Wed, 8 April 2015
About: Fraser Patterson- Founder and CEO of Bolster
Bio: He’s been a carpenter and award-winning general contractor in the U.K.; a guest lecturer in entrepreneurship and business incubator executive at Centro, an architecture and design university in Mexico; a mentor to various startups for Endeavor, a global non-profit that supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets and the founder and C.E.O. of OnisVida, a company that helps homeowners manage their remodeling projects with finance from Infonavit, Latin America's largest mortgage lender.
Overview: Fraser is an innovative carpenter who is transforming the home remodeling space. With a background in math and physics, Fraser is changing the lives of homeowners and contractors for good.
Background: Fraser began working as a carpenter in Scotland, while also studying math and physics. During this time in his life, he continually thought there had to be a better way to remodel. Eventually, Fraser became a general contractor, grew very quickly, won Ikea as a strategic partner, won numerous awards, and then the economy crashed in 2008. From there, Fraser moved to Mexico and was offered a position teaching entrepreneurship at the Architecture and Design University in Centro, Mexico. While there, Fraser suggested starting a business venture for these students and met with the head of endeavor at Mexico who then got involved in helping Fraser start this business venture. Then, one day, Fraser got a call from the Mexican government asking if he could help solve the remodeling process. With the help of Infonavit (Latin America´s largest mortgage lender) Fraser was able to implement Mexico’s first home remodeling insurance platform in partnership with Infonavit , HSBC Mexico and Aserta. After proving to be successful, Fraser decided to take this idea to the U.S. and started Bolster with his co-founder Ana.
What is Bolster: Bolster is a start up company in the home remodeling space. They've invented the first affordable performance bond for small construction projects. They provide the consumer with the contractor who has been vetted by them, and backed by an insurance company that literally guarantees they will finish the project according to the terms of the contract. And if, for any reason, that contractor fails the insurance company will find another contractor and make up the financial difference of bringing on another contractor. The process to vet a new contractor only takes about 24 hours. Bolster is completely in charge of handling all the paperwork/contract for the consumer's project.
Challenges: It has been tough for Fraser's company to acquire the market here in the U.S. He's had to heavily educate the market (contractors and homeowners) because Bolster is such a new idea. Consumers tend to think that the idea of their contractor being backed is almost too good to be true.
Acquiring the Market: Initially, what the company did was partner with the American Institute of Architects, but it didn't produce the results that Fraser was looking for. Then, they tried going through real estate agencies, which was mildly successful. Bolster did receive a lot of press but there were complications with the overflow of people reaching out and they struggled with capturing and nurturing their audience. They soon came to realize that by helping the contractor sell the product themselves, it gave Bolster and the contractors a great advantage in competition.
Team Size: There are about 5 people who work closely with the company, but Fraser does not want to grow the company size until he is confident in scaling it successfully. He's been there before: believing in a solution to the problem, but then finding out that the market/sales approach was wrong which caused them to back-pedal. Fraser is more focused on helping the market first and winning contracts before he increases the company size.
End Game: Fraser really sees Bolster as the remodeling solution for the contractor from end-to-end. He wants to help contractors market themselves, give them back-end tools, measure their performance, and essentially turn them into super contractors. He also wants to be able to set up individual sites for contractors with a back office to help manage their customers. Fraser wants to become the brand for the contractor more than a brand for the consumer.
Advice for Entrepreneurs: Assume your idea is wrong. Go out, analyze your market, and gather the data for your product. If you can test your assumptions in a light way (more than just surveys, and talking to people) you will have a much better idea of the potential of your company. It's important to go out and help your potential customers, figure out what their pain points are, learn how you can help them, and then help them create a service from it.
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