In late spring 2019, I was getting the itch to start a new company. I was nearing the one year mark at Flyhomes, where I had been leading operations and growing Flyhomes Crew, the home services arm of the company. The experience to date had been stressful, yet rewarding, but I was finally ready to take the plunge and build my own company. As 2019 comes to a close, I found it beneficial to write down my journey so far to understand what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve learned, and where we are going.
Step 1: The Idea
As I began spending my evenings and weekends formulating a plan for a new company, the first step was coming up with the “billion dollar idea” that my company would be built around. Given my most recent role at Flyhomes and decade long hobby of real estate investing, I was dead set on improving the residential home purchase.
Anyone who is in the tech startup space knows how hot the “Proptech” industry is — billions of VC dollars have been invested in 2019 alone in tech companies covering the wide span of the industry. The reason? The market is absolutely massive with trillions of dollars being turned over every year, but has yet to truly be disrupted — the perfect thesis for any good Venture Capitalist.
So I knew I had the right industry, but I wanted to focus on an “unsexy” vertical, one where competition wasn’t already plentiful — that is how I landed on home inspections. You see home inspections, relatively speaking, are a necessary evil in the home purchase; one that the homeowner only thinks about for a few days in the 5–10 years they own a home. Additionally, the market cap of the home inspection industry is quite low compared to real estate commissions, with the average price of an inspection in 2019 at only $329, compared to $5,000, the average commission of a real estate agent in the US. That being said, the real market opportunity I found was not in the inspection itself, but the data produced by the inspection.
Step 2: The Problem and Opportunity
Now that I settled on home inspections, it was important to understand what problems need to be solved within the space and what opportunities could be created from them. Having been on the consumer side of a home inspection for the eight homes I had purchased, I had fairly direct experience on the consumer pain points. Additionally, given my role at Flyhomes, I had spoken with hundreds of homebuyers as they navigated through the home inspection process.
While there are multiple inefficiencies that need to be solved (i.e. finding inspectors, transparent pricing) what I found to be the biggest problem/opportunity was the fact that most inspections created more questions than answers. Homeowners would pay hundreds of dollars for an inspection and receive relatively low value from the end-product — the home inspection report. In reality, the data of the home inspection report is actually extremely valuable, the value is just unable to be properly extracted by the homeowner.
Thus we come to the core thesis of Inspectify — from home insurance to home maintenance, this information could be leveraged to dramatically change (for the better) how homeowners interact and manage their new home. If I could find a way to acquire this data and build a digital platform for the home, I was confident I would be solving a problem I could monetize — with that, Inspectify was born.
Step 3. The Team.
It was now May, I had an idea and a big enough problem it would solve, now I needed a team to make it a reality. While it is definitely possible to launch a company as a solo founder, for me personally I am exponentially more effective in a team and knew I’d need to find a co-founder or two to get Inspectify off the ground.
I had to identify what I needed in a co-founder, which started with me being brutally honest with myself — what was I good at and more importantly what did I lack. As an engineer, I have a technical background, but not in software engineering, so a technical co-founder was a must. Additionally, I am very much an optimist and needed a realist if not borderline pessimist to help ground me in reality on occasion. Most importantly, I needed someone looking to work with no salary for an undetermined length of time. With this noted, I set off to find a co-founder.
After months of “speed-dating” with potential co-founders, I connected with Nick, whom, unlike almost every other co-founder I spoke with, did not jump straight into “the idea”, but rather focused on us getting to know one another — our strengths, our faults, our idiosyncrasies, and, ultimately, if we could go through the grueling journey that is starting a new company. Nick checked all the boxes and then some: we shared similar visions on how to grow the company while offering complementing skillsets and just the right amount of conflict to remove complacency.
Step 4. Execute (In Progress)
Since August of this year, Nick and I have been pushing hard to build Inspectify from just an idea, to viable product and business model. In the first five months, we’ve built and shipped our first product, got our first 350 users, made our first dollar and brought on a third co-founder (Taylor). More importantly, we experienced some failures — our first sales strategy was a total flop, we failed to get into YC and we pivoted too quickly to a second product. These slip-ups were incredible learning opportunities and have brought us that much closer to finding product market fit and the right sales strategy to grow the business.
Looking into 2020, I’m very excited on where we are heading. We are launching partnerships with multiple, nationwide real estate companies, implementing our sales strategy 2.0, rolling out our first insurance product to our end-customers, and raising our seed round — all in early 2020. It’s been a crazy first five months, but we cannot wait to see what the next five have in store.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Inspectify team — we look forward to partnering in the new year!