Like many young homeowners, Tina Tang and Anthony Alers were on a budget when it came time for home renovations. So DIY projects – like building built-in shelves, revamping light fixtures, and upcycling second-hand furniture – seemed like the right move.
But even though TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and HGTV programs can make DIY projects seem simple, the two realized that wasn’t always the case.
“These DIY projects are actually quite complex and labor-intensive, so it was important to plan before getting started. Planning proved to be very difficult. We had different ideas about paint colors and designs and had trouble evaluating which design choices would look better,” Tang told Hypepotamus. “Anthony and I are also computer vision engineers and we were developing an AI-powered photo editing app that enabled users to paint on photos with AI paintbrushes. One of those brushes changed the colors of objects and we found it was very helpful for visualizing paint colors and designs. We could finally decide on a paint color and then continue building on our first draft. What type of shelves? What type of storage under the shelves? Step by step, we planned out the built-in shelves project visually and got excited about sharing this tool with others.”
That project has evolved into a full-blown AI startup, Bristles.
The Durham, North Carolina startup helps home improvement enthusiasts and designers reimagine what furniture will look like before they start repainting or repairing. The goal, Tang said, is to help furniture refinishers and DIYers make their “designs a reality,” be it visualizing what a new coat of paint will do to a piece or giving options to share potential designs with other people. You can check out some of the Bristles-inspired furniture flips on the startup’s Instagram page.
The startup is still very much in its infancy, but it has already made a splash in the design and home improvement world. Tang said that since launching the Bristles AI idea generator in May, users have generated close to 10,500 new furniture ideas.
Part of Bristles’ growth might be associated with the rise of secondhand furniture shopping and the “recommerce” movement, which is expected to reach a market size of close to $290 billion over the next five years.
Bristles stayed close to home for its first few rounds of outside funding, having received backing from the Triangle Tweener Fund, NC IDEA, and most recently Primordial (part of Colopy Ventures) for its pre-seed round.
The team also pitched earlier this year at Venture Connect, a popular venture conference located in the Research Triangle Park.
Building in North Carolina has been beneficial for the early-stage company looking to get a foot in the door in the home technology space.
“We’re in a unique area where housing is lower-cost compared to other tech hubs like Silicon Valley and NYC. As we’re building technology in the home category, it’s helpful to live in an area where home prices are close to the national median. As a result, our experience as homeowners more closely reflects that of the typical US homeowner and that makes it easier for us to connect to our customers and understand their needs,” Tang told Hypepotamus.
Tang added that Bristles is starting to leverage the Triangle’s strong talent pool.
“The Triangle is also overflowing with talent. I started hiring for part-time roles last week. A couple intro emails from the startup community to university leaders led to an immediate influx of really great applicants. I was aware of the local talent, but interviewing students and recent grads from the local universities opened my eyes to how excited young professionals are to learn about AI and to play a role in early startups,” she said.
As far as what’s next for Bristles, Tang said that the startup is building momentum with new team members.
“Until now, it’s been the two founders building out the product and marketing funnel for Bristles. We’re rolling on new team members now and we’re excited to continue growing our team to accelerate our progress as we close additional funding,” she added.