Let’s face it, you’re never going to win the HGTV Dream Home. My family has entered the maximum number of times for the last decade and has nothing to show for it. At some point every millennial has to take responsibility for the fact that their bedroom looks like a government records building.
Homee is jumping into the conversational commerce trend to keep the design process fun for the Pinterest-obsessed and remove the pain for the rest of us. Homee wants to put a personal design-guru into the hands of everyone with a smartphone.
The company is announcing a $5 million Series A today, funded by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and a personal investment from Sean Rad, CEO of Tinder, and other angels, to bring total fundraising to $7.2 million. The app also comes out of beta today.
Designers hand-curate a selection of furniture and can match any design preference, even if you don’t know your own preferences. When users first install the app, they work with a bot to answer a basic survey about interior design preferences. A human then picks up the conversation and fills in gaps from the survey. Customers can play a big or small part in the design process, depending on their preferences.
“Once you begin the concept board iteration process you can revise or start over,” said Beatrice Fischel-Bock, CEO of Homee. “The process normally takes two revisions to get to a point where the client is happy.”
Homee makes money when users buy furniture. This aligns incentives for designers to produce the best quality interior design plans. Users can buy an entire room design or opt for a single piece of furniture.
“We have a very high conversion rate, the only times we miss someone the second time is if they’re not vocal enough,” added Fischel-Bock.
Fischel-Bock previously started Zoom Interiors before pivoting into Homee. Zoom Interiors was pitched on Shark Tank as a web-based service where users paid up-front. Barbara Corcoran initially offered to invest but ultimately did not close a deal with the team after the taping of the show ended.
Fischel-Bock did take away valuable insights and connections from her two minutes of fame. She wouldn’t realize the full value of her time on Shark Tank for a few days when Tinder CEO Sean Rad cold emailed her. Rad wanted in and was praying that Fischel-Bock hadn’t taken Corcoran’s deal.
She hadn’t, and a partnership was formed. Rad invested as an angel and joined the Homee board. A Series A emerged after Rad introduced Fischel-Bock to some friends at Founders Fund.
“This is my second angel investment,” said Rad. “I wouldn’t call myself an angel, I don’t have time to do it well. For me it was more about feeling the pain myself.”
Peter Thiel of Founders Fund has invested in furniture before. His Valar Ventures played a big part in Brazilian startup Oppa’s $13 million Series A back in 2012.
The company is all-hands-on-deck to ramp up for new users. One of the biggest challenges for a company like Homee is the human capital bottleneck. The company needs to maintain a sufficient supply of knowledgeable designers to keep up with demand while managing rapid technical platform growth.
Fischel-Bock said that she is focused on improving the efficiency of her platform. Designers manage a workflow of 5-10 designs at once. She believes this number could hit 50 to 100 with proper backend support so designers can better manage multiple consultations. Right now the company has 30 employees with half working as designers. Not every design consultant has a design background. Homee trains all designers before they begin engaging with customers.
A few early users complained in App Store reviews about long wait lines to access the service. Homee offered a “Skip the line” feature for $9.99 to get rapid service. Version 1.0 went live on the app store on November 19, 2015. Homee wants to be able to deliver a first iteration of design renderings within 24 hours.
According to Fischel-Bock, revenue for the company has grown more than 700 percent in the last 10 weeks. Eventually Homee wants to have a hand in the entire interior decorating process, from design to implementation, including same-day delivery.