- - Sunday, January 3, 2016

RemodelMate, the new service which connects homeowners with licensed contractors is coming to the nation’s capital. A firm launch date has not been set, but the goal is to have the finished product ready for use in time for the start of the home improvement season this spring. The program will be available in San Francisco (HQ), Washington, D.C. and New York, and homeowners in these cities can start requesting invites immediately via RemodelMate.com to participate in the beta trials. RemodelMate is the only wholly owned minority technology startup company in the remodeling industry, something of which the founders are extremely proud. In November, RemodelMate’s app earned first place at the California State University’s (CSUMB) Startup Hackathon.

Created by three University of Maryland alums, RemodelMate is a web and mobile application which helps homeowners with their home improvement projects by simplifying the process of finding a contractor and calculating and comparing costs. The startup’s database of RemodelMates is comprehensive but not extensive, due to a very strict approval process including a transparency pledge which contractors must complete before they are invited into the small, but growing community. Competitors like Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor focus on reviews and big data while discounting the value of the human touch. The creators of RemodelMate believe that what people really want is a friend who they can call when they need a new roof or some windows installed, who can either do the work themselves or give a highly qualified referral for a good company, a great product and an affordable price. So that’s what they built.

The process is simple. Using the RemodelMate program, homeowners who are ready to renovate enter their zip code and are matched with contractors in their area who offer the products, services and prices that suit their needs. The contractors are invited to participate after a vigorous vetting and approval procedure. RemodelMate has avoided big government data and reviews and instead are offering a simple way for homeowners to upgrade without the hassle of time sensitive estimates and harassing sales calls. The company’s founders are Chad Hall, who got his first sales job while a student at UMD and has since worked in the home improvement industry and in business development at technology start-ups LivingSocial, Breeze and Indeed; Victor Etongwe, Mr. Hall’s college roommate and friend who brings his marketing and real estate experience from Bozzuto to RemodelMate; and Steven Lee, a mutual friend of Mr. Hall and Mr. Etongwe, who brings his experience in finance, gained from working in real estate investments and at J.P. Morgan as a business risk analyst.

“I got so many calls from friends and family members asking for my opinion to make sure that they were not overpaying that I realized there was a problem. There seemed to be a lot of distrust of contractors and I set out to change that,” Mr. Hall explains, describing the motivation for RemodelMate. Mr. Etongwe and Mr. Lee were also fielding similar inquiries from their clients, which provided them with an intimate appreciation of the problem and the motivation to build a product to overcome these challenges. The team did not disclose how they’ve been able to provide pricing to users in real-time (which traditionally requires an on-site estimate) stating that it’s part of their trade secrets, but urge any homeowners, contractors and tech enthusiasts to request an invite while the platform is in private beta for a sneak peek or send an email to [email protected] to learn more before the public launch early next year.

RemodelMate is deliberately foregoing monthly subscriptions or pay-per-lead models to make the platform inviting to both homeowners and contractors. Instead they have figured out how to generate revenue by “aligning the services of their platform with the goals of their end-users in mind” which for homeowners is to save time and money, and for contractors is to win more jobs. At this time they have no plans to sell advertisements on the site and intend to continue improving home improvement by thinking “outside the box.”

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