Just the thought of overwhelming and often costly home improvements can cause money pit nightmares enough to delay even the initial steps of finding the right contractor. Debuting at this weekend’s Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show, the Seekahoo app can help homeowners hammer through the struggles of design decision making and finding the right company for the job.
“It’s like Facebook for the home improvement industry,” says Zack Parme, a self-employed electrician who, with his brother-in-law Raj Gopal, designed the app.
Launched in November for Apple and due out for Android on March 6, the free app showcases contractors’ work and allows them to reach a network of potential customers through posts shared across a 25-mile radius. Customers and businesses create profiles that feature their projects and expertise.
“Based on research, we realized that the process is less stressful if a source is from someone you know,” says Gopal, who has worked as a management consultant for 15 years.
So a plumber, referred by a trusted friend who has recently installed a new sink, can be checked out on the Seekahoo app that will include updated photos of his work and current comments from other customers.
“It’s a place for contractors to create and maintain an image,” says Parme.
With Seekahoo’s newest feature, customers needing an estimate for an urgent repair can post a photograph and description of the problem and request quotes from the top five contractors within their network.
The app currently has 150 users, both contractors and customers. Businesses don’t pay to be listed on the app.
“I like the idea of the transparency of it. It’s good for the customer to see what the business is doing, especially when selecting a roofer which can be a difficult decision,” says Dan Easton of Buccos Roofing in McMurray.
“It has really helped us get ideas,” says Sam Roberts who, with his wife Alyssa, is building a home in Imperial. “We’ll take a picture of a room and get (decorating) feedback from friends who have done similar work.”
And, after posting their potential work, the Roberts received estimated costs, steps to complete the work and other opinions from contractors.
“We also didn’t waste time contacting contractors and other folks who weren’t offering what we want,” he says.
Parme and Gopal will be fine-tuning the app’s features as one of the seven newest companies in the AlphaLab network. In addition to $25,000 investment from Innovation Works, each AlphaLab company has office space at AlphaLab’s current Beauty Shoppe CUBE location in East Liberty, along with the soft benefits of mentoring and educational opportunities from seasoned professionals on various topics.
“We want to scale this platform to other industries,” says Gopal. For example, it can be applied to the health care arena for helping to locate doctors or facilities, or to the auto industry for finding dealerships and mechanics.
“We think that if there is a small business with a service or product, it falls into the boundaries of what we want to accomplish,” says Gopal.