The housing market has been heating up as millennials reach the home buying age — there are just over 1 million new homes built in the U.S. each year and that number is expected to increase to meet demand. During those construction jobs, contractors are managing future buyers, on-site workers, and materials.
For many, though, getting those materials can easily become a major project hold up when unexpected or additional items are needed, runners to head to the store are in short supply, and time is wasted. In fact, a housing project necessitates, on average, three visits to a home supply store per week, each of which may take a few hours.
Bernard Parks Jr. experienced this problem when building his own home — he spent hours constantly running back and forth to Lowes or Home Depot, or paying someone with a truck to do it for him.
“I asked my contractor, there has to be a solution to this pain point, there has to be an Uber that can handle this for me,” Parks said. “He just looked at me and said, there isn’t.”
Parks, a long-time music executive who was instrumental in shaping the careers of legendary Atlanta groups like Goodie Mob and the Dungeon Family, wasn’t content with that answer. Last year, along with two other music industry friends, he launched Culture Republic, a venture that combined their networks and experience to forge into new business fields, one being tech. He decided to tackle this problem with his first foray into a tech startup.
After doing customer discovery with advisors and speaking to construction company owners, contractors, and home builders, Parks landed on his solution — TommyRun. The app contains a database of construction materials available at retailers, everything from lumber to doorknobs.
Users can get on the app, select what they need when they need it, and are connected to an on-demand truck driver who will do the shopping and delivery for a small additional fee determined by the total weight of items delivered. Think of it like Instacart meets the construction industry.
Parks relied on the industry expertise of his co-founder BJ Kerr, a home developer and entrepreneur, but when the two began working with developers to build the patent-pending technology, they realized they needed an extra set of eyes and ears who already had experience at a tech startup. Enter Jimmy Patel, a Georgia Tech engineer and co-founder of the startup Split, which aimed to help diners at restaurants split their checks. They quickly connected and Patel came on as TommyRun’s President and CTO in June.
“Jimmy looked at me when we met and said, you’re going to need a hustler, a hipster and a hacker… and I’m all three,” says Parks.
One month later the team launched a beta version, and the full app went live in August 2017. Patel says there were many kinks to work out, but it immediately began to resonate with users. The app has seen 50 percent growth month over month from August to December and the team says they’re on target to hit $3-6 million in revenue this year.
Part of that great success, according to Patel, is because people keep coming back. He shares they have several “power users”, often small or independent contractors who don’t have the resources to make multiple trips for supplies per week. They’ve measured a 47 percent retention rate after 30 days.
Currently the service is available only within a 30-mile radius around Atlanta, but Parks says they’re planning expansion this year — first to the Charlotte and Nashville markets. Both are strong housing markets with a young, home buying population.
Right now TommyRun utilizes its own trucks and fleet of drivers, but moving forward, the team is working on a new technology and model that works more like Uber — anyone with a truck and spare time could register, sign up for delivery jobs, and become a TommyRun driver. Patel says that will be the key for them to scale quickly.
The startup has been funded thus far by the co-founders and a few local angels, but with all of their plans, they’re seeking more, currently raising a $5 million seed round to fuel product development.
They also plan to grow the Atlanta team further. The startup employs 16 and recently moved into a new office in Inman Park.
Lastly, Patel and Parks say their next move is to go after bigger clients — the major players in the construction space. With the amount of product they have to move on a daily basis, “there’s much more pressure for them to find efficiencies,” explains Parks.