HomeKey Startup Launch Case Study

Startup MVP launches with AI-enabled backend and consumer-friendly user experience.

The Challenge

HomeKey is a home’s digitized lifetime record. A visual, proprietary code installed in the home tracks the house’s “genome”, cataloging all the parts and pieces. Based on the home’s specific makeup, HomeKey generates an annual maintenance schedule of to-do’s, parts, and cleaning supplies homeowners need to properly maintain their most important investment.

The HomeKey technology is designed to extend the upkeep and overall lifetime of the home from one homeowner to another. Whoever owns the home gets the code and is able to continue the maintenance schedule without interruption. The homeowner stays in control deciding who sees what information and can share the key with contractors or real estate agents.

HomeKey needed to build a “smart” system with a simple user interface, intuitive user experience, complex back end and database, and integrations to bots & AI devices, like Alexa and Google. It had to feel simple but needed to be very powerful.

To create a minimally viable product for what HomeKey needed was actually quite large and complex in scope. In order to make this product work seamlessly for the homeowner, HomeKey was struggling to find a partner who knew how to work with an early-stage startup without an in-house engineering team. “We needed a partner who could handle the many complexities of what we were building, and also understand what it’s like to bring something totally new to the market.” said HomeKey’s co-founder and CEO, Shane Ettestad. “We looked at offshore development shops, and well as hiring a couple of in-house designers. It just didn’t make sense from a cost and flexibility standpoint.”

Ettestad also wanted a development partner who understood what it means to be in the founder’s seat. It’s a much different journey than the executive inside a large company building a new feature set or solution. “Like many startups, my co-founder and I do not have development expertise. We also didn’t have a huge budget to hire an in-house development team. As a startup with a big vision, we needed a partner who could help build an MVP that we could then sell to our first partners.”

The Solution

HomeKey turned to Founders Workshop for the development of their MVP and got the solution they needed on time, and on budget.

“Founders Workshop has the experience and flexibility to jump in and start at ground zero with the founding team. They have a process for bringing a product to market, at whatever extent you need,” said Ettestad. “More importantly, the team can scale up and scale down as we need. They have a great team right here in AZ that works with a very good nearshore team. It’s really nice to have this blended model. For a startup, it’s like having the best of both worlds while keeping costs in check.”

Ettestad found that the benefits of a blended team were exactly what was needed. “At the onset, it was critical that we had a workable solution to share with potential partners, and we really needed a great UI. Additionally, we needed to build a huge database. Most outsourced teams wouldn’t have known what to do with that, but Founders Workshop was up for the job.” HomeKey also could rely on the founder of Founders Workshop, Vincent Serpico.

“Being able to have access to Vincent has been tremendous. The team is transparent, hard-working, accountable, and an overall great partner. I can’t say enough about our project manager. He did a fabulous job interpreting the UI and translating what we needed to execute the product on time. But it’s having access to Vincent, another founder who gets it, that made all the difference.”

Ettestad acknowledged that early-stage startups who work with outsourced development partners typically don’t have access to the kind of leadership that Founders Workshop provides, and he considers that a major plus. HomeKey was able to get a product in the market, in time, and is now selling to home builder partners. In fact, HomeKey just signed a 3-year deal with luxury home builder Camelot Homes.

“The product is working as planned. It’s fulfilling its promise as an MVP and allowing us to quickly prove traction and start building out. That’s the best we could have asked for as a new tech company. I consider Founders Workshop a true partner that we’ll rely on throughout this journey.”

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