When HomeKey CEO Shane Ettestad was in the process of selling his house and completing all the required documentation, he knew there had to be a better way to track all the prior maintenance and remodeling work.
As a self-described serial entrepreneur, he decided to solve the problem himself. Shane spent months doing his due diligence –– vetting the idea and refining the scope of the initial offering. Once he realized his idea was solid, he and his co-founder got to work on an MVP. In March 2020, they officially launched HomeKey, a digital database that gives homeowners everything they need to know about their homes at the tip of their fingers.
HomeKey’s growth has soared, raising $570,000 in seed funding so far, adding integral veterans to the team, and partnering with some top homebuilding companies. HomeKey also became a member of the StartupAZ Collective 2020 growth cohort.
In this edition of Collective Conversations, Shane explains his inspiration and vision for HomeKey, as well as what the next steps are.
What is the problem HomeKey is trying to solve?
Homekey's intelligent home experience helps reduce the at-home madness so you can focus on what matters most. If we make home maintenance as easy as possible, homeowners can spend their time doing what they actually enjoy.
How does HomeKey work?
It’s really about taking all the guesswork out of home maintenance. We catalog a home’s digital history so that homeowners can see the details of the home and get all the facts they need to maintain their home right away. It’s similar to Carfax but instead provides home facts with much more detail.
We track interior paints, exterior paints, flooring, lighting, appliances, and water systems like pools and spas. You name it, we have it. Our data set is huge.
What inspired you to start HomeKey?
I was in the process of selling a large home that we had done a major remodel to many years prior. During that process, I started to see all the holes in the digital process. It was a pain trying to remember everything we had done to remodel and every change or alteration we had made to the house. And then when we were selling, we had to put together a legal document with a lot of information, like who our termite guy is, who did our pool work, did we ever have a flood, etc. Some of that is simple to look up but other information takes a lot of work and time to dig up.
That’s when I realized how much easier it would be to have a digital file that explained a home’s whole history and details to potential buyers.
Once you had that realization, how did you go about building HomeKey?
The first thing I did was architect a pitch deck and vet it among many people that I trust to not just tell me what I wanted to hear. So I didn't just jump right in. I thought through it for probably six months because I wanted to be sure that if we're going to do this, it was something worthwhile enough to pour my life into.
After that, the second phase was following the Lean Startup approach and identifying potential users. Then, because it is such a huge project, we had to split the MVP into two parts. First, we created the proprietary code that we permanently attach to the home. Then we listed out the minimum functions and data that homeowners need and started there.
After building the MVP, how did you build traction?
We’re still early in the traction cycle, but the first home building company we started working with is MAC Construction. From there, we were fortunate enough to start working with some of the biggest home builders in the area like Camelot and Lennar –– and HomeKey is now in a couple of communities.
So we are still very early in the process, but we’re fortunate enough to have already been picked up by homebuilding companies. They see the value in what we are doing and it’s a no brainer for them.
Who is the team behind HomeKey?
My co-founder James Carr is someone who I was business partners with in my first venture in the early 90s. He’s great at the details. If I’m the big idea and vision guy, James is the one who figures out a way to execute it.
We also brought in former Disney executive Kevin Schumacher to be our Director of Homeowner Experience and industry veteran Rick Stanzione to be our Director of Operations.
We have a really strong team, and everyone is completely committed and passionate about creating a homeowner-first product.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Since the size of our solution and ecosystem is so large, we had to prioritize which functions we built first and balance that out with both business strategy and user engagement. It’s been challenging, and we are still fighting that battle.
What has been an accomplishment or milestone you are particularly proud of?
Having the name brand builders has been huge and really validating. We are honored to have such incredible brands already working with us. We are working with the best of the best right from the start.
What’s the next step for HomeKey?
There are a lot of things we need to do but our main priorities are gaining traction and improving user engagement. We have to focus on scaling with more builders and installed homes. Then we have to focus on adding more functionality so we can continue to improve and measure user engagement.
What has your experience with the StartupAZ Collective been like?
Being a part of the Collective has delivered much more than I expected in terms of how directly impactful it has been on our day-to-day business as well as our long-term planning.
For example, the virtual retreat provided clarity for our organizational architecture, and how to manage roles and structure as we continue to grow. That was a huge help.
The introductions have also been great, whether it’s been with customers, investors, or other founders. Sometimes the walk can be lonely for founders, so it is helpful to be amongst a group of people that are walking the same path.