Posted: October 01, 2012
Tech startup: BrightNest
Making useful sexyEric Peterson
INITIAL LIGHT BULB In summer 2011, Justin Anthony realized home maintenance was no easy task. "A guy came by my house and asked if I needed my ducts cleaned," he says. "I didn’t even know I had ducts."
Two days later, Anthony got a call from longtime Chicago-area homebuilder Allen Shulman, who sent over his business plan for a home-maintenance website. Anthony woke up that night, edited the plan, and emailed it back. The very next day, Shulman hopped on a plane to Denver and met Anthony for lunch, and they formally went into business as BrightNest.
From November through February, the duo participated in the intensive 500 Startups Incubator in California. "We were doing 14- to 16-hour days for four months without a break," says Anthony. They launched the site in February.
Anthony says the decision to base the company in Denver was a no-brainer. "We made a conscious decision to base ourselves in Denver because I am in love with the River North startup community, and we can do it here for 30 percent cheaper than Chicago." Shulman commutes from Chicago to serve as president; Anthony is the seven-employee company’s CEO.
IN A NUTSHELL BrightNest is "a free online resource that provides tools, tips and motivation to keep your house in great shape," says Anthony. "It’s a hybrid of editorial content and utility."
The utilitarian side of BrightNest is highlighted by Homefolio, which allows homeowners to create an online repository of everything from PDFs of appliance manuals to paint colors. There are also relevant reminders, to-do modules that walk homeowners through various tasks, and a home history Anthony dubs "Carfax for homes."
"I’m literally the poster child for this site," Anthony says. "I am terrible at home maintenance, and now my wife actually thinks I know what I’m doing."
Then there’s the editorial content, in the form of blog posts about maintenance tips and aprés-improvement ideas. "We make sure we tell you things that are relevant and engaging," says Anthony. "For example, mint is a great pest preventative. It also makes a great mojito."
Lisa O’Connor, a Denver homeowner and the founder of baby-product review website TriedAndTruth.com, has used BrightNest since the launch. BrightNest "helps take care of problems before they turn into something serious," she says, citing a recent dishwasher tuneup. "I was ready to buy a new one, but after I went through the steps, it worked perfectly."
Adds O’Connor: "My husband and I are both members and we can share to-do lists, so we don’t have to have annoying conversations like, ‘Honey, have you changed the light bulbs?’"
THE MARKET With more than 15,000 users, BrightNest is in the process of partnering with a lead-generation specialist for contractors and handymen and also offers relevant products through an online store. Another revenue source: BrightNest Pro (www.brightnestpro.com), a co-branded website for Realtors and mortgage brokers for $150 annually. "A real estate professional told me it was the most disruptive tool for top-of-mind marketing in the industry," Anthony says.
FINANCING After a seed round led by Boulder’s David Cohen of TechStars last November, BrightNest’s founders are pursuing a Series A round with a target of $2 million. "Rather than throwing a grenade and meeting with everyone we could, we literally targeted who we wanted to invest in us," Anthony says.
where Denver | FOUNDED 2011 | web www.brightnest.com
"I have the most boring entrepreneurial motto in the world: Cool fades, but useful is forever. To me, useful is sexy. BrightNest is trying to make home maintenance sexy. I like that challenge."
– BrightNest CEO Justin Anthony
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com