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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

December 9, 2014 at 6:00 AM

With new app, adds on-demand home improvement

Seattle startup keeps hammering away at the home-improvement market. Today, it’s announcing a new app that will enable people to order home-improvement services with a few taps on their phone.

The app lets people search for home-improvement service providers on Apple mobile devices, extending the Porch web site. But the app’s key feature is a concierge service that will directly connect homeowners with contractors to arrange projects, with a pledge to get a contractor on the phone in less than 60 seconds.

Porch image of its app's "concierge screen."

Porch image of its app’s “concierge screen.”

Matchmaking is coordinated by Porch representatives providing live customer service during each session. The concierge service has been tested in recent months with the contractor referral service that Porch offers nationally through Lowe’s stores.

Contractors get a heads-up about the project request through Caller ID on their mobile phones, indicating that a Porch referral is available, or via text message.

A more advanced version of the Porch app that offers instant contractor booking, all via the app, is also launching in trial mode in the Seattle area.

“That is taking the next step to making home improvement easy, really frictionless, for homeowners,” said Matt Ehrlichman, Porch chief executive.

Ehrlichman said the general idea is to make Porch like “Uber for home.”

To enable instant booking, Porch screens a roster of service providers and pre-negotiates prices for a fixed set of smaller home-improvement projects, such as hanging a picture, installing a garbage-disposal or wiring a light fixture. More complicated projects such as building a deck or replacing a roof still require research and an old fashioned conversation.

This aspect is similar to the service provided by cross-town rival, a home-improvement venture started by veterans.’s pitch is that it offers “instant estimates” tailored for local market conditions, with online scheduling available so far in the Seattle area.

Porch’s concierge and booking services are free to homeowners. Porch makes money by collecting a transaction fee from service-providers and by selling them premium services on its website.

The app is initially designed for iPhone and iPod Touch devices. A version for Android devices is in the works. A Windows version will be developed “at some point,” Ehrlichman said.

Ehrlichman has yet to publicly discuss Porch sales but said last week that the business “continues to go very well.”

“Generating meaningful revenue — it’s very steep and up to the right,” he said.

The company’s also still growing in size. It now has more than 300 employees, up from 20 when it surfaced in mid-2013. Ehrlichman expects headcount to double again over the next year “as long as we can find the people.”

UPDATE: Shortly after launching the app, Ehrlichman was named USA Today’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.”

“Ultimately, we selected Porch because they took an existing dilemma and created a custom solution that leveraged a social network in an innovative way,” the newspaper’s editor, David Callaway, said in the story.

Porch image of its app.

Porch image of its app.


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