With a recently-closed Series C, Homebound's Co-Founder & CEO is bringing her proprietary proptech platform to new markets.
Growing up, Co-Founder & CEO Nikki Pechet wanted to be just like her dad. Her father started a small business out of their home in her childhood, and slowly scaled it into a bustling enterprise with an office and employees. “I always imagined myself as a business leader,” she says, and she certainly had no shortage of hustle for the job. After graduating from the University of Michigan in the early 2000s, Pechet moved to New York City ahead of all her friends to take a job on Pepsi’s brand team. Shortly thereafter, she also met real estate developer Stephen Ross of The Related Companies. Impressed with her drive, Ross asked Pechet to come work for him. She didn’t want to give up her Pepsi gig, but also didn’t want to miss the opportunity. “I told him, ‘I don’t have any friends, so I can work nights and weekends for you if that’s okay?’” she recalls. She juggled two full-time jobs right out of college.
While working for Pepsi and The Related Companies, Pechet noticed a strange juxtaposition between the two worlds she navigated–CPG and real estate. “That was the first time I really saw and thought about how there were these big brands in soda water, but there were no big brands in real estate or homes.” Pechet ended up writing her business school essays about being an entrepreneur–it just wasn’t yet the right moment for her to pick up that torch. She would graduate from Harvard Business School, spend several years working on GTM strategy at Bain & Company, and then join Thumbtack as its VP of Marketing for a multi-year stint.
When Pechet left Thumbtack, Founder Marco Zappacosta had to pull her aside and help her recognize that entrepreneurship was already in her DNA. “He told me, ‘You should really be a founder; you would be incredible,’” she says. “I remember being so astonished. In Silicon Valley, it’s easy to put founders on a pedestal. Having someone who knew me that well and who I trusted—someone who was such an incredible entrepreneur in his own right—tell me that I should be a founder was really the kick that I needed.”
Around the same time she was exiting Thumbtack in 2018, California was reeling from a wildfire that took down 6,000 houses in Napa and Sonoma. It was a hopeless time for a lot of people. Homeowners were navigating a maze of insurance claims, permitting laws, and general contractors, trying to figure out how to get their houses rebuilt. Pechet’s home narrowly missed an encounter with the fire, but her eventual co-founder, Jack Abraham, did lose his home. Pechet wanted to help others through the process of getting homes rebuilt. “I was running all of go-to-market on both sides of the Thumbtack marketplace, which is the largest local services marketplace in the country, and I could not figure out how to help,” she says. “That’s when Jack said to me, ‘We have got to build something better.’”
Building a Platform to Build Better Homes
You could buy almost anything online when Pechet started Homebound in 2018, but you couldn’t sit down, open your laptop, customize a home design, and secure the necessary documents and contractors to bring it to life in a systematic, user-friendly way. For most consumers, building a home has been an opaque, clunky, and outdated process.
Combining Pechet’s experience in brand-building, GTM strategy, and real estate, Homebound was born of the idea that there must be a next-generation homebuilder with technology behind every step of the process. Not only did Pechet want to build a company that would make the home-building experience vastly more efficient, but she wanted the customer service on the platform to be unprecedented in a challenging industry. The result is the capabilities to create homes 80% faster through pre-construction, 10% faster through construction, and 8x more efficient during the design process.
After inception, the team first responded to the Tubbs Fire in Northern California–the largest and most destructive wildfire in state history. “We thought this was a once-in-a-lifetime event that would never be replicated, and from there, we’d just go to other communities that simply needed more houses,” Pechet says. Fast forward six months, and the Woolsey Fire struck Malibu, burning down $2B worth of homes. After that event, Pechet received a note from a group of teachers in the area. They’d read about Homebound, and knew the company could help them. If Homebound didn’t step in, the teachers questioned if they’d ever be able to rebuild what they’d lost.
With a three-week-old baby and a recently-closed Series A, Pechet and her Head of Growth got in a car and drove down to Malibu to meet with the community and scout properties for their second market. This was, after all, exactly why Homebound was born.
The company has launched in specific markets that desperately need its tech due to natural disasters like wildfires and hurricanes—including Northern California, Malibu, and the Bahamas. Homebound’s most recent market is Denver, which is still recovering from the Marshall Fire and the 1,000 homes it destroyed in December. In Colorado, Homebound will help homeowners who want to rebuild, as well as expand across the entire metro in the year ahead. The company will also enter markets where housing is scarce due to shifting populations–like Austin, which became the team’s first non-disaster market in 2021.
It is nearly impossible to purchase a home in Austin, because the supply is so limited. “During the height of Covid, you’d go to an open house that started at noon, and there would be a line of 35 families waiting to get in,” Pechet says. “By the time you’d reach the door, somebody would have bought the house. It is that kind of dynamic.”
Around 75% of the people in Homebound’s Austin customer pipeline were not originally planning to build a home. “They feel like it’s possible because they can see how simple the process is with Homebound–even though the process is not simple,” Pechet says. You have to deal with permitting, securing land, supply chain issues, weather, and a whole host of other sometimes-unpredictable variables. By utilizing the Homebound platform and local team members who understand the area, it becomes a step-by-step process that’s easier to digest.
Homebound just closed a $75M Series C led by Khosla Ventures alongside a large debt facility from Goldman Sachs, and the company will start to ramp up in markets like Houston, Dallas, and Denver throughout 2022. Homebound has spent years iterating on its proprietary tech, which includes a custom design catalog, a platform that manages over 600 unique tasks in the home-building process, a procurement platform with APIs into all the biggest materials suppliers, and a financing engine. Once stitched together on an Airtable backend as the team worked out the kinks, Homebound has now built its own robust internal software platform to support rapid growth with an unparalleled, tech-enabled customer experience.
Building Endurance as a Founder
For Pechet, Homebound’s mission was and is deeply personal. “The whole genesis of the business was that it was our backyard that burned down,” she says. “It was our team and our friends and our family that we needed to get back home.”
But that doesn’t mean things have come easily for her, despite tremendous drive and mission-mindedness. Being a founder requires the ability to embrace discomfort–constantly, and for a long time. Pechet says she spent the first two years of Homebound reminding herself that she felt sick all the time because she was living at the edge of her comfort zone. “But then you start to look back and realize that something that would have really devastated you six months ago doesn’t really bother you now,” she says. “You see that progress, and your comfort zone expands.”
Pechet insists being a founder is the hardest thing a person can ever do. She talks to a lot of would-be entrepreneurs with business ideas, and suggests they do some soul-searching before diving in. “I tell people to never, under any circumstances, start a business that you do not feel in your bones must exist,” she says. “If you don’t feel like this is the sort of business where your life won’t be complete unless it is on the planet while you are here, then don’t bother.”
Why? At every stage of a rapidly-growing startup, it can feel like a dozen things are breaking at once. In the toughest moments, Pechet says you need to remember why you’re there and what your mandate is. “If we don’t do this, families don’t get homes. Communities don’t get rebuilt,” says Pechet. “I find that incredibly powerful in moments where things go wrong. You have to be able to step back and say, ‘We have to do this; it’s not a choice. It’s not about making a lot of money. This is about doing something that our world needs and our communities deserve.’”