This is a condensed transcript of TechCrunch’s interview with Kopperfield’s founders on their recent fundraiser and how they’re accelerating home electrification. (Remarks were edited for clarity.)
Q: Why did you start a sustainable tech company?
Jesse: I wanted to apply my skills as an entrepreneur as a founder to this collective climate challenge we face. I want my daughter and the next generation to be able to enjoy the same things I do.
Mark: Living through the California wildfires woke a lot of us up to the fact the climate crisis is here. It’s now. We learned terrifying words like "gigafire". My kids were asking me why the sun wasn't shining. It was deeply impacting.
Q: Why did you decide to focus on home electrification?
Mark: Rewiring America was very inspiring to both of us. Up to 40% of emissions in the US come through personal infrastructure choices. That's huge. If we can shape purchase decisions people are making by making it very easy for them to get the things that they want, we can accelerate electrification and make a significant impact on our carbon footprint.
Q: What’s your mission?
Mark: We’re accelerating home electrification by making it seamless for people to buy major home electric appliances. We’re building the commerce infrastructure that enables these transactions to be very smooth wherever they exist on the internet. One thing that we believe strongly is that many more people in the world are going to be wanting to buy and sell these devices online. If we can make the purchases very easy, we can dramatically accelerate the growth.
Q: How do you plan to achieve it?
Mark: The consumer needs to be able to push a button and it's all orchestrated — the job is estimated, the install is scheduled, the money coming from the government is deployed, financing options are all there. That's how we're going to get people happy in new electric homes. It's about finding the friction, then applying software and technology to remove it.
Q: How does Kopperfield work?
Mark: You go to our website, tell us your address and what you want to install. From there, we give you an instant estimate and you decide whether to go forward. If you go forward, you can go ahead and schedule your installation and then securely pay with mobile payments. From there, the electrician shows up to your house, they do the installation, and then we send a bill.
Q: How do you help consumers?
Mark: The innovation really is in trying to meet the customer's expectation of how things should be. Consumers spend a lot of time doing research and calling contractors. We can make all that go away. We weave instant pricing, online scheduling, and incentives and rebates together in a smooth online purchase motion. So they can just push the button and get the upgrade.
Q: How do you help installers?
Mark: From our surveys with electricians, we know up to 40% of the time that they spend on these types of installations is non billable. Especially with more digital processes coming forward, we are going to be able to reduce that to nearly zero.
What we're learning through partnerships with electricians is they're spending a lot of time on non-billable work. They're answering the same consumer questions over and over again; they're trying to figure out scheduling; they're trying to do internal work around emails and chats; they're trying to figure out how to get people to reply to their permit follow-ups and pay their bills.
Q: What are you learning in your pilot?
Mark: We’ve found success in the pilot estimating how complicated a job will be. We can estimate how long it's going to take and then match times that work for the home owner and contractor. We're also learning how to know when it's not going to be that simple and how to deal with special circumstances.
The vast majority of these jobs are relatively simple. As we think about these electric appliances becoming more and more common, I think that is going to be a really great way for electricians to build very strong businesses that have this repeatable, very valuable work.
Q: What are you plans for expansion?
Mark: Right now we're focused on EV chargers, but we're expanding to other verticals and other categories. Heat pumps are more complex than EV chargers. They require more coordination, more paperwork. Financing becomes a bigger issue. The window for getting a heat pump installed is often three to four months.
One of the advantages of the software we’re building is that it will have even more value the more complex things get. For example, if you need to do concealed wiring run and you want to find somebody to do the patch, and paint, we have the software to orchestrate what the what the next step is.
We're stripping away complexity. We think this key accelerating home electrification.
Q: How would you handle rebates?
Mark: It's going to depend on how things shake out.
There's a wide range of things I learned at Stripe building consumer tools for businesses. The first step is to identify the rebates. That's already pretty tricky. The second step is to help if there's forms we can help pre fill and things like that. We can send them to you at the right time and help you fill them out quickly and easily.
As things get more clear, we would love to be able to bring incentives to you automatically, and, ideally, early in the process.
Q: What about financing?
Mark: That’s one of the things we found consumers have a hard time with. These installations are typically hard to get financing for. Many of the installers that we've talked to and work with don't offer financing. Part of the affordability issue is that these upgrades need a combination of both incentives and financing. A technology platform is a great way to bring those two things together.
Q: Do you handle permitting?
Mark: In Washington state the electrician who performs the work must pull the permit. We provide the information, and the electrician pulls the permit. We've seen jurisdictions that are starting to do remote inspections. Those are the types of things that open up the doors for software to help even more.
Q: What’s next?
Jesse: We launched this pilot in Seattle just a few months ago, and have seen really great uptake and adoption from our partners. Those positive signs have encouraged us to expand into new markets. We’re really excited to roll out in new metro areas later this year. We are expanding geographically as well as growing the team.