The city of Glendale, Calif. seems like an unlikely place to grow one of the next billion-dollar startups in the booming Los Angeles tech ecosystem.
Located at the southeastern tip of the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles suburb counts its biggest employers as the adhesive manufacturer Avery Dennison; the Los Angeles industrial team for the real estate developer CBRE; the International House of Pancakes; Disney Consumer Products; DreamWorks Studios; Walt Disney Animation and Univision. “Silicon Beach” this ain’t.
But it’s here in the (other) Valley’s southernmost edge that investors have found a startup they consider to be the next potential billion-dollar “unicorn” that will come out of Los Angeles. The company is ServiceTitan, and its market… is air conditioners.
More specifically, it’s the contractors that service equipment like the heating, ventilation and cooling systems at commercial and residential properties across the U.S.
Founded by Ara Mahdessian and Vahe Kuzoyan in 2012, ServiceTitan is very much an up-and-coming billion-dollar business that’s a family (minded) affair.
Mahdessian and Kuzoyan met on a ski trip organized by the Armenian student associations at Stanford and the University of Southern California back when both men were in college.
Both programmers, the two reconnected after doing stints as custom developers during and after college, and then when they were developing tools for their families’ businesses as residential contractors in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale.
The two men built a suite of services to help contractors like their fathers manage their businesses. Now following a $62 million round of funding led by Battery Ventures last month, the company is worth roughly $800 million, according to people with knowledge of the investment, and is on its way to becoming Los Angeles’ next billion-dollar business.
Battery isn’t the only marquee investor to find value in ServiceTitan’s business developing software managing day labor.
Iconiq Capital, the investment firm managing the wealth of some of Silicon Valley’s most successful executives (the firm counts Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, and senior staff like Dustin Moskovitz and Sheryl Sandberg; Twitter chief Jack Dorsey; and LinkedIn founder and chief executive Reid Hoffman among its clients, according to a 2014 Forbes article), has also taken a shine to the now-gargantuan startup from Glendale.
It was Iconiq that put a whopping $80 million into ServiceTitan just last year — and while the 2017 cash infusion may have been larger, the company’s valuation has continued to rise.
That’s likely due to a continually expanding toolkit that now boasts a customer relationship management system, efficient dispatching and routing, invoice management, mobile applications for field professionals and marketing analytics and reporting tools.
“ServiceTitan’s incredibly fast growth is a testament to the brisk demand for new mobile and cloud-based technology that is purpose-built for the tradesmen and women in our workforce,” said Battery Ventures general partner Michael Brown — who’s taking a seat on the ServiceTitan board.
What distinguishes the ServiceTitan business from other point solutions is that they’ve taken to targeting not mom-and-pop small businesses but franchises like Mr. Rooter and George Brazil. Gold Medal Service, John Moore Services, Hiller Plumbing, Casteel Air, Baker Brothers Plumbing and Air Conditioning and Bonney may not be household names, but they’re large providers of contractors who work under those brands.
The company counts 400 employees on staff, and will look to use the money to continue to grow out its suite of products and services, according to a March statement announcing the funding.
And as Battery Ventures investor Sanjiv Kalevar noted in a blog post last year, the opportunity for software companies serving blue-collar workers is huge.
For people sitting at our desks and working behind laptops on programs like Microsoft Office, it can be easy to overlook the large, sometimes forgotten, workforce out there in construction, manufacturing, transportation, hospitality, retail and many other multi-billion dollar industries. Indeed, more than 60% of U.S. workers and even more globally fall into these “blue collar” industries.
By and large, these workers have not benefitted much from recent technology improvements available to office-based workers—think new email and workplace-collaboration technologies, or advanced sales and HR systems. Never mind the long-term opportunities for companies in these sectors from technologies like artificial intelligence, drones, and virtual or augmented reality; hourly and field workers are dealing with much more basic on-the-job challenges, like finding work, getting their jobs done on time and getting paid. These more basic needs can be solved with seemingly simple technologies—software for billing, scheduling, navigation and many other business workflows. These kinds of technologies, unlike AI, don’t automate away workers. Instead, they empower them to be more efficient and productive.