BuildZoom, the Y Combinator-backed service designed to connect homeowners with licensed contractors, is today announcing having closed on $1.4 million in seed funding, in a round led by Formation 8 (Joe Lonsdale). The company plans to use the additional funding for hiring and continued product development, with a specific focus on improving some of the site’s consumer-facing tools, like its online project gallery, Q&A section, and marketplace.
Also participating in the round were Hydrazine Capital (Jack & Sam Altman), DV Playground, Digital Garage (DG Incubation), Goldcrest Investments (Adam Ross), Netprice Partners, Michael Liou, Ted Geary, Ullas Naik, Pankaj Shah, Jason Young, and Dakin Sloss.
The service launched this March with over 2.5 million contractors in its database, which was built using public record data from state licensing boards, as well as select data from the Better Business Bureau. Today, the site includes 3 million licensed contractors, 25,000 of whom have now claimed their profiles and uploaded around 60,000 photos of their work.
Company co-founder Jiyan Wei says the service has been growing at the same 12 percent month-over-month rate for the past several months now, and sees on average 2,500 contractors signing up each month.
The site, which competes in the same general space with other services like HomeAdvisor or Houzz, for example, also lets homeowners review the contractors on the site, and combines those scores, along with reviews from elsewhere on the web, as well as with business data like number of completed projects, time in business and more, to offer a simple “BuildZoom Grade” for each contractor.
“Right now it’s sort of like ‘Yelp for contractors,’ but our vision is to evolve it so it’s like a true marketplace,” Wei says of the company’s long-term plans for BuildZoom. “Our vision is to enable and support the actual transaction itself.” Right now, he says, after a homeowner and contractor connect, they go offline to discuss the details of the project, sign contracts, and handle changes. BuildZoom plans to bring those sorts of transactions online.
“We believe if we are really going to make this marketplace work better, and if we’re going to help consumers and contractors have a great experience, we have to get involved with the manner in which they structure the agreement and communicate throughout the traction,” Wei says. “All that stuff should happen in the cloud,” he adds.
Having grown from a team of two full-time with other distributed staff at launch, the San Francisco-based company is now putting together a team of half a dozen or so engineers, and other user-facing positions and hopes to grow to 14 or 15 in the next few months.
The site will continue with its earlier plans to sell premium levels of service to contractors, but still shies away from a monetizing mainly through lead gen. That being said, Wei notes that the company isn’t ruling out lead gen entirely, saying that it may experiment in that area, but only so long as it does not compromise the consumer experience.