Taking on a project, like redesigning the kitchen or installing a new roof, is not an easy undertaking. Going through just the stress of finding the right contractor and price for the job is enough for someone to opt out of the project entirely.
That’s where D.C.-based RemodelMate hopes to help.
Founded in March 2016, RemodelMate is an online platform designed to connect homeowners with contractors who are verified and recruited by the startup. Homeowners receive a detailed explanation for the expected project costs and are able to manage the project, and contractors save time by using RemodelMate to connect them with sales leads.
Founder Chad Hall says understanding a contractors’ rates has always been a “sketchy” process, and the platform is meant to help all parties talk about those rates and manage the project.
“Similar to how Airbnb brought an offline experience into the online world, we said ‘You guys are going to be able to earn better customers if you can be more transparent about your pricing and process,'” Hall said in an interview.
Here’s how RemodelMate works: A homeowner comes to RemodelMate’s platform and says, “I want to replace 10 kitchen cabinets.” The site then asks for a bit of clarity — what kind of cabinets, what design and so on — and then begins scouting out contractors who would be a good fit for the homeowner. From there, the user is presented with a few good contractor fits with their prices. Homeowners are expected to provide the materials (so they would buy the cabinets, for example), and the contractor can be hired immediately.
As you can imagine, RemodelMate is geared towards big home improvement jobs, like renovations, installations and the works. So, users shouldn’t turn to them if they need a small task, like replacing a doorknob or fixing a leak in the bathroom.
Hall comes from a home improvement and sales & marketing background, so when starting up RemodelMate, he relied heavily on his own knowledge of the landscape to recruit contractors to the platform. All of them are from the Mid-Atlantic region, which works out given that the company only reaches D.C. and select counties in Virginia, Maryland and New York state.
In a former life, Hall also worked at Indeed, the job search platform, and LivingSocial as a senior sales and marketing associate.
“A lot of people think that in order to be a tech-enabled company, you have to be in New York, San Francisco or Boston, and that’s just because they don’t live in the District.”
“The hook is [the contractors] are essentially outsourcing their sales, their marketing and their customer service,” Hall said. “Those are three pieces that not only homeowners believe contractors are bad at, but even some contractors have admitted that they could be doing a better job.”
On the flip side, homeowners have found the platform mostly through referrals. Someone finds the site, uses it and then refers it to them friend, who refers it to someone else and so on. RemodelMate could not release sales information, but did say month-over-month growth is at 20 percent.
From each transaction, RemodelMate takes a 20 percent commission off of the contractor’s profit. That rate is pretty standard with similar apps, like the pet sitting app Rover.
“In a space that is traditionally known as a ‘one and done’ scenario — I get my kitchen done and then I don’t want to do another project for another 10 years, 15 years — we also boast a 42 percent repeat customer engagement,” Hall said.
Mary Iafelice, co-founder of humble ventures, worked with the group while they were going through humble’s cohort program. She also used the service to revamp her bathroom. Noting their month-over-month numbers and their competitive advantages, Iafelice said the company has a real chance to thrive.
“Proof is in the pudding right there,” she said in an email. “This growth stems from the transparency in their business model — they take 20 percent off the top of the contracts signed, unlike Angie’s List or others who take even larger percentage for just leads, which benefits the supply side of their marketplace.”
“They’re also working successfully in the commercial space, which has broadened their aperture to the type of problems they can solve for.”
Two years ago, Hall took his final bonus check from his company and invested it in RemodelMate. That check gave them three months of runway. Now, they’re raising a funding round to fuel expansion into cities like New York City, Boston and Chicago. They graduated from the humble ventures cohort in the spring 2017, and Melissa Bradley, from Project 500, is a close mentor and adviser for Hall.
“The tech community in D.C. is huge and growing,” Hall said. “A lot of people think that in order to be a tech-enabled company, you have to be in New York, San Francisco or Boston, and that’s just because they don’t live in the District.”
Moving forward, the three-person full-time team has their eyes set on new cities, and possibly, new countries.
“We really believe that we’re disrupting the home improvement space,” Hall said. “The big, major renovation projects are hard to compete [online] right now. We’re positioning ourselves to be where the demand will be in 2022.”