As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing John Bodrozic, one of the co-founders of HomeZada. John is a serial entrepreneur whose first start-up company helped define commercial construction project management software and is now working with two other co-founders on HomeZada, which is a personal finance platform specific for managing a home.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After getting a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame, I started my career in construction management where I learned the business aspects over how a high-rise office building and a hospital worth hundreds of millions of dollars get designed and built. This led me to my first start-up company that developed project management software for large scale contractors and Fortune 500 companies to use when managing the financial and business aspects of these large-scale projects. The company had a successful exit which then led to me to get engaged in my second start-up called HomeZada.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My 16-year journey with my first startup is the most interesting because it was thrilling to see the entire lifecycle of a startup. It started with me and a co-founder bootstrapping the business with personal savings, family help, and credit card debt. We grew into a profitable business that then raised both venture and corporate venture funding to scale into the leading construction project management software company. We evolved into a global business with customers in the North America., Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia.
The company had a successful exit with an acquisition by a public company in the same commercial construction technology market. I remained with the company after the acquisition and experienced running the business as a division of a public company where hitting revenue and profit targets quarterly was paramount. This journey was amazing from so many different perspectives that it really shapes my thinking today.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Every homeowner lacks financial visibility into their largest asset and biggest expense. They spend more than they need to on everything including utilities, repairs costs, and remodel projects. Most homeowners also lack financial awareness of their current home value, balance on the mortgage, their current home equity, and their total cost of ownership. With over 120M homeowners in the U.S. and approximately another 120M in Europe and Asia, there is a global opportunity to change how homeowners can make better decisions in managing their homes.
HomeZada is a personal finance platform that empowers consumers to save money and improve the value of their home. It is groundbreaking as it brings together everything the homeowner needs to manage, maintain, improve, protect and ultimately markets their home. It combines multiple apps, content, recommendations, and data in a single platform to manage all the important financial aspects of the home. As consumers, we have digital platforms to manage our finances like investment, retirement, bank, and brokerage accounts. Yet our home is our largest asset and biggest expense, and until HomeZada, there was no single platform to manage this asset.
How do you think this will change the world?
Homeownership is a continuous journey as consumers buy a home, own and live it for a period of time, and then eventually sell it. Then the process starts all over again as the homeowner buys a different home. HomeZada can change the world by empowering every homeowner to spend less on managing all the various financial aspects of their home thus keeping more money in their pocket for other living expenses. They can also maximize their dollars when it comes time to sell their home because they maintained it and kept a digital history of the home’s maintenance and improvements.
HomeZada empowers homeowners to be proactive on preventative maintenance tasks which keeps the home’s equipment and building materials operating efficiently which reduces energy costs. In aggregate, better-maintained homes can lead to lower national and global energy requirements. HomeZada also empowers individual homeowners to be properly insured and prepared for any disaster with a home inventory. With more hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires destroying people’s homes, HomeZada helps homeowners get reimbursed properly while also helping insurance companies assess risk and reduce fraud.
In addition, multiple billion-dollar industries serve the homeowner. These include the mortgage, home insurance, home improvement, real estate, and utility industries. Each of these industries struggles with customer engagement and loyalty beyond the initial transaction. HomeZada is a transformational platform that provides companies with the ability to have an ongoing digital relationship with a homeowner throughout the entire journey of homeownership. HomeZada allows these companies to create an ecosystem of multiple vendors to serve better the ongoing product and services a homeowner needs to manage their home.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?
Understanding the data ownership issue is something to think about. HomeZada believes that each homeowner owns their data about their home; thus they control it. HomeZada also believes that each individual homeowner may choose to explicitly share a subset of that data with various parties to facilitate a transaction. For example, the homeowner can choose to share their home inventory with their insurance company to make sure they are properly insured or to get a more specific quote on their policy. Another example is that a homeowner may choose to share the details of a potential remodel project to secure a home equity loan.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
Elizabeth Dodson, one of the co-founders of HomeZada, was also an early employee at the previous software company where she managed all the marketing, sales, and service partnerships. She visited her partner’s client who was building the new Dallas Cowboy’s football stadium and realized that the construction company had all the details of the stadium managed in one software solution in the cloud. She had just recently bought a house and had paper data that was incomplete and scattered everywhere about her home. She was frustrated with the lack of a single, digital place to see all the information about her home.
She came to me after her trip and said, “How come our customers can manage and see all the details securely online about a billion dollar stadium, and I can’t even manage the information about my own home?” At the time, I thought, what a great question, but was too busy trying to manage the current company to give it much more thought. After the construction project management software company was sold, we did some research on her idea and realized there was a huge opportunity to build another business and change the world.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
HomeZada has proven that the platform is mainstream with homeowners in all 50 states and 20 international countries. It is used by all generations of homeowners including millennials, gen x, baby boomers, and even seniors. Two key things lead to widespread adoption in scaling the HomeZada opportunity.
With a massive market of homeowners, the first is public awareness of the HomeZada platform. Many homeowners need a reminder of the various challenges they have in managing, maintaining, improving and protecting their home along with an education of how a personal finance platform like HomeZada can help them both in the short and long term.
The second is strategic partnerships with mortgage, insurance, real estate, and home improvement companies who understand the opportunity to extend their relationship with homeowners beyond the initial transaction, i.e., the mortgage, the insurance policy, the real estate service, or a home improvement product. This ecosystem view of the homeowner grows these businesses into a more “trusted advisor” position which increases renewal, repeat, and referral opportunities at a much lower cost of acquisition.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Getting a startup to be successful usually takes more time and money than you think. Startups by nature are usually trying to build something that has never been done before. Thus, no matter how much experience your team has, the business is entering an area with many unknowns, and it takes longer and more resources to sort out all the unknowns and find the right model for success.
Build a brand while you are building your first version of the product. Most startups spend time upfront building a product and then when it launches, they start building the brand. But building a brand takes a long time, so you are missing out on valuable time to start building a brand while you are building out the product.
Enterprise deals in highly regulated industries are long sales cycles. Fintech and insurtech types of opportunities are dealing with banks and insurance companies that are subject to lots of regulations. This puts an additional burden on the length of time it takes to get a contract done given all the regulatory scrutiny required.
Don’t hire purely based on someone’s resume but include the context of their experience. Many startups when they are ramping up hiring look to resumes of people that have a lot of large, brand company experience. But being a sales or development manager of a large team with a well-established company is contextually a lot different than being the 4th or 5th employee of an early stage startup.
Not every feature that customers ask for should be put into the product. Customers ask for lots of new features, but you need a strong product management team to evaluate whether the features fit both the product strategy and the central use case of your core customers. Too many non-core features create product bloat and will cause long term user and software management issues.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Develop a behavior where you spend your own time acquiring new skills. The only constant in the world is change. And today, that rate of change is faster than ever. But there are also unlimited ways to teach yourself a new skill no matter what your current career position. Learn photoshop, learn HTML, learn a foreign language, learn a trade skill, etc. I could go on and on. Sometimes your choices of learning something new is targeted at a career position you want, or sometimes it is a hobby you are interested in, that may eventually turn into a career opportunity.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
Given the opportunity with HomeZada, I would invest it in customer acquisition both direct with consumers and with B2B2C strategic partners. I would also invest a portion of it to integrate HomeZada’s personal finance platform with smart home IoT devices to provide homeowners an easy way to aggregate and analyze usage data from these devices into financial awareness knowledge about the total cost of ownership of their home.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Be committed to a lifelong journey of learning. A group of individual people working together as a functioning team can accomplish so much more than each individual alone. Rejection and failure are not the end; they are merely the beginning of the journey. Understanding why you failed or were rejected is the learning experience that combined with perseverance will get you to reach your desired goals.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Aligning your vision with the ability to execute is a success habit. You need to have a vision of what you want to accomplish, whether that is starting and growing a company or even a project within your current role. But too many people spend all their time with the vision and don’t roll up their sleeves to get the work done. You must break down the vision into tangible execution steps and do the work.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
HomeZada is a personal finance platform that empowers homeowners to manage, maintain, improve, protect and eventually market their largest financial asset and biggest expense. We have achieved product-market fit as a mainstream B2C platform with homeowners in the US with proven unit economics that can scale. We have also secured strategic B2B2C partnerships with both insurance and mortgage companies that can help scale the business. We have an experienced management team, developed a unique platform, demonstrated a large multi-billion dollar market opportunity, and have a platform business model with multiple sources of revenues. We are looking for our next round of investors to help scale the business, so join us for this amazing opportunity to change the world.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow the business at @HomeZada on Twitter and Facebook and @HomeZadaInc on Instagram. You can reach me on LinkedIn here https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnbodrozic/ or email at [email protected]
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.