The real estate sales market has been in an upswing this year, and today a startup that's addressing one of homeowners' biggest needs -- repair and maintenance services, and specifically the stress of sorting these out when things break down -- is announcing some funding on the heels of strong growth.
Super -- which has built a business providing repair and maintenance for electrical and mechanical systems, appliances and plumbing by way of a monthly subscription -- has closed a growth round of $50 million.
The startup plans to use the funding to expand into new markets, to hire more people and to continue adding more maintenance/repair services and partnerships into its wider home-warranty-by-subscription proposition.
CEO Jorey Ramer, who co-founded the company with Ryan Donnelly (VP of engineering), also said that another part of the investment will be used to enhance the AI tech that underpins Super's service and pricing plans. More on that below.
The San Francisco-based company is currently active in some of the fastest-growing housing markets in the U.S. -- Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and Washington, D.C. (ironically not in SF itself) -- and it has grown revenue 7x since April 2019, when it previously raised money, a $20 million Series B. It's not disclosing actual revenue numbers, nor user numbers.
This latest Series C has a number of strategic backers that speaks to the bigger ecosystem of financial and insurance services that interlink with each other, and which are used by the average person in the course of home ownership. (Indeed, Super these days seems to refer to itself as an "insuretech".)
Led by Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, the venture arm of the banking giant, others in the round included home construction giant Asahi Kasei, AAA - Auto Club Group (which also sells insurance), Gaingels and REACH. The last of these is a scale-up service from Second Century Ventures, which is the investment fund of the National Association of Realtors. Aquiline Technology Growth, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, Moderne Ventures and the HSB Fund of Munich Re Ventures -- which all invested in Super's previous $20 million round back in April 2019 -- also participated.
The company has now raised $80 million in total, and it's not disclosing its valuation.
As we have noted before, Ramer came up with the idea for Super when he himself moved to San Francisco after he sold his previous startup, Jumptap — an advertising network acquired by Millennial Media (which is now part of Verizon by way of its acquisition of AOL, just like TechCrunch). He'd been an apartment renter for all of his adult life, but when he moved to the Bay Area, he found himself buying property, and it came with more than a little reluctance because of the headache of taking care of his new home.
“I liked being a renter,” he said in an interview. “You pay a fee, and you know what to expect.” (“Super” is a reference to the superintendents that handle maintenance and repair in an apartment building, and to what Super hopes customers will think about its service.)
The route that Ramer decided to take for how to approach filling that gap, interestingly, is not unlike the challenges that Jumptap faced in the world of ad tech: Instead of trying to build a services business from the ground up, he opted to build an integrated network that tapped into a number of small services enterprises already working in the business of maintaining homes. (The correlation here is that, rather than building a first-party behemoth, the approach is to knit together a number of online properties so that people looking to advertise can do so across a wide range of places in a network.)
Super has created a kind of marketplace: The services businesses and individuals that Super engages with to carry out maintenance and repairs are all licensed and use its platform for free, essentially, and Super handles remuneration based on call-outs. For users, the call-outs come as part of their monthly plans, and they include different options based on which level of service they purchase.
The funding it's announcing today will be used in part to enhance how those monthly plans work.
Not only are there algorithms that Super has built to determine how to price its services based on location, size of home and other factors, there are features in the app that subscribers can use to interact with Super to report issues, call out maintenance people and provide more detail about problems to improve faster, and in some cases, automated, adjudication on issues.
Better tech for more responsive home services has been an interesting area of the market, but one that's largely been ignored up to now. But as they have matured, AR and other computer vision breakthroughs have definitely helped to advance that game. (And a number of others are also tapping into that, including Hover, Nana, Jobber and more.)
The way that the service has been built to scale -- working with contractors means adding more kinds of coverage is easier than building from the ground up -- also means that Super over time may well add more services into the mix.
"The things we would do are things your super would do," Ramer said. "So that might include fixing plumbing, but might also potentially include cleaning carpets, which you could think of as maintenance. Painting is another interesting area. It seems like it might be a cosmetic thing, but if you do not paint, you risk dry rot. It's also preventative care. So if we, say, cover 100% maintenance you could imagine that included, too."
One area where it's unlikely to move is general contract work, say rebuilding a bathroom or kitchen, or adding in a new room in your loft: The focus it seems will remain on the essentials of keeping your home working.
But aside from expanding the services directly on its own platform, there are also potentially opportunities for how Super might work with partners. AAA for example has a notable business not just in roadside assistance but also insurance coverage. Ramer describes Super as "roadside assistance for your home," and he points out that it's a natural partnership to sell those alongside each other.
Similarly, Wells Fargo, as a mortgage lender, is a natural complement, providing a route to its customers to help maintain the properties that they're in the process of paying off to the bank. This in turn also becomes a kind of insurance policy to the bank itself, as it keeps the homes it is financing in better shape.
“Wells Fargo embraces innovation, and we’re excited to support a tech-forward platform like Super which brings further advancement to the home services market,” said Matthew Raubacher, managing director for WFSC’s Principal Technology Investments Group, in a statement. “The challenges of ongoing repairs and maintenance resonates with every homeowner, and Super provides an experience that is convenient for the customer, while boosting job visibility for local contractors and businesses. We look forward to seeing them continue to widen their geographic footprint and expand their product offering.”