“Summer and life are easy,” the old song goes, but summer can also provide unique challenges and opportunities for homeowners. To continue the musical analogy, a few proptech startups are using technology to help homeowners with their exterior construction jobs in hopes of curing their “Summertime Blues.”
Painting the exterior of buildings is a service property owners often seek to do in late spring and summer, said Nick Hegeman, CEO of Spray painta Nashville, Tennessee-based commercial painting company that uses robotics to increase efficiency.
“There’s definitely more demand in the summer, but that’s also geographical,” Hegeman said. “We are a national company so we are seeing a combination of a traditionally busy summer, but as we operate across the country, mostly below the snow belt, things are going year round.
“So we plan to offset all [hiring] rise in power, [plus] we just keep growing so fast that it’s not the traditional “hire a bunch of people for the summer and then fire everyone as the work goes when it gets colder”. ”
“Cobots” — or robotic extensions for human workers — also help, Hegeman said. Instead of having crews painting everything by hand, PaintJet uses a robotic attachment that works with industry standard man lifts such as boom lifts and other aerial lifting platforms to increase the production of a painter from 550 square feet per hour to more than 7,000 square feet per hour, he said.
“We paint large commercial buildings at the push of a button,” Hegeman said, “using human cobots to enable commercial painting contractors to dramatically improve their productivity and quality, and allowing them to meet the demand for paint.”
Founded in 2021, PaintJet has grown rapidly, with “just over a quarter million” in revenue last year and is on track for “$1.7 million this year,” Hegeman said.
Despite ongoing labor shortages, Hegeman says his company is able to multiply the productivity of available workers, especially during the summer when labor issues are exacerbated by vacationing employees.
“It really shows exactly why we exist,” Hegeman said. “Our ability for a paint crew to increase their capacity by more than 10x really helps alleviate a lot of these issues.”
Two other more common outdoor chores in the summer are mowing and watering the lawn. Proptech is there too.
Lawn and Rachio are startups that apply technology to disrupt and improve those boring, repetitive, labor-intensive jobs.
Founded in 2013, the Austin-based Lawnstarter app gives homeowners access to thousands of local lawn care professionals across the United States. Binary Capital, Capital of Bull Creek, Edison Partners and Lerer Hippeau.
Similarly, Denver-based Rachio, founded in 2012, offers homeowners an application-focused technology sprinkler product that pairs with existing sprinkler systems to reduce water waste. VCs invested $20.5 million in the startup across seven funding rounds.
Lawnstarter and Rachio did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
While most seasonal proptech companies see an increase in demand for their services in the summer, not all are married to the season.
Ergeona tech-based general contractor startup founded in 2018 and operating in California, Georgia and Texas, combines technology and a globally located workforce to build and maintain fences faster and cheaper cost,” said Jenny He, CEO and Founder.
“Summer is not necessarily our work period, and sometimes we see more work in spring and fall,” He said. “There is a bit of a slowdown in the winter, but less because of the weather, more because of the holidays.”
The company eschews traditional on-site fence construction and maintenance quotes through its technology platform, she said. Instead, Ergeon uses satellite measurements, parametric computer-aided design modeling and real-time pricing to enable customers to make decisions remotely. Customers can also get 3D visuals.
“So we provide 3D visuals even for a project that is only a few thousand, because everything is auto-generated,” He said. “You get that premium experience that you normally do for a large project where you hire a landscape architect or a GC. We provide that to you, no matter the size of the project.
The result automates the whole process. Anyone, anywhere in the world who had the proper training and data tools provided by Ergeon could learn all about all the local regulations, specifications and other necessary information, according to He.
Ergeon serves homeowners as well as businesses who have different times of the year that they like to do construction and repair work.
“Let’s say you’re a restaurant or a retail business,” he said. “A lot of times people really like to do [outdoor] work either during the off-season, during the winter when the outdoor space is not too crowded, or they like to prepare it just before summer. Some of the other businesses we work with, let’s say it’s a daycare or a school type business, often optimize differently. They prefer to do the work in the summer, because that’s when you know the kids aren’t going to school and so on. So it depends a bit on the nature of the job.
Somewhat counterintuitively, parks and playgrounds sometimes prefer summer for fencing construction and maintenance, she added.
Like everything else, COVID has affected demand for Ergeon’s services, especially restaurants facing the need for outdoor dining space.
“We see a bit more demand when people try to do a major upgrade,” He said. “In fact, they often try to do it just before summer so they can enjoy it during the summer. During the pandemic, we have seen a lot of demand [from restaurants wanting to] build small parklets so there is more space to eat outside. I know there will be a lot of demand for this, especially during the summer months.
Some demands for maintenance work also increase in the summer, she added.
“They recognise, ‘Hey, we already have a fence, but it looks a bit heavy,’ so now is a good time to do a quick wash and make it much more attractive to customers for the summer. “
Philip Russo can be contacted at [email protected]