Raf Howery - Founder and CEO, Kukun
Americans spend more than $300 billion a year remodeling their homes—a process that is often convoluted, intimidating and ready for reinvention. It was only a matter of time before Raf Howery, a self-professed “serial renovator” and entrepreneur, tackled the problem. His solution is Kukun (pronounced “cocoon”), a new site designed to simplify home renovations.
Howery, a longtime tech executive, knew the anxiety and confusion firsthand, having completed four renovations of his own over the years. Silicon Valley-based Kukun consolidates the disparate resources in a single platform. Homeowners with no previous remodeling experience have access to inspirational designs à la Pinterest, a few thousand contractors, stories from other homeowners, handy workflow tools, and a specialized calculator to crunch the costs, and a patent pending ROI calculator for the renovation. In the first two months since the site’s launch this spring, users have created more than 10,000 projects. Kukun is rolling out more tools to help with smart hiring and cost comparisons, management and control.
Howery talked to HPE Matter about the growing hunger for do-it-yourself marketplaces and the key to identifying and alleviating “pain points” for customers.
There are a lot of big players applying technology here. Where did you see an opportunity to have an impact?
If you look at our society, we all want things at the touch of a button. You compare that to the experience of home renovation and you see the gap is so huge. I am shocked that all that’s been done has been posting beautiful pictures and articles for inspiration. The industry is in a very primitive, offline state; we want to take it online and this is a golden opportunity to disrupt the way it’s been done and improve it for everyone’s sake. The beauty of what we’re trying to do is that everyone wins.
What’s different about creating a platform for the fast-growing DIY market?
There is a huge hunger for marketplaces. We’re transforming the old supply and demand concept. Convenience means you simplify, consolidate and eventually make it cheaper. You make the customer’s journey easier and they’ll move with you. A marketplace is all about creating a one stop shop. What you want is augmented value.
What’s the key to empowering customers in a process where they haven’t traditionally been empowered?
Giving them control of the entire process. There is a concept that folks are scared of actually renovating their homes because of what it could entail and the surprises that come along with it. Our mission is to create a marketplace and a set of SaaS enabled tools that create a transparency encouraging people to take that leap. With more transparency and more control, they avoid surprises, they avoid overruns and people are happy with the end product.
What are the technology trends driving your business right now?
First, the mobile marketplace. You have to give the customer what they want when they want it. The other trend, and this is really specific to home renovation, is that most folks struggle with the visualization aspect of change: What should I do? What is the before and after? I think augmented virtual reality is going to be really big in helping our customer imagine what’s possible, thereby making the possible happen.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about innovating?
Make sure whatever you’re doing is adding value and convenience for somebody somewhere. If your passion is helping the customers, then you are on the right track. It’s all about clarity of thought, resilience and marrying that with your passion. Have the self confidence to think that not everyone who tells you something knows it all, but open yourself to a little doubt. You may know something they don’t. You have to listen, learn and watch, but always stay true to yourself.