The hot new trend in online matchmaking involves hooking up of a different kind — connecting people looking to do home renovation projects with licensed, verified contractors, painters, and other industry professionals.
Seattle-based Porch.com marked its one-year anniversary today by announcing that home improvement retail giant Lowe's led a $27.6 million first funding round that closed earlier this year. Porch, which collects and organizes data on the entire project history of a given property and matches homeowners with renovation specialists, has raised a total of $33 million, including an angel round of $6.25 million at launch, and is now valued at more than $85 million, said chief executive officer Matt Ehrlichman.
Parallel to Porch's announcement, another company focused on the New York market, Sweeten, launched out of beta today and announced a partnership with Corcoran Group Real Estate. In 2013, Sweeten raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Gotham Gal Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, and others.
Both companies compete in the nascent but growing field of home renovation matchmaking against the likes of industry pioneer and giant HomeAdvisor, which is owned by Barry Diller's IAC, best known for its romantic matchmaking sites Match.com and OKCupid. The growth in digital home renovation matchmaking dovetails with an online real estate boom, highlighted by Zillow's $3.5 billion purchase of Trulia in July, a deal aimed squarely at cornering the online real estate advertising market.
Porch's strategic partnership with Lowe's led to its participation in the funding round, Ehrlichman said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. The website is featured in all 1,720 Lowe's stores in the U.S. and its employees direct homeowners and industry professionals to it when looking for research or work on renovation projects.
Ehrlichman described Porch not as an OKCupid for home renovation, but rather as a LinkedIn, serving as an online marketplace for homeowners and renovation specialists to connect. The site's database features detailed information on more than 120 million renovation projects and the professionals who did the work, obtained through both available public record such as permits and licenses as well as partnerships with places like Lowe's; Hanley-Wood, which provides marketing services for the commercial and residential design and construction industries; and even software companies that handle invoicing for contractors, painters and others. All of the professionals on Porch have been verified as having a license and being insured and bonded, and user reviews of them are verified as well.
The site is free to use for both homeowners and industry professionals, and Porch doesn't let the latter group pay to be featured or move up in search results. Not unlike LinkedIn, however, it does allow them to subscribe to a premium service where it can obtain information on competitors, which is one way the site generates revenue.
The other way is through what's called the "Porch Home Report," which Ehrlichman described as a "Carfax for the home." The report gives homeowners access to all available data on the improvement history of a home — where work was done, how much it cost, who performed it — so they can better tailor their offers. But instead of charging the prospective homeowner for the report, Porch basically leverages it into a marketing service for real estate agents, who pay the site to send the report on their behalf. The real estate agent not only gets access to the same home improvement information as the prospective buyer, but also gets to include a headshot and information about their agency on the report.
Ehrlichman declined to provide Porch's revenue figures, citing its status as a private company, but pointed to the fact that the company now has more than 200 employees from 25 at launch a year ago to illustrate its growth.
For its part, Sweeten said it has $100 million worth of project featured on its site, with values ranging from $15,000 to more than $1 million.