CEO and Founder of Kukun, Raf Howery is an experienced technology executive and an avid home remodeler. He brings this passion and his experience building orchestration platforms to thread the industries of construction, real estate, loan and retail. Raf Howery found the ultimate fixer-upper: the home remodeling industry itself. As a homeowner, he recognized that home renovation was a fragmented and painful process for the consumer and set out to change all that in 2014. Using his intense knowledge of cloud orchestration, SaaS and solutions, Raf created Kukun. He believes that the solution lies in the trifecta of content, software, and data. Kukun solves the fragmentation and frustration associated with home renovations by providing cutting-edge opportunities and tools in our marketplace — for the consumer as well as the real estate, loan, construction and retail industries.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to create Kukun and start your entrepreneurial journey?
Iwas at a point in my career where I felt the urge to do something on my own. The idea of Kukun happened at the tail end of my last remodeling project. I had remodeled several homes as a hobby and realized that this huge industry has remained immune to innovation and automation. I set myself to do something to address two main problems in the industry: lack of transparency and fragmentation. To solve those two issues required the understanding of three main things that I knew very well: Data and data science 2- Software and how to build it 3- The power of content.
Can you share one of the significant challenges you encountered when first leading Kukun? What lesson did you learn from that?
Everyone, with no exception, said “you are doing too much, and you will fail.” Some said it with a smirk on their faces and some with concerned frowns. That is challenging take psychologically, but I knew that the only way to solve this problem to address it all as one problem, You cannot nibble at it, which is why it had remained mostly unsolved. I set myself to take the challenging route with a strong determination and am lucky to have done so.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I think my experience and age had contributed a lot. I am used to solving complex problems since this was most of what I did in my career and the other factor Is my frugality. My experience in offshoring and running a lean operation came in extremely handy. I was able to squeeze a lot more out of every dollar.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” of Kukun? Please share a story or example for each.
1- You need a partner. It is tough to do it as a single founder.
2- It will take a lot longer than you will ever imagine, so plan accordingly but don’t be deterred
3- You will be the target of every potential leach because they think you are a dreamer and they want your money
4- Being both a founder and a CEO is very, very hard.
5- you are as good as the worst talent on your team, so think twice about every hire.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
First, take care of your loved ones. You will need them when it is tough and tell them you will need them down the road. The second thing, I would say is to find yourself a form of exercise that allows you to breathe mentally. For example, I started to walk at night every night for 2 hours. It allowed me to think clearly and see solutions to problems along the way
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for Ωwho helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am lucky to have had great friends and folks who believed in me and who lent me much support, but I would say if it weren’t for my wife, It would have been almost impossible. You will go through emotional roller coasters that bundle fear, sadness, and doubt. You will need one person in your life that believes in you, and that can talk you through it if you are to survive it. Having that support is more important than you will ever think
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
On the professional side, I want to complete the transition from a founder to a CEO. It is coming together, but it is taking longer than I wanted to. On the personal side, I want to work on my writing, and one day I aim to become a better pianist
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I don’t think in life in those terms, but I want to achieve two things: 1- be a great dad to my children and 2- solve the home renovation and repair industry.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I would love to change the way VC’s think about older founders. Older founders are much less likely to fail and can solve problems that younger people cannot. For example, if you have never owned and fixed a home, how could you build Kukun? Ageism in the VC world is as rampant as sexism.