Seattle startup throws hardhat into home improvement arena

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by RENAY SAN MIGUEL / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on May 21, 2014 at 7:43 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 7:43 AM

The home improvement industry is undergoing a software-based remodeling project.

Last fall a Seattle startup, Porch.com, launched with the promise of connecting homeowners with renovation needs to professionals. It quickly built up a database of 1.5 million contractors nationwide, and has nailed down key partnerships with Lowe's and Realtor.com.

Now another new Seattle company is looking to hammer away at this $300 billion industry.

Pro.com, which launched last week, uses proprietary algorithms to give homeowners a price range for work that needs to be done around their house. In Seattle and select other cities, the company will then suggest pre-qualified professionals who have agreed to do the work in that price range, and will even book appointments for them with the workers.

Is that enough to build up a following against not only the likes of Porch.com and Angie's List, but also the brick-and-mortar sources of home renovation such as Lowe's and Home Depot?

"A lot of companies are providing more of a lead generation services, trying to connect up consumers with a pro," said CEO Matt Williams. "We're much more about the actual act of getting a job done - what is it you're trying to get done, how much money it will cost and then let's help you find someone who's the right person for the job."

Williams's startup experience is another advantage for Pro.com; the Amazon alumnus is a former CEO of online news aggregator Digg. His new company has raised $3.5 million in seed money from top venture firms Madrona Ventures of Seattle, Silicon Valley's Andreesen Horowitz, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' personal investment fund, Bezos Expeditions.

Williams said in Pro.com's short life span, it has already lined up "tens of millions of dollars of jobs" for customers. He believes that validates the opportunity he and his team first saw in this industry. "Being able to trust someone that's going to come into your house (for renovations) is hard to do. Nobody's cracked it yet. It's a highly fragmented industry for being such a large industry of services."

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