Pro.com — the Seattle startup that aims to transform the general contractor industry — had a pretty good 2018, and 2019 could be even bigger with expansion on the horizon and the potential of an interesting pilot partnership with the company’s newest investor Redfin.
Pro.com has more than doubled its headcount since late 2017 to about 125 people, and job bookings increased 300 percent in 2018 over the prior year. The company has also brought in a significant infusion of fresh cash to continue its growth.
Pro.com has raised $33 million to expand its tech-powered general contracting platform to most major U.S. cities, with Portland on deck as the next location. Today, Pro.com operates in Denver, San Francisco, San Jose, Phoenix and its hometown of Seattle.
The round brings Pro.com to a total of roughly $60 million raised in its lifetime. WestRiver Group and Redfin led the round with participation from previous investors, DFJ, Madrona Venture Group, Maveron and Two Sigma Ventures. Joining Pro.com’s board will be Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, WestRiver Group founder and CEO Erik Anderson and former Microsoft executive Charlotte Guyman.
That Redfin is participating in the round brings another wrinkle to the deal, as the two companies aim to solve problems in the real estate industry in similar ways. Just like the tech-powered brokerage needs high-quality real estate agents in each of the markets it operates in, Pro.com needs well-respected general contractors.
And it’s a lot more than an investment relationship. Williams said the two companies are exploring a partnership for Redfin Now, Redfin’s program for buying and selling homes directly, to help speed up renovation projects. Nothing is set in stone, but Pro.com CEO Matt Williams said “there’s an opportunity for us to work with Redfin on sourcing renovations for the homes that they turn.”
Pro.com and Redfin shared an early investor in Madrona Venture Group, and Williams and Kelman got to know each other at various events around town.
“Glenn took early interest in our business model and has been generous to offer his time to me over the past several years,” Williams said.
In a statement, Kelman said Pro and Redfin share a common commitment to combining technology and local experts to solve problems in real estate. Kelman says Redfin customers have a hard time finding professional renovation services, “so we know firsthand that Pro.com’s market opportunity is massive.”
Williams is the former CEO of Digg and an ex-Amazon manager. The company’s original mission was to transform the way homeowners find, book and schedule home improvement professionals — everyone from plumbers and painters to carpenters and ceiling fan installers.
A couple years ago, the company began to shift its business model from a home improvement marketplace to a general contractor itself with a full roster of in-house construction personnel. About a third of the company’s total employment base today is construction personnel, and Pro.com also works with local experts. Williams expects that ratio to change as the company expands to new cities, a goal going forward.
“As we launch in more cities, you’ll see more field staff as a ratio to centralized staff,” Williams said. “Over time the construction field activity will be greater than 50 percent of our overall resources.”
In addition to adding more field experts, the company has brought in some new executives as well. Steve Huson, vice president of marketing, joined from A Place for Mom, a senior care referral service based in Seattle. Vice President of Finance Ryan Schafer came from Impinj and also spent time at EMC and PwC.
Pro.com offers tech tools to streamline the home renovation process such as a pricing engine that makes sure bids are accurate, a quote tool that is detailed and mobile friendly and a layer of project management tools that give both Pro.com staff and homeowners a window into what’s happening with a job.
Williams’ stepfather was an architect who also owned a construction firm, and Williams saw first hand the complicated nature of managing such a company. Between that, and the “painful experience” that was remodeling his own home, Williams knew he wanted to do something about to fix general contracting, which he called a “broken industry.”
“It’s truly a broken industry from the perspective of transparency, communication, responsiveness, and those are all areas that can be solved through a combination of people, process and technology,” Williams said.
The fragmentation of the industry has made it slow to adapt to technological innovation, and it could be years or even decades before a major overhaul driven in general contracting, Williams said. Every city has thousands of general contractors who do things their own way.
Williams thinks technology can help find a solution, whether it’s his company that does it or another. As it continues to refine its own technology, Williams says the company is open to selling it to other general contractors as a service.
“Our intent is to help drive home improvement across the industry, and I think we can only do that if we can truly find a way to offer the platform we are building out to others,” Williams said.