The Expert is on a mission to expand access to the knowledge, inspiration, and validation of great designers regardless of budget or geographic location.
Home is big business, because consumers take pride in their spaces. We’ve had our eye on the home sector since the inception of Forerunner, with investments over our lifetime including , , , and , to name a few.
But the concept of home became ever-important when Home became our Everything in 2020. Online furniture and decor seller Wayfair (NYSE: W) is a superior proxy for consumers’ transformed appreciation for interiors: its stock up more than 250% since the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic, with performance sustained a year later by customers’ elevated demand and entrenched online shopping behavior. And the trend isn’t going away: according to a recent survey by McKinsey, 30% of US adults plan to splurge on items for their home after the pandemic.
Within the broader sector, we’ve circled around new models for the $150B global interior design industry, observing room for improvement for trade and consumers alike. Interior design is arguably the absolute best-suited source of home inspiration and commerce enablement for consumers, but the trade is a famously walled garden.
Individual designers can only render services for a handful of clients at a time, with projects ranging from months to years, and budgets ranging from the thousands to $1M+ in the upper echelon. Designer profitability and success depends on the number of clients they’re able to take on, the accuracy of their budgeting and bidding, timely delivery and completion of projects, and customer happiness with the end product — all perennial challenges not easily solved with software.
While tech hasn’t solved the industry’s challenges or successfully transformed the business model, it has brought us social media. The supremely-visual home design sector has been a massive beneficiary of visual social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest over the past decade. Top designers will rack up engaged social followings in the tens-of-thousands to millions (e.g., , , , ; all members of The Expert’s community). These days, designers are their own class of influencer — whether they’re gracing the coveted Architectural Digest 100 cover, or born on Instagram. Regardless of their origin, however, the bread-and-butter business model restricts an interior designer’s ability to connect with more than a select few customers at any given time.
The Expert solves for this.
The platform connects anyone, anywhere with the world’s leading interior designers via video consultation. The company aims to be a sustainable solution for the interior design industry, allowing Experts to broaden their reach and monetization in a predictable, rewarding, and low-friction way.
Today, users can browse The Expert’s directory of 80+ design icons and emerging talent; consider their portfolios, designer bios, consultation offerings and pricing; book an appointment; and get personalized advice and inspiration. Tomorrow, we see The Expert as the go-to destination for all things Home, closing the loop on inspiration to help consumers upgrade their spaces.
The Expert was launched by a team that gets it, and the company is in a uniquely credible position to prompt change in the industry. Co-founder and CEO Leo Seigal is a serial entrepreneur who iterates at lightning speed with his finger on the pulse of the consumer’s needs. Leo conceived of The Expert during the pandemic with his best friend and co-founder, Jake Arnold, a pioneering designer who has earned the trust and respect of his peers and the broader industry throughout his career.
The home design space is ripe for transformation, and we are pleased to be partnering with the team at The Expert as they broaden access to interior beauty for designers and consumers.