Thursday, February 2, 2017
Hutch: Making Furniture Buying A Snap, With Beatrice Fischel-Bock
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Can a mobile app make creating and designing your space as easy as posting a selfie on Snapchat or Instagram? West Hollywood-based Hutch (www.hutch.com) hopes so, with a new set of apps which let you take a picture of your new apartment or room, apply a filter for the style you like, and get back a recommendation and ways to buy furniture to make your new space exactly the way you want. We caught up with co-founder Beatrice Fischel-Bock on the idea and journey behind Hutch.
What is Hutch?
Beatrice Fischel-Bock: Hutch is an app that lets you take a photo of a space in your home, which you'd like to re-do. We send you back a photo with whatever kind of design you have chosen, which we call a "filter", rendered in your space, and you can buy items from there. If you think about a filter on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, this is like putting a filter on your space so you can find a design that you love.
How does that work, and what's the purchase part about?
Beatrice Fischel-Bock: The app is super simple and straightforward. You go into the app, and you can look at the Explore feed and look at existing projects. You can also take a photo of your space, and choose a look. You do that by taking a photo, and picking a filter, which constitutes looks that we provide from our designers. For example, Timeless Elegance, Industrial, Couture,you can choose any of those filters and looks, send that in, and within 24 hours you will see your space with the design you selected. If you see a product you like in there, you can shop for similar items. We are working on a feature which lets you swap out items in your space, with anything you buy shipped directly to you.
What's your background, and how did you get into this area?
Beatrice Fischel-Bock: That's a little bit of a longer story. The product is simple, the story less so. I'm one of five co-founders. We started this about five years ago. Two of our founders were in college together, studying interior architecture and design. They found out that the industry really is old-school. There's nothing new or relevant there to millennials. We started a business in college, called ZOOM Interiors, and we ended up on Shark Tank, and met Sean Rad, the founder and Chairman of Tinder. He really enjoyed what we were doing on Shark Tank, and wanted to check it out. That was the beginning, and he introduced us to our other co-founders in the technology and product side of things. We brought in the furniture and interior product know-how, and they brought in the technical-know how. It was a perfect meeting of the minds, and that resulted in our product, Homee. Homee was all chat based, and it was the same concept, of making furniture easier to purchase. We looked at the landscape of buying furniture, and saw that as a generation, we are always moving. You're no longer working up the corporate ladder staying in the same place. It's becoming more and more popular to move every year, and more and more people are living with roommates, not getting married, or just living alone. But each of these means that every time you move, you need new furniture. That's a tough thing to do, and no one enjoys it. There's a $200 billion industry and people spending money on these things, but there's no easy way to deal with this. It just hasn't been touched by modern day technology. However, there are all these endless apps helping you out with the rest of your life. They say the hardest things in life are death, divorce, and moving. We think if we can make one of those a little easier, we will be happy.
Talk about the evolution from Homee to what Hutch is now?
Beatrice Fischel-Bock: I feel like that's a very typical startup story. About a year and a half ago, as Homee, we had raised some money, $7.2 million predominately from the Founder's Fund. We closed our second round in June. At the time, we were focused on growth, and we had great growth and revenues, and things were going great. However, the thing we were not concentrating on was unit economics. Since we are no longer in an environment where growth trumps everything, the economics had to make sense. Since we didn't want to charge for the conversation with expert designers, we felt we needed to have a different business mode. We considered having users pay a fee upfront, whether that would be $150 or $200 dollars, to talk to those designers, but our vision has never been that. It's been about making buying furniture more smooth. So, we decided a few months ago to look at our next move, and either start charging for that conversation, or embed our product into that conversation. After talking things through with a designer, typically the next step is a designer wants to take a look of what might look good in your space. That's usually the a-ha moment for the client. That's where all the talking comes into fruition, and they see what things might look like, which makes their decisions faster and easier. We decided to take that feature, and put some laser focus on the experience, and launch that as Hutch.
What lessons did you learn from that experience?
Beatrice Fischel-Bock: The motto in our company is fail fast, succeed fast, and learn fast. The idea is, you need to try everything, and done is better than perfect. You need to iterate fast. I think this embodies that motto from the beginning. First, you need to be passionate about what you are doing. We were not passionate about being a design service, we were passionate about furniture buying. You need to know what's worth fighting for, and not to take it personally if things don't work. Instead, you have to try a better version and go forward.
It sounds like your idea of filters takes a lot from how millennials are used to using that with things like Instagram and Snapchat?
Beatrice Fischel-Bock: Obviously, we're not the first to think about visualizing things with VR and AR. That's a big topic in the tech industry and in furniture and design. However, we hadn't seen that applied in a way that millennials would gravitate toward. By making our experience as simple as possible, it's straightforward for the user. All they have to do is pick a filter, like they would on Snapchat or Instagram. It's something they're used to. Instead of making picking furniture this big, scary thing, it make it much more comfortable and friendly to this demographic. They love having experiences which are as easy as it can get. This is the first app to make visualizing furniture as friendly and easy to use.
Finally, what are your next big goals?
Beatrice Fischel-Bock: The bigger goal, is we want to go beyond furniture, and rather than just connecting users to a piece of furniture, allow them to actually produce your own furniture. Say, you might take picture of your outfit, or the look of your makeup, and apply that towards a style. Plus, on furniture, we hope to take over from A to Z. One of the big annoyances is assembling furniture, or picking a date for delivery, figuring out logistics. We want to have a team where we can assembly your entire apartment, through a quick, simple process.