Kukun, a home improvement online platform, has been making waves in the industry with its tools geared toward not only helping homeowners find design inspiration but estimate the costs of remodeling and find contractors as well.

The services offered by Kukun allow homeowners to manage the entire process of home renovation from beginning to end. And according to the company, homeowners who have used the online platform have estimated 48,538 home renovation projects, worth over $43.9 million in just two years since the company was started.

Woodworking Network spoke with Kukun CEO and founder Raf Howery about the startup -- how it works, the type of customers who use the site and its place in the industry:

When was the company started/background of founders?
I decided to start Kukun in order to turn my passion for home renovations into a paycheck. Although I was already a successful senior executive in a large management consulting company, my heart was in “homes.”  I enjoyed buying old homes and renovating them, which allowed me to learn the secrets of the trade. Although, I was doing that as a personal hobby, I started to become the source of answers for many of my friends when they were doing renovations. It came to a point where I kept using the same contractors and I could actually predict what he would charge me.

After a few years of being my friend’s go-to renovation guy, a real estate agent friend of mine mentioned something that triggered the concept of Kukun. She said about 20% of her customers never buy - they end up moving away or renting. Most people want a move-in ready home in a very specific neighborhood, but they either can’t afford it or they don’t have time to do a renovation, or worse, they’re scared of renovating. I started thinking about the pain points and how I could solve this transparency issue. Kukun was created to solve this issue and make it less stressful for homeowners to take on home renovation projects.

Please discuss the concept and/or philosophy behind the web-based platform and how it works.
Kukun is the perfect marketplace with easy-to-use tools for home renovators who’d like to complete any renovation project for their home. Kukun’s tools help anyone renovating a home manage the entire process from beginning to end, so they can control the time and money involved along the way. Homeowners use our tools to automatically get answers to the majority of their questions so they can embark on their renovation projects with confidence. In addition, we cater to industries that provide services to homeowners, such as construction professionals, banks, retailers, interior designers and real estate agents.

If someone has a project in mind, they’d visit mykukun.com, look for the home improvement project they have in mind and we’ll provide an estimate for that project in less than a minute. The process is free and the user is given a standard price range for your project that any contractor would provide.

Professionals have their own landing page and create their own profiles, which includes their social media information, portfolio, projects, pictures, etc. Although, we don’t let professionals edit their entire profiles, we provide editing capabilities to parts that will help them improve their score.

The site seems to be broken down into these sections: estimates, gallery, and how to become a Kukun professional. Could you give a brief overview of each?

  • Estimates: This is where someone would click to get an estimate for the project they have in mind. The user is given a standard price range for a project like the one any contractor would provide.   They can also calculate the return on their renovation investment. Our data science team looks at comparable homes and renovations in the neighborhood and considers factors such the health of the real estate market, nearby schools, etc. to make the projected value.
  • Academy: The academy is the place to get folks the right information needed to start any project.  It is a user focused training curriculum that continues to evolve.  We have experts contributing to the curriculum and we continue to look for more contributors.
  • Magazine:  The magazine is about educating and keeping our customer up to date on trends and exciting news. Additionally, we have kept a gallery for folks to find inspiration by style. We collected the photos mostly from Europe and the US and continue to add more on an ongoing basis.
  • Find a Pro: Kukun’s database includes of over 75K professionals in 15 major metropolitan areas with plans to expand to other regions. These professionals span general contractors all the way to artisans including carpenters, so users can find whom they need. Our professionals can join for free and create a great profile and we won’t charge them for it!  We need our users to find as many professionals as they need.  The professionals can also create a profile on their end. We verify certain parts of the profile, then make it public.   Users can contact the pros directly WITHOUT a middle man or a lead generation engine that charges the pros for being found.
  • How to Become A Professional: This section redirects to the Kukun Professional Network. Businesses can activate their free business profile and let the quote requests come directly to them. This process takes about three minutes to set up a FREE Kukun profile, which helps potential clients discover businesses and their services. Businesses are able to own their reputation by showing off their very best work, not just an average of it. Professionals using Kukun can easily manage projects online, request feedback at decision points and keep projects within scope for their clients.

How does the cost estimate calculator account for regional and/or global prices differences, etc?
We have referenced multiple construction manuals and tailored our calculation to each zip code.  Our team of experienced construction professionals continue to make it better on a regular basis.  We also worked with real contractors on the ground in fifteen major metro areas to validate. In creating the algorithm, we assumed ourselves to be a construction company and got the  reference data that we collected from multiple sources for over twelve months to do the calculations. Thus our estimates are as accurate as they can be. To date, Kukun has helped over 12,000 users estimating over half a billion dollars worth of projects in less than 8 months. These projects range from small projects like electric panel replacement to full home renovation, and we are growing daily.   Our estimate volumes are doubling every other month and we have had no user complaints so far!

Our audience consists of home improvement professionals, designers, architects, wood component manufacturers, etc. How should they approach a site like this?
In today’s world professionals must know how to market themselves. A lot of referrals happen digitally these days rather than through word of mouth or older methods. Kukun allows contractors that might not otherwise have a digital presence to be found, verified and referred easily to consumers.  Additionally our users are usually actively looking to remodel when they are estimating, so the professionals should be there and available to serve those customers.  Our professionals do not pay to create a great profile. We made the process free of charge and easy! If any professional has a hard time doing it, they can contact us and we will be happy to assist them in creating their profile.

What sets Kukun apart from other home improvement web-platforms such as HomeAdvisor.com, Porch.com, Houzz.com etc.?
We are the first Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tool driven marketplace that answers customer questions without having to talk to people. Kukun’s marketplace is focused on the consumer, unlike all the other companies in the marketplace. Kukun is here to solve a consumer problem. Instead of focusing on contractors and trying to make money from them, we’re putting the consumer first. The consumer has needs and we know what they are before anyone else. The whole idea of Kukun is that we provide answers to their questions and problems, then we understand their needs and bring in the right industries/professionals to solve those needs. Our big thing is to give the customer the best service possible and the rest of the industries follow. With Kukun, the customer has control.

For more details visit http://mykukun.com.