uber of x

Uber Of X: Paintzen, On-Demand Home Painting

Painting a home is time-consuming. There are colors to compare, inspiration to draw from, paints to pick, painters to hire and on it goes.

That’s where Paintzen comes in. This Uber of X-type business pairs consumers wishing to revamp their walls with inspiration, paint options and labor, all for a completely packaged price in as close to on-demand as it probably gets. Based in New York, the business is now in seven other cities — Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas, Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco — and growing to more. Recently pairing up with Benjamin Moore paint, Paintzen has partners in helping consumers make over their homes.

Paintzen is a product of a home cleaning business that was approached by a general contractor about a big paint job. The business then pivoted and hasn’t looked back since.

Mike Russell, CEO of Paintzen, spoke with PYMNTS about the business, where it’s headed and why it’s like no other option in the market.

What is Paintzen?

We wanted to take something that was a very difficult time-consuming process — getting your place painted — and we wanted to streamline it and make it something you could do in five minutes or less. That process involves getting inspiration for colors, choosing colors, ordering and getting a quote, and booking a painter. So what we’ve done is really consolidated that into one simple booking platform. We have tools like inspiration galleries and partnered with Benjamin Moore to help with the fulfillment of the actual paint as well.

Talk about the history of the company. Got a good story?

So we founded a marketplace for home cleaning called MyClean in 2009. Our office was, coincidentally, across the hall from a general contractor, who walked into our office one day and said, “Do you do any painting?” We said no but asked about the details of the job, and it was a $20,000 job. We were like, “That’s a big job,” considering that our average ticket for cleaning was below $100. So we started researching the world of painting, and it grew from there.

How does Paintzen work in terms of the interface?

You go online and give us really simple information about your home. Our core technology is our pricing engine. We take the information you give us and plug it into our algorithm, which probably has thousands of data points. What we then do is turn around a quote that will tell you how many materials you need for this job — disposable materials like drop cloths — and then how much paint you actually need. We can tell you how long it will take to paint and how much it will cost. The customer sees all of that. Then if they like the price and also want to get the paint, we provide ways to find inspiration and tools that can take the colors that they like in the design phase and assign them to a work order. So let’s say they found a paint that they really like. They can save it to say, “I want this paint to go in my kitchen,” for example, and all those tools are there digitally.

What does the Uber of X concept mean to you?

It’s an interesting marketplace, because it’s one of the few that I’ve seen that sells both the product and labor component combined. So it’s part eCommerce because we’re selling the paint, and it’s part [Uber of X] because you’re getting matched with labor. It’s pretty unique in that sense.

Well, see, we’re not completely an on-demand service. It’s really a scheduled service. So with Uber, you want a car after pressing a button. It’ll be there in minutes. We’re different in that we’re scheduled, so nobody is having people come over “right now.” It’s usually a planned, scheduled service. So I think from the time component, it’s quite different. When you look at the actual business model, we’re investing in the brand experience, building logistics and software and pricing technology. We don’t own employ any painters or own any paint. So it’s really just the software investment that is connecting these worlds.

So how does the pricing model work, and how do you get paid?

Within the price, customers will see one fixed price. Part of that will be for the labor, another part will be for the supplies and paint, and then there is a markup for our fee.

How much funding have you gotten?

We’ve raised about $9 million to date.

Can you talk about a bump or battle wound in being a startup?

The one I like the most is this: We launched this consumer-facing business and started marketing directly to the customer. We pretty quickly learned that there is usually somebody between the customer and the painter, like a contractor, an interior designer and even some property managers. So for the first year, we were targeting the consumer, but then when we realized that we should target the business customer. That’s when we started to hit the present growth trajectory. So I think that thinking our customer was just one niche segment and then learning that it expanded far beyond that was probably the big learning that we’ve had to date.

What does the next year look like for Paintzen?

Continuing to show year-to-year growth. We rolled out three new cities, so the next couple of quarters are focused on growing within our current cities. We want to be in more cities, but we also want a large customer base in each city. After that, there are additional home improvement verticals that customers are asking about, and I think we want to explore those as well.

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