndahl (CEO) and Brian Waldman (COO) launched Renoviso, a tech-enabled startup that makes buying home renovation products easy and affordable by allowing consumers to build customized orders online, receive professional measurements and schedule delivery and installation.
Offering real-time customized pricing, premium quality products, professional installation, and a modern stress free experience, Renoviso enables homeowners to easily complete home renovation projects - starting with window replacements. Horndahl tells me future products are on the way with doors and flooring being the likely next moves. With winter upon us, providing a flooring solution would enable Renoviso to continue their momentum through the cold weather months ahead.
Before we get into what exactly that momentum consists of, let’s take a look at the founders, both of whom are BuyerZone alumni.
Horndahl, a Chelmsford, MA native and Babson graduate, found himself in the Bay Area after college to satisfy his thirst for technology, landing a corporate finance role with eBay’s International business unit. When the finance world wasn’t doing it for him, Horndahl, along with a former roommate of his at Babson, co-founded a home technology solutions provider, which designed and installed customized home entertainment, networking and automation systems. The entrepreneurial bug was firmly planted.
In 2003 Horndahl returned to Boston to join the category management team at BuyerZone. He had been recruited and hired by Waldman. Over five plus years, he held several roles with the online marketplace for business-to-business purchases – his last being Vice President of New Business.
After departing BuyerZone, Horndahl joined the founding team at FlipKey to build out their owner subscription business and head up marketing, seeing the company through its acquisition by TripAdvisor, where he’d remain on until early this year, responsible for all consumer marketing channels at FlipKey and all paid marketing channels for the other TripAdvisor vacation rental brands globally.
Waldman, a Framingham, MA native and graduate of Bryant University and BU’s Graduate School of Management, left BuyerZone in 2005 to lead marketing for Merchant Warehouse, a provider of payment technologies, which is now known as Cayan. The company grew from 30 to more than 300 in the time Waldman was there.
Over the years Waldman also served as a consultant to notable tech companies, lending his marketing expertise to the likes of Constant Contact, Zendesk and several others.
THE ORIGIN OF RENOVISO
Horndahl and Waldman had always remained in touch after their BuyerZone days and the two found themselves talking about joining forces on a new venture and exploring areas where their vast marketing and customer acquisition experience could pay off. Horndahl shared a recent experience from when he was looking to buy new windows for his home.
“I went through the typical process. Pricing was difficult to get and my wife and I had to spend a ton of time with sales reps at our house to get estimates. The entire experience was painful and frustrating. And once I got the quote, the cost was astronomical.”
The pain points of Horndahl’s experience were so evident that when he shared the story with Waldman, they realized this was their opportunity.
“We knew this was our chance to make a difference,” Horndahl said to me. “We had been looking to contribute to Boston’s tech ecosystem, but needed the right opportunity. My painful experience brought us that.”
With Horndahl’s personal experience coming in the form of window replacement, they started their focus there. That market, Horndahl tells me, is a $10 billion dollar market – just windows.
They formally launched the site in April and worked to prove the concept and business model. While Horndahl didn’t provide specific sales numbers you can find more than a dozen reviews on Angie’s List and Yelp alone.
Horndahl and Waldman set out to simplify the process and make replacing windows more transparent and affordable. In a matter of months the two took an idea, validated it, partnered with manufacturers and big, reputable brands, built a consumer-facing platform and acquired several customers. Perhaps that’s why Renoviso attracted a star-studded cast of investors.
In September Renoviso announced it had closed a $1.4 million (oversubscribed) seed round led by NextView Ventures along with RRE Ventures, Accomplice's BOSS Syndicate, Niraj Shah, Diane Hessan, David Chang, Jere Doyle and many other well-known angels.
NextView Ventures’ Founding Partner, David Beisel, who also sits on Renoviso’s Board of Directors, weighed in on the market and his recent investment:
“Home renovation is perhaps the ultimate high-consideration purchase, both because it affects an individual’s life so directly and also because the purchase price can be very meaningful. If a startup can provide an effective solution to the category, the rewards can be absolutely massive and Eric and Brian, with their rich marketing backgrounds, are the perfect duo to make it happen.”
Also involved in the seed round was NextGen Angels, a new angel network in Boston, which is led locally by Chris Keller. This was the group’s first investment since launching in Boston this summer. I asked Keller what had his network convinced to make Renoviso its initial Boston investment:
"The Renoviso team is solving a big problem that multiple members of our group had personally experienced and so when they saw the solution that Renoviso was offering, they wished they could have gone back in time to use them. As you can imagine, the members were aware of how big the market is, saw the great experience of the founders and the promising initial traction they already had. It certainly helped that there were great investors committed to the round already."
With an injection of cash, Horndahl and Waldman finally had the ability to add to their team, which they acted on immediately; adding, among others, Paul Buonopane as Head of Marketing and Max Montgelas, the company’s first tech hire, as VP of Engineering.
Renoviso started with just replacement windows through partnerships with Harvey and Pella, along with their Renoviso-branded windows, which are manufactured by Chicopee-based National Vinyl. Utilizing those partnerships, the startup will soon be expanding their product offering to include replacement doors. Horndahl touched on the startup’s future:
“As excited as we are today offering an exponentially better customer experience for window replacements, this is just the start. We’re looking forward to the point where Renoviso is a complete home renovation solution across lots of product categories and widely available geographically.”
There’s no denying this is a broken space in dire need of fixing and Horndahl, Waldman and the growing (UX/UI designer and a developer, specificall needed) Renoviso team are bringing technology into the mix to provide solutions. The initial painful experience Horndahl faced with his own home presented an opportunity. It also presented a price tag of $42,000 for new windows. That same project, Horndahl tells me, through his startup with Renoviso brand windows, would cost just $17,000. If these two marketing vets can illustrate that type of tangible solution to the masses, Boston might have its next consumer tech powerhouse in the making.
If ‘powerhouse’ sounds a bit ambitious, talk to the founders, whose goals are much loftier:
“Our Goal is to become the largest home renovation company in the country.”
Josh Boyle is Director of Community & Marketing, VentureFizz. You can follow him on Twitter @jb_sid and keep up with his latest posts by signing up for the VentureFizz Weekly Email!