Where Houzz lets you find inspiration and contractors based on beautiful images, Porch is a Seattle-based startup that aims to do something very similar, but with the help of a massive amount of data and a somewhat broader approach to home-improvement projects. The company, which raised a $6.25 million seed round in June, has managed to aggregate data for more than 90 million home-improvement projects that, in some form or another, describe work done in 75 percent of U.S. homes. Starting today, this data is available for all on Porch’s website.
Porch chairman and CEO Matt Ehrlichman told me last week that, for these homes, the company has aggregated data about the cost of projects, dates and photos, as well as who did the work. Unlike Houzz, Porch defines home improvement pretty broadly and includes everything from basic cleaning services to contractors.
Now before you start getting worried about privacy, Porch doesn’t connect this to a specific address on its map-based interface. Instead, it provides an approximate location for the project, but with enough details so that you can figure out who the most popular contractor or cleaning service in your neighborhood is. Contractors can also upload photos from their projects to help Porch users get inspired and share ideas with the professionals they are working with.
The company currently gets its data from larger onsite service franchises, as well as from individual contractors, and the Porch team believes that the service has a built-in virality that will soon make it almost mandatory for professionals to add their data if they want to stay competitive. At this point, the company boasts that it contains data from about 1.5 million professionals.
In the end, Porch aims to connect professionals with homeowners. For both homeowners and professionals, the service will be available for free. Too many similar discovery services, Ehrlichman bemoaned when I talked to him, are basically pay-for-play services where the reviews are often trumped by paid ads. Professionals, however, will be able to pay to highlight their work in a given neighborhood for $35 per month.
Homeowners can use Porch to review their contractors, too. Because the company sits on top of all of this data, it can easily verify that users actually utilized the services of the contractor they claimed to.
As far as I am aware, there is no other service that has access to all of this data (and Ehrlichman stressed how hard it was to obtain and normalize it). The current iteration of Porch, then, is surely just a first pass at using this data. Just imagine if the company partnered with Zillow or Redfin and actually allowed you to see what kind of work was done in a home you are thinking to buy. Or if it let sellers make this data public to show how well they took care of their place.