Big Data

Buildzoom uses big data to prevent home renovation nightmares (exclusive)

buildzoom

Home renovation has been known to cause nightmares and meltdowns and break up marriages. It can be an excessively stressful and complicated process, which is where Buildzoom steps in.

Buildzoom bills itself as a “one-stop shop” for building, remodeling, or building a house. The startup has spent the last several months pulling together information from millions of permitting records to give consumers more detailed insights on contractors.

“We are using big data to help consumers make better decisions and improve the quality of their lives,” founder Jiyan Wei said to VentureBeat. “Remodeling and home maintenance is a big problem, caused by a lack of transparency, information and standards. We’re using millions of public records to increase the transparency within this space and provide more meaningful recommendations and insights to consumers than services that rely strictly on crowdsourcing reviews.”

Buildzoom has built a marketplace of licensed contractors and also shows examples of remodeling projects that you can do. The contractors are given scores to help you choose from them.

However, reviews are subjective, based on experience rather than fact, and so Buildzoom wanted to find a better way to rate contractors.

The company collected permitting records from over 100 regulatory agencies across the U.S., on federal, state and city levels. The system analyzes the information to make data-driven inferences.

“This data allows us to gain incredible insight into which contractors are doing what and helps us make better recommendations based on actual work completed as well as a variety of other really cool things,” cofounder Dave Petersen said.

Wei said that this data has never been tapped into before for a number of reasons — it is hard, the data only became available in the past few years, and most legacy players aren’t interested in devoting the necessary resources.

My dad is a construction lawyer who frequently works with contractors (and the people they sue/who sue them), so I am well acquainted with the sheer number of things that can go wrong on construction projects. Finding a reliable and competent contractor is the first step in what will inevitably be a long and stressful process, where mistakes translate into rising costs and wasted time.

Buildzoom is part of a much larger technology trend — the use of data analytics to bring more objectivity and transparency to decision-making. This is happening in finance, health care, education, business, retail, and so on, and Buildzoom is bringing it to home renovation.

Buildzoom has information about 2.5 million licensed contractors and 40,000 customer reviews in its database. It has 500,000 monthly users and 1,500 contractors sign up for the service a week.

Americans spend $500 billion a year on home improvement. Its a big and broken market, and Buildzoom is certainly not the only company attempting to improve it. Angie’s List is a competitor, as well as Porch and Houzz.

Buildzoom has raised $1.4 million from Formation 8, and includes participation from Hydrazine Capital, DV Playground, Digital Garage, Goldcrest Investments, and a number of others.


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