SaaS Founder Interview with Elizabeth Dodson, Co-Founder of HomeZada
Tony Zayas 0:06
Hey everybody, welcome to the SaaS founder show. It’s Tony Zayas here flying solo this week. And before we get to this week’s guests, I just want to remind everyone that we have our tech throwdown is coming up a week from today. Next week’s show will be dedicated to those that will be in the throwdown those it’ll be pitching. So we’ll be excited to have our finalists on as our guests. And we’re still we still have accepting applications. So if you’re interested in pitching, go to the site that you see on the screen insivia.com/techthrowdown2021. Apply, and we’ll be choosing our finalists. beginning of next week, you will find out if you’re going to be participating on Wednesday. So with that, let me go ahead and tell you about today’s guests. We have Elizabeth Dodson, she’s the co founder of HomeZada and HomeZada is digital home management solutions for homeowners insurance and mortgage organizations and home builders. It’s an all in one suite of apps to manage your home. So pretty interesting. Elizabeth, welcome.
Elizabeth Dodson 1:20
Thank you for having me, Tony. I appreciate the opportunity.
Tony Zayas 1:24
Absolutely. Thank you for joining. We’re excited, excited to talk here today. Tell us a bit about homes out I Obviously I read the description. But tell us about about you know what’s all about?
Elizabeth Dodson 1:35
Sure. So HomeZada is the digital hub management platform to manage your home. And what it does is it allows you to take a home inventory should you need one for a variety of reasons, whether it’s the risk of a burglary, the risk of a fire, hurricane, some sort of natural disaster, or even just knowing what you own, so you stop spending so much money. So have taken out home inventory, taken a home maintenance calendar, and managed that. So you no longer have to remember it you don’t have to forget, when you didn’t perform home maintenance, our system will send you the reminders to make sure that you get that done to make sure your home is operating properly. We want to also help people manage their projects, most projects in the United States are over budget. So we want to help people stay within budget, but also understand the tasks they need to take care of and the items they need to purchase for those projects. So that they do stay within budget, and they don’t stress out as much, because I can’t guarantee 100% stress-free, but I can do my best to lower that stress. And then the fourth thing or yes, the fourth thing you can do is it can actually help you manage all the finances. Let’s face it, our homes are one of our largest assets, and we generally use them for retirement purposes, should we need them or any other type of activity that we may have. But one of the things that most people are unaware of is our homes are our largest expense. And so how do you make sure that you’re maintaining Add Expense in a way that it’s not eating up more than it needs to in your annual budget? Because we already spend 33% annually on our homes? How can we actually reduce that simply by taking care of our home, simply by understanding what’s going on? And then as it relates to all the professionals? Yep. Because when you go build a product like we did go bigger go home, we decided to also make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our professionals. So industries like insurance, mortgage, real estate, and homebuilding can either give the gift of tongues out to their customers or enter in data on behalf of their customers and turn that over to them for instance, with a homebuilder a digital turnover package.
Tony Zayas 3:48
Very interesting. So it’s I think there’s a lot to unpack and talk about here. I would say it sounds really timely, just with the number of people doing home renovations and things. Since the pandemic we’re spending all this time inside our homes, and we have a kitchen project going on and a bathroom. So really cool. I would love to hear the origin story. Where did the concept come from? And how did this how did this all start?
Elizabeth Dodson 4:15
So we got to go back a little way. But our team, our co-founders all came from the same organization. We were part of a growing company that was focused on commercial construction project management software. And in that industry, SaaS products were early to market. We were building those types of products. And we were doing things a little differently, using farms with Citrix servers and some things like that, which is old school. We’re talking a long time ago. But it was during that time that I said to myself if we can manage all these major projects around the world, whether it’s a stadium, whether it’s a hospital, whether it’s a school, whatever the case may be a toy. Why is it that we don’t have the same tools to manage our homes? And I was getting frustrated. And I actually looked for a system for 10 years. And I knew exactly what I wanted, I wanted something in the cloud so that I could access that data anywhere. Because I traveled a lot for work. I also wanted to be able to manage all the details of my home in one central location. I didn’t want 15 apps to do this, because our homes are interconnected. An inventory item is a maintenance item, that becomes a maintenance item, which then becomes a project when you replace it, it has a financial implication. And then when you replace it, it becomes an inventory item again. So I knew that I wanted an all-in-one system. And then as I experienced my own homes, moving from the East Coast to the West Coast, I realized I didn’t know about the different seasonality and what I had to be prepared for. I didn’t know about the different materials in my home, I couldn’t even manage my home. From the East Coast, it was all via phone calls and documents and coming to this place where you’re, you’re talking to somebody and things can get lost in translation. Well, you have to go to this place, go here, do this, do that. And nothing was clean. And so I said, There’s got to be a better way to do this. And So lo and behold, we had sold the last company, and the project management company for construction. And all of us worked for the publicly traded company that bought us, which was an amazing experience. But we still had that startup left in us. So it wasn’t me that actually initiated it was one of my co-founders who came to me and said, We think you’re onto something. Let’s go do another startup. And let’s go build what we now refer to today as HomeZada.
Tony Zayas 6:49
Really cool, awesome story. And I want to talk about the co founder team in just a second checks. I think that’s interesting. But I would love to hear what what did the MVP look like when you first you know, took this thing to market? Because it sounds like it does a lot, which is awesome. But what was that original, you know, first iteration,
Elizabeth Dodson 7:09
It’s good because that was actually one of the arguments we had in our team. What’s gonna happen. So the first thing we knew we had to build was we wanted to build a strong foundation on the product. And we’re just firm believers, we knew this was a marathon, not a sprint. We also knew that great products, if you have a good foundation, it’s going to be sustainable. So we built this good foundation. And we built our foundation, thinking about the long-term value of our product. And there are things in our product today that are not visible yet because we thought about it from the future. And some people might say, Well, why would you do that is not a waste of time. No, because you can actually change everything from the user experience at any time. But the foundation is still core, and you don’t have to rebuild that. And we did have to rebuild a core product at the previous company. And that was just a big undertaking. So we said we’re going to build the foundation first. And the second thing we did was build inventory. The very basics of everything start with an inventory, you have to know what the things are in your home, to go from there, what needs maintenance, what needs a project, so on and so forth. So we knew that the inventory was the next step. And then the maintenance. Now, this is where the argument happens. My team was willing to release the MVP, with just inventory. I all own it. I said no. I said it needs to be inventory and maintenance. We’ve already built this foundation, maintenance is going to take us much longer to build. But the maintenance aspect of things will keep people coming back to the product, the inventory portion of it, people are just going to finish it. And they’re going to forget to do their updates, we’ll be able to help them and remind them to do updates. But they really need to understand the complexities of their home and how to manage it. So the first MVP was released with just the core foundation, the inventory, and the maintenance. And later on, we actually change the entire user design.
Tony Zayas 9:16
So that’s really interesting that something we talk about, sometimes in the show is just the stickiness right. So you said maintenance is what was going to bring Pete bringing users back, which is a brilliant observation that you had. How, how did you fight that fight? Because you know, with the MVP, people always say, you know, if you didn’t, if you’re not embarrassed by your MVP, you waited too long, right? But do you think that it was essential that you launched it with the maintenance element?
Elizabeth Dodson 9:46
I did, and we did it for two reasons. One, we wanted to understand the stickiness and how often people come back. That was the first thing because if this wasn’t going to work as a company and a product Then we could stop what we were doing. Enough was enough. But we said, No, let’s, let’s go do this. The second thing is, we looked at the becoming from a construction project management background, we all look at the same thing. We look at the very basics of the project, that it is, How much work do we have to do? What’s it going to cost us? What’s the time? And what’s the release look like? The time to build maintenance? Wasn’t as long as we thought, because we’d been working on it. At the same time. We were doing inventory anyway. So we said, what’s the harm in waiting an extra month? And so that’s what we chose. And we loose also chose that. Because if we needed to play around with pricing models as well. So do we charge for the whole thing? Do we have a freemium, model, maintenance, and inventory were parts if we break them apart, they give us that opportunity to play around with that as well? So those are the arguments that I used to justify why I had my position. And my team listened to it. And then they said, Okay, it’s only a month, if it takes longer than a month, then we’re going to start releasing anyway. And so that was our compromise.
Tony Zayas 11:14
Probably gave you a little bit of a push to get. Get it all together. Right. That’s great. So yeah, we’d love to hear more about the co-founding team, since you guys all started elsewhere together, you know, you work together previously, I’d love to hear just about you know, who the players are? What is the relationship dynamic amongst the team?
Elizabeth Dodson 11:34
Yeah, so we were very lucky in this aspect. And what I mean by that is, the three co-founders used to work together at the previous company, the project management company, and we already understood how to build a relationship together, we also understood where our strengths were, and our weaknesses. So we also didn’t have to hide behind them, we could actually be very open and honest about where we needed help. And that was really important. So there are no egos involved. And then the third thing that we also had on our team was one of my co-founders actually started the previous company. So he understood the struggle that was going to happen in the very beginning, that maybe David and I didn’t understand, because David and I were early-stage employees, but we came in a little bit just a tiny bit later. And it’s different when you’re an employee when you’re a co-founder because you’re technically not an employee yet. And then when your employee, let’s say 20. It’s just very different. And so that individual, John, who did that was very necessary for our company, and the dynamics of working together, because he could get us through those initial stages of frustration, that maybe David and I hadn’t experienced yet. So it’s very, it’s a very great relationship. We were lucky that we had this and we also understood our swim lanes. Each person had skills. And yes, do they cross over a little bit? Yes. But we have to rely on the other one for efficiency, but also to for their skill sets they do have?
Tony Zayas 13:22
So do you mind elaborating on that a little bit? What are those lanes? And how do you guys you know, where’s the overlap? And how do you guys work together in that regard?
Elizabeth Dodson 13:30
That’s perfect. Yeah. So David is our CTO, and he focuses on the development of the product, we will bring in outsourced players to help with the front end of the product from a user experience. But he is the core player on the development side. And so technically, he deals with all of that, John, deals with the bulk of the finances. However, there’s a crossover between all three of us because we always review the finances. He also deals with product management, which is a core skill that a lot of founding teams miss. And I’m going to get to that in a second. I’m gonna come back to John’s role as a product manager in a second because it’s very key. John is also the core person that deals with the primary role of investment strategy as well. So finding the investors. On the other side, I deal with business development, most of the marketing, as well as customer experience. And so going back to John and David, because I’m one of the reasons why Holmes out is here and I wanted it so bad and I resonate with all of my customers both on the homeowner side, but also the business side. I have to filter my information to John who becomes the translator for David and vice versa. Because I don’t speak tech-speak to the degree that David and John do and forever Everyone out there, you don’t need co-founders who always speak tech-speak, you can find people to do that just as an FYI. And I own that I know that I can’t speak 100% tech speak and really deep. But John can help filter the translation back and forth between John, excuse me, between David and I, to help us both understand what we’re trying to communicate. He also knows how to ask a lot of questions of both of us to help us understand how to get to the translation for the other parties. So very important roles. We do a crossover, for instance, if John needs to be on some sort of marketing capability, he will do that, if I need to bring him in as a product manager for business development calls, I will do that. If David needs to be brought in for the same reason, we will do that, because David is brought in for some partner relations, because he has to go through the tech review with the organization. That’s not something that my skill is capable of doing. And knowing where your swim lanes are, can lead to great success among your teammates, things invariably cross you must keep meeting together as team members to understand where those crosses are, and where people need help. Maybe I was out of town, and John took a business development call, well, we’ll just keep him leading with it until the transition happens. And then I’ll take on the long-term management of it because we don’t think that the partner or the customer would need a transition. So keeping all of that in line with where your swim lanes are, where your skill sets are, understanding where they cross over. And then also understanding those skill sets in those weaknesses. So that, when you bring in contractors or other employees, is also important.
Tony Zayas 17:01
That’s great. So with there being three of you, there’s a pretty broad set of skills that you guys bring, which is awesome. At the same time, how do you what is the rhythm and the cadence look like for communication amongst the three of you? And I’m guessing that’s probably change over time and growth and team members and all that. But how do you manage that? Because you said, you know, obviously, you got to be filling in where there is some overlap. And there’s some things that are being done, you know, you’re doing it on your own. What does that communication look like amongst the founding team?
Elizabeth Dodson 17:37
So it varies depending on who’s talking to one another. That’s the first thing I’m going to add to another complexity. Our team, our CO founding team is split between two different countries. So John and I are in Northern California. And then David is in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now, just for everyone on the phone. We’ve always operated like this not only at HomeZada but at the previous company, because the two co-founders, coincidently one was from Vancouver, British Columbia, and one was from Sacramento. So we’re used to this for those people out there. We’re used to this, and we’re very fortunate we’re in the same timezone. So that’s also very important to understand. But we have different ways of doing this. John and David from a product perspective may have an initial meeting, whether it’s like this on a video conference or a phone call. And then they will go into using systems like Slack or some other systems to identify what the next steps are. And then they’ll go through user testing. John and I, because we are local, we have a lot of phone calls a lot of weekly meetings, because a lot of our business development activity requires both of us to be present in those meetings, whether it’s pricing, what is technical, what are the steps, always reviewing contracts, we like to have multiple eyes on those. And John, David and I are very experienced in contract review because of our history of being in companies. But we will review each other’s contracts, even if nothing is wrong. And even if we feel confident, we will constantly ask each other just for a quick review, because it’s important contracts are seriously important. And we don’t need to send everything to our attorneys. However, if there are other people on the phone or on the line that are paying attention to what I’m saying. You can use your attorneys, and I would highly recommend it. They do cost money every time they have to do a review. If you have a network of individuals that you trust, also ask them to review your contracts. Contracts can make or break how your company operates. And so you want to make sure that you are prepared. So that’s some of the ways we tackle things but it’s very different depending on whether it’s David and myself communicating like we can handle things through email very quickly. Or it’s John and I going over strategy verbally whiteboarding it because we love whiteboards, or whether it’s John and David doing whiteboards remotely. So we choose different strategies to communicate and it works for us. Very cool. And that’s a that’s good feedback on the contracts. Right? So a lot of trusted network, get the feedback first. And then you know, you know, bring the attorney and spend their time on it. So yeah, very smart. Just to back up a little bit, because a lot of great stuff you’re sharing, and it’s really interesting story. How would you say with John’s experience, he’s the one that was the founder of the prior company, correct? What were some of the hurdles that he helped avoid, or helped you guys get over with that experience that he had, you have some examples, because that’s interesting. And that’s something we’ve seen before with the person that’s been there done that if you partner with someone like that, sometimes that can be beneficial.
One of the things that John has that he doesn’t have it 100% of the time, but he does have it more so than let’s say me, is he has a lot more patience. Coming from business development and a sales background, like now, Now, now, that’s the way I operate. However, in the beginning, when I came from a company that was a market leader, we grew it to become the world’s leader in commercial construction project management software. So when you come in and you start all over, you forgot about that journey, John reminds you that we’re on a new journey again. And then he also reminds you that not everything’s gonna work, specifically at the time in which you roll it out. So what I mean by that is, if you test out, and for those people on the phone, or line, sorry, you test out a website, and you want to test out a homepage, you do a B testing, sitting down, and recognizing that a b testing is a good thing, rather than constantly going with your gut is something that John brings to the table, let’s use a B testing to test our website because none of us agree. So let’s do that. So we would do that. He also brings to the table, when you get frustrated with the way contracts going on business development, or how people aren’t adopting things as quickly as possible. He’ll sit back, and I’ll remind you that we need to review the contract, we need to identify what areas of the contract are material to our business, what areas are not where can we give and take on those contracts. And that stems from his patience. Versus you want to for someone like me, I just want to get it done. And that’s not a good thing. You need to make sure that you balance, getting it done to closing a good contract that’s beneficial to all parties. The other thing that he will also do is when people were not, they didn’t know about us, he’ll remind both David and me that nobody knows about us yet. The whole analogy of building they will come is false. You need to make people aware of what you offer, you need to explain to people who home out it is what it is what value it provides them, and how they can sign up for it. And so we slow down, and we literally looked at every little detail of everything that we put out there. And that is also another benefit that John brings to the table. He’s highly detail-oriented, in that he will remind us of a website button, or a call to action in an email. And if you’re rushing to get through those things, they will get missed. So he will keep us calm. Moving forward, be patient but also pay attention to the details to make sure that we’re not missing anything. And also, when it comes to keeping calm. He will remind us this is a marathon. This is not the journey. This is not the finish line is not a sprint, it’s not at the other end. We have to go see the sights as part of the marathon.
Tony Zayas 24:39
Yeah, that’s great. So it sounds like a lot of what he brings is really just that wisdom that comes with experience and having been there. It’s almost like intangible qualities and things that he could sense those reminders that you know, to, to take a deep breath and you know, kind of recalibrate. That’s fantastic. That’s really interesting to hear. We’ve talked to a lot of co-founders, we’ve talked to a handful that, similarly, their co-founder, and had that experience, maybe they had that experience. But I haven’t heard it articulated like that. And I think that makes a lot of sense. But very interesting. And then I would just on the topic of this, you know, co-founding team. Any, how do you? Have there been any challenges that you have felt? And how have you dealt with not being a technical founder, maybe even frustration at times? What does that be like, you know, along the way, it sounds like now, you very well have the way you guys go about your communication. But I’m sure it didn’t just start that way. And I’m sure there was a level of frustration at the time. So I’d love to hear about that.
Elizabeth Dodson 25:48
So yeah, that’s a great question. So not being technical. I am very fortunate that I have a co-founder in David, that will talk to me in a layman’s term, about the technical aspects. So that’s the first thing he understands that I just don’t have that data, where it does come into play is, when I asked them, this is sometimes the frustration on their part as well when I ask them to explain it to me. Sometimes they get frustrated because it takes a long time to explain it. And they don’t have the time for it like Well, I’m not going to learn if you don’t explain it to me. So that’s taken some time. And then the other thing that is also helped when they explain it to me is I come from a world where marketing was not digital. And now we have digital marketing. And it’s a completely different style of marketing. It’s still very similar marketing, and marketing, marketing, marketing, marketing, but it’s different, how we measure it’s different how we execute on it. And because of their explanations, I can now take a more leadership role in performing some of the tasks that relate to the technical aspects of marketing that I would not have been able to do before. And don’t get me wrong. For all those people out there, I’m still not technical, I still get a little nervous that something’s going to break. And if I really feel that, I need a second set of eyes, on something in the marketing realm of all my technology platforms, I will ask for help before I start pushing buttons, because then if things are interconnected to my platform, I could push buttons, that could be really bad. So I want to make sure that I reach out to my team. But it’s also helped me understand the very basics of technology so that I can make those adjustments in the marketing realm. Because let’s face it, I still have to do some level of tech in marketing. And I can’t fully rely on my team because I need them focused on the product itself. So them explaining to me how things work, even though they were frustrating, has actually benefited all of us. In the end.
Tony Zayas 28:15
It’s great. I would love to hear you know, to talk a little bit more about marketing, since that’s your area of expertise is a big part of what you’re doing. How did you initially you know, early on, take the product market, and how has that changed over time?
Elizabeth Dodson 28:33
Early on, we launched the product, we went straight social. And so this is approximately eight years ago, we went straight to social media because one is free. And two, we didn’t know anything about social in our first company, there was no need for social media. We did everything the traditional methods of marketing, whether it was advertisements in trade publications, calls cold calling to specific construction companies, that was very easy for us trade shows that was very easy for us. In this business. How do you get an online product to market to a consumer base where you have no experience? What let’s start with social, everyone’s on social. So we tested out our messages on social that was the first thing on a variety of platforms. Then we started getting Google paid ads to pay per click ads. And we started testing that because they already knew the market share and where we could reach these individuals. Now, when we did this, we assumed that our users were a particular person. We thought that they would be a stay at home moms who had the time to do all this. What we realized is set our moms actually don’t have a whole lot of time they want to do this. But believe it or not, working professionals who really need A lot of efficiencies. That is the core of who Holmes Java’s customer is. And so we had, this allows us to recalibrate. And it allowed us to change our messaging on all our platforms, change our messaging, even on our website. And we did a lot of AB testing with that. We also needed to change the content that we put within our product, but also on our website for the people that were interested in learning more about taking care of their homes. And then we also had to change the types of Google Ads that we put out there. One of the other things we found very successful for us was PR. So when someone else writes about us, whether they write a snippet about us whether they write about the full platform, not necessarily a full review, even though those are helpful, but just a little nugget about how the home’s out, I can help someone else who’s managing a home be more effective. That was really big because it doesn’t feel like it’s a company selling you. It’s some third party speaking about you. And then the other area that we adjusted to overtime because we saw the PR aspect of it was we built an affiliate program. And that affiliate program is for small companies and individuals and influencers to very large companies that we work with on the insurance mortgage and real estate side. So it’s all of it in between as well. And what we found is the affiliates really saw value in what we were doing. And they wanted to showcase it to people and most of those affiliates. Yeah, they wanted to earn some money. But really importantly, they wanted a better way for their customers and their network to manage their homes. And they also thought our product because our product prices, relatively just super affordable. They said, This is great, everyone should know about you. And they also wanted people to protect themselves if something should happen to their home. Because not everybody can predict when a tornado is going to come. We had tornadoes in Chicago this past year, and they’ve never had tornadoes. So make sure you’re protecting what you own. And knowing what you own was one of the value propositions that a lot of these affiliates found in homes of it, and they wanted to pay it forward.
Tony Zayas 32:30
That’s great. A couple of things that I want to talk about a little bit deeper. So affiliate programs. This is an area that I have a lot of familiarity with. And you know, we talk with a lot of our guests every now and then but others as well, on the SaaS space, great way to grow. How did you go about finding recruiting, finding those motivated affiliates? Like what was the approach?
Elizabeth Dodson 32:57
Yeah, it was twofold. So the first thing we needed for those people out there is we needed a platform that could help us manage those affiliates. We weren’t going to build one ourselves. And there is a local platform here in the Sacramento area that we learned of through our networking that has done a really great job for us. And for anyone out there. I’ll just throw a good Kudo out to them. It’s called Lead Dyno. And so you can go check that out. But Lead Dyno was the system that we put in place. We did our own integrations, we managed through it. And then they brought people to the table from their system, which is steps one, two, we also went back to people that we had talked to in various industries. So we had been at some trade shows early on in the Amazon marketing initiatives. And one of the things that we found or a lot of people have been asking for affiliates, so we had already had that database, and we went back out to them. That’s the second thing. The third thing we did was we looked at the industries or the types of people that may want to be affiliated with us. And originally, I talked to you about mortgage, real estate, the insurance, those are some of the industries, but there are also these boutique industries, like professional organizers, home inventory professionals, estate planners, and financial planners. And we went back to them and also shared the vision of HomeZada. And they understood Yes, this plays a role in the long-term viability of my client’s assets. I want to help them with this. So I want to either one performs services with them. But if they don’t want my services, I need an alternative method to introduce them to how to do this on their own and Hamza is that. And so we chose those three methods working with Lead Dyno working with the industries that we talked about at the highest level, but also the other boutique industries, because we have this database, and we consistently keep finding these individuals, whether it’s through social through other avenues, but they love what we do. They want to provide it to their customers. And so that’s how we network with a lot of different people. And a lot of different affiliates are finding value in showcasing homes.
Tony Zayas 35:30
That’s, I appreciate the granular breakdown of the detail there because I think that’s a challenge for some who are looking and love the idea of an affiliate program, the love idea of having essentially as Salesforce out there promoting your product. But I think a lot of times people think of like, you know, influencer marketing and that type of thing. And yes, that could be done. But what you’re doing is really finding, you know, people who were aligned working in a related capacity to you. And so it’s not your target audience. It’s somewhere along the line. So there they’re kind of in line with the set, same endgame, and goals, as you find those types of partners in introducing opportunity. They’re sound like they were happy to promote something because they’re offering a higher value utility to the people they’re talking to, you know, either way, so that’s great. I appreciate the detail. on that. One, I would like to hear a little bit more. Now, just to shift gears again, go back to talking. The other thing you said when you started talking about marketing was the feedback you’re getting from those campaigns. And it sounded like this was early social marketing was probably fairly new to you if he had said he hadn’t done it before that. So how did you go about getting that feedback, and then making adjustments to campaigns and messaging? Only because, you know, we talk on our show, with SaaS products, we talk a lot about user feedback, you know, collecting the user feedback, and then a lot of times, it’s just very one to one and, you know, you get the support requests on and so forth. But I do think marketing is a great way that approaches, learning about your audience, what’s working, what’s not, how did you go about doing that. And for those that, you know, this is newer to them, they haven’t done anything with, you know, AV testing and campaigns. What, just tell us a bit of your experience and some takeaways there.
Elizabeth Dodson 37:30
Yeah, so one of the things that we did was when I described comes out, it’s an all-in-one solution. So we promoted that all-in-one solution to a lot of different individuals and entities and through our marketing campaigns, in the very beginning. And one of the things that we noticed was, we need to stop that process of targeting this all in one, and first, build a relationship with the people out there. And one of the reasons I say that is because when we first launched HomeZada eight years ago, the cloud wasn’t really talked about in the consumer market. It’s, it sounds really weird. In the b2b market, yes. But in the consumer market, there was still some insurance, even though it was already happening behind the technology that they were using, they didn’t understand it. So the first thing we had to do was explain the cloud, we had to build trust with the people we were working with as well. They wanted to know that we were going to be around, they also wanted to know that if I store everything about my house, in your system, you’re not going to sell it, you’re not going to take it somewhere else. And that was really important because these are their assets. And these are a lot of valuable assets. The average person has over 300,000 items in their home, they wanted to make sure that we weren’t selling it and someone was going to come to rob them, they didn’t want any of that stuff. They wanted to make sure it was protected. And it is. So we had to build those relationships. And we had to talk about security. And we had to talk about the cloud. And we had to talk about why it was important to track this information in the system. And then one of the things that we started playing around with was because we’re on different platforms, and because we target homeowners across the country, geographies have different seasonality. Different homeowners, the age of a homeowner has a different need. Some are more experienced than others, some are more tech-savvy than others. The other thing we noticed is are you a first-time homeowner so where are you are in your journey? Are you a first-time homeowner or do you own multiple homes because maybe you’re an investor? So we had to take all of this under consideration and actually start micro-messaging to a lot of these homeowners. And a lot of people kept telling us, that’s crazy, of course. And they kept saying, you’re going to confuse the market. I said I get it. But I have to meet people where they are in their journey of homeownership. And everybody’s on a different journey. There, it’s easy for us to say, Oh, the car is exactly like this because we buy cars that come off a manufacturing plant. And there’s a lot of similarities, if not directly the same. Buy Houses, not one solitary house in this world is the same different people live in it, different people decorate it, they have different styles. They’ve done different adjustments, all these different things. So with that said, we have to keep that into consideration and respect that. So we tried to start doing all these micro messages. And as it happened, it would relate to all the different homeowners. Now one of the value propositions through some focus groups, and some surveys we’ve taken is that hall HomeZada is an all-in-one solution. Because people are exhausted. They’re like, Yeah, so what my home-related information in one system. So that’s a benefit. But it took time to get there. And so we had to recognize what our customers wanted, based on what they use in the system, to what tech support types of questions they bring back to us. Because we did have that as well, excuse me. And then also, what really resonated with them, you can tell which type of content is driving back to your website. If everyone’s using Google Analytics, you can tell this. And it’s really valuable and really important to understand what’s really important to different people, and how do we address that. And so, marketing is constantly evolving. It does this on our professionals as well. Because our professionals have different needs. And there are different industries, with different ROIs that I have to address. A lot of times I do that individually with those partners, but even when we communicate things, we can at least step up our verbiage to relate to that particular industry, not just make it generic all the time for all industries, because then no one’s gonna wants to work with you.
Tony Zayas 42:28
Do you ever see where you know, I’ve mentioned user feedback earlier? But do you ever see where some of the user feedback you’re getting kind of validates your testing and results that you’re seeing from a marketing standpoint? Because marketing, we’re always testing and we’re trot, we’re you know, we get results on a campaign. We try another, you know, your be variation, hoping that it’s gonna, you know, be better than a but do you ever get that validation from users? Like, do you ever kind of complete that feedback loop? Through the user feedback?
Elizabeth Dodson 43:02
Yeah, we do all the time. And so we will get it because they will physically reach out to us. And we are the type of people Yes, we still believe in traditional tech support, because tech can be confusing for people. And we still take phone calls, we still take phone calls, we still use online chat, it’s important to help people understand how they’re using the system, but also decipher the questions that they’re asking. Because it’s very different. And then when we do that, we can also take a look at those conversations. And we ask them, How did you hear about us? What’s going on? And they’ll tell us exactly where they hear it heard about us. I heard about you on Twitter, I saw this email, a friend of mine is using your product, my brother in law’s using your product. And I go Do you mind me asking why they decided to use the product? And I’ll get that feedback. And it’s a matter of me and my team asking the questions of how did you hear about us? What’s important to you what’s going on? And then understanding how to continually not only to market to those points but also to understand how to enhance the product. And to me, they go hand in hand, enhancing the product and understanding what really resonates with the users and potential customers out there. Because you start recognizing what’s really going on and what really is the frustration people have in managing their homes. And let’s face it, our homes are made up of all these little tiny parts and pieces, nails, screws, plywood, drywall, stucco, brick, whatever. And then you put it all together with all these amazing contractors, which a lot of different contractors coming in to do it So there are jobs on top of jobs on top of jobs. And then you give it to a homeowner and you go here, have at it. And they’re just frustrated. So understanding how to bring that down into a very detailed conversation can help people understand how they can make their life of managing a home super easy.
Tony Zayas 45:20
That’s cool. That’s just the whole card. Concept of the product is interesting, because it just brings me back when you first explained it. I thought, you know, that’s so true that you know, there exists like getting you go out into the workforce, you expect to have, you know, a CRM and content management system and all these, you know, project management tools and things, but then you come home, and you’re competing with, you know, I’m in my office here, I have a file cabinet, right? And that’s where we file most of the stuff. That’s what you’re competing with. I hate that thing. But I need it. Right, because I have HomeZada so super interesting that you know how..
Elizabeth Dodson 45:55
You don’t need it anymore. Now with HomeZada your documents in their search, and you’re done.
Tony Zayas 46:02
Now, so yeah, definitely gonna want to find out more myself. But really cool. Would you mind sharing just more of what the entire team composition is we heard about, you know, your founding team, but I’m curious about what that marketing team looks like and, and even beyond?
Elizabeth Dodson 46:19
Yeah, we’re very fortunate we chose a different method than most people we actually have. Because we knew that this was a marathon, we were going to grow our teams steady, Eddie. So the majority of our teams are actually contractors. So additional companies, because we said, how much do we actually need somebody daily, on a particular role. And a lot of people, there’s pros and cons to contractors, but we coincidently worked with a lot of contractors that left the previous company to start their own businesses. So we also had those relationships. And one of the things that came out of the previous company is I think somewhere between the 250 and 300 employees, I think 40 to 60 of them started their own businesses, which is pretty exciting. So it’s very exciting. So we get to connect with them. continue that relationship that we’ve already built. So we have more trust with a lot of the contractors we work with. But we also get to manage our funding. And that’s important. Because a lot of people run out of money when they’re building a company. And you can actually sustain a company, if you are more creative, on how to manage the money. And you can do that through contractors. And so I have a lot of contractors, we have a contractor on the social media site, we have a contractor on the blog site, we have a contractor on the email newsletter side, I oversee everything we have contractors on the development side contractors on I’m trying to think what else from a marketing perspective, oh, sometimes on our PR side, yes, PR because they have more experienced than we do. And then this way, as I’m working with all my contractors on the marketing side, I can focus on the analytics of all of this. And then I can focus on the business development, because both of those initiatives are big, and they’re giant, my average sales cycle for a large partner can be upwards of 24 months. And so I need to make sure I’m on top of all those details. And I also need to understand where we’re going to run into hiccups. But with my contractors, they can actually be the persons that are executing the tasks that we need to do. And it works in our favor. And I love it.
Tony Zayas 48:57
That’s great. Just go back earlier in the conversation you mentioned I think you sent John kind of takes that product management role. Yes. I wanted to hear what what is the importance of having someone that really owns product. Especially because it sounds like HomeZada does a lot. Yeah, to features. So I’d love to hear that.
Elizabeth Dodson 49:25
So product management, I think is a rare science and art. I think it’s rare that you find somebody that can do it like phenomenally. Now, we’re very fortunate. John used to be a project manager for a commercial construction company. So we’re very fortunate that that is where his skill set came from. Because commercial construction is extremely complex in terms of product management and product management. And so when it comes to his ability to see not only the here and now, but also the future of where the product could go understand the technology platforms that are out there without the help of David, but also understanding where technology could be headed, because and what I mean by that is if you’re going to build a portion of a product, and it’s going to be obsolete in 12 months, you need to have the wherewithal to understand that because there’s no point in doing it, then just be patient, and then wait for some other technology come out to make it better. The other thing that having a product manager does, is not only sees the future of tech and the product and where it could be, and truly be that visionary, but also is the person that can see all the different nuances of the different types of users that we have on our platform. Whether it’s a large insurance company that requires a ton of security measures, to an individual real estate agent, offering a gift to a home inventory professional physically using the system to provide a service for their customer or all the different homeowners who have a lot of experience in tech, no experience in tech, because yes, we actually have those types of users, to someone younger, who wants all these bells and whistles to someone older, who doesn’t want any bells and whistles, they just want it done. And then understanding all those dynamics. And taking a breath once again, going back to that patience, taking a breath and saying how would this look and putting the mental whiteboard in their head to make sure that they are covering all their bases. And it’s never 100% foolproof, by the way. But make sure they can cover as many bases as possible is critical to a product like comes out because it’s so complex. And I think it’s extremely beneficial within large organizations that have a lot of products that integrate. Whether it’s in a software company, SaaS company, whatever the case may be, product management, in my opinion, is absolutely necessary to make sure that things run as smoothly as they can. They won’t be perfect, but theirs run as smoothly as they can. But someone with that thought process can decipher all of that information, and then take in all this information coming from everywhere, like a co-founder like me, no, no, no, it needs to do this. Or my other co-founder, the technology won’t allow us to do this right now. And so you’re just having those battles, that individual can actually decipher all of this, and come up with options or ideas of how to actually make that work.
Tony Zayas 53:17
Yeah, that’s a really good insight and complex role. But I think as you said, it makes a huge difference when you have someone that really understands and can perform that function. It’s it’s a game changer. So great insight there. Like, it sounds like you said earlier that you guys raised funding, is that correct? We did? What did the you know? How did you guys go about that? Were you guys out there pitching the product? And what did that look like?
Elizabeth Dodson 53:49
Yes. So we raised a $2.5 million round, I’ll tell everybody that public knowledge. And we did that bulk of that came from the founders, because we did do well at the previous company. So the bulk of it came from there. But then one of the things that we did was we started talking to traditional investors, angel investors. And when I say traditional, I mean companies that are experienced at being an investment organization, and or individuals who are experienced at doing that. And then also we started talking to friends and family. And I’m just gonna put this out there I read something somewhere that if you don’t ask your friends, they actually get insulted that you didn’t consider them. It’s not up to you to determine who meets the criteria. That’s the other party’s responsibility to determine if they meet the criteria I have to do is give it to them. And then they can either politely decline and say I don’t meet it or they may be embarrassed Say that saying I just don’t have the capital right now. But we went to our friends and family because believe it or not, we had one particular friend, John and I mutually have this friend, he kept coming to us, I want to invest in your company, I want to invest in your company, I want to invest in your company, and he’s a doctor in Florida. And I go, why do you want to invest in our company? And he goes, I want that opportunity. I do not have the opportunities to invest in tech that I do in Florida. Now that’s changing. But I don’t always get those opportunities. And I want to be early stage. So how can I play a role? And so we evaluate it, I read that article, we talked to tons of family and friends as well as traditional investors. So we have some traditional angel investors as part of that round. And then we have friends and family. And believe it or not, you actually get surprised at who’s investing and who’s not. I thought some people would invest, but they had other situations. For instance, there was a friend, they have a lot of kids in college, and we’re like, it’s bad timing. get it, we’ve had other friends invest. And I didn’t think that they would ever be an investor, which the lesson to everyone out there, ask the worst that someone can say is I’m not interested. And that’s not a bad thing. Because they may just not be interested right now. And if you have around that you’re trying to fill, you made that round may take a year to fill, let’s just put that out there. I hope it doesn’t, but let’s just put it out there, then someone may come in later in that year. And so that person that said nine now may actually be available in a year. And then I would suggest to anyone out there who’s raising funds, putting a minimum buy-in, that they can put into because you have to manage all these people. Make sure you communicate to those organizations and individuals what’s going on in the business. And also ask them for help. If they invest in you ask them to sign up for the product. Like if it’s in their genre like I’m a b2c and a b2b to see the product. So yes, but what I’ve asked my other all the colleagues that I work together, excuse me, the people that invested in homes, to buy the previous companies brother, some Yes because they are in construction some now. But it just goes to show you that people want this opportunity. And the friends that John David and I have and the colleagues that we have, are not all in tech, they’re in all these different industries that want the opportunity to invest in tech.
Tony Zayas 57:46
That’s great, really good stuff. We’re just about out of time. So I want to move on to just a couple last things. But this has been a fantastic conversation, Elizabeth, I really appreciate it. Before I ask my last question, Where can our viewers and our listeners go to find out more about HomeZada, learn about it, follow what you guys are up to, so on and so forth?
Elizabeth Dodson 58:11
Sure, I would invite them to go to homezada.com and they can always follow us on any of the social platforms because we’re on I believe all of them. And then if they want to reach out to me personally, they can reach me at LinkedIn. And it’s EDodson. EDodson on LinkedIn.
Tony Zayas 58:33
Awesome, very cool. So to wrap us up, a question we always like to ask is, you know if you could go back before you guys and have a cup of sit down, have a cup of coffee with your former self, and share one piece of advice that you’d give your former self, what would that be?
Elizabeth Dodson 58:58
That’s a hard question. Don’t one thing that we didn’t have, that I didn’t, I liked but I didn’t. I don’t like now. We waited to launch the product. We didn’t do a preview, preview. Wait, it’s coming. It’s coming. I would start marketing before having the product live. That’s what I would do. Let people know what you’re doing. It’s a mystery. I’m a firm believer, Mr. goes a long way. But tell people what you’re doing. Get them excited.
Tony Zayas 59:29
That is awesome. Well, thank you so much, Elizabeth. This has been a great conversation. Appreciate your time here today, everybody. Elizabeth Dodson. She is co-founder and HomeZada so go check it out on HomeZada.com. And for everybody that’s tuned in Please join us next week. We have our tech throwdown. Our finalists will be on this show at, same hour next week. So look forward to seeing you guys next time. Until then, thanks a lot and take care, everybody, Thanks Elizabeth
Elizabeth Dodson 1:00:01
Thank you so much!