I attended the Seattle B2B Startup Weekend. After watching a everyone pitch their ideas I decided to join a team that was looking for a way to help Seattle homeowners convert their unused spaces into rental spaces. The goal was, that by helping homeowners create rental spaces, we not only can help them earn money but also decrease the amount of new condos being built to fulfil the rental needs. Throughout the weekend our ideas evolved and our approach pivoted, but our goal remained the same.
Our solution was Lighthouse. Lighthouse is a an online platform that walks homeowners through the process of remodeling their unused spaces into long term rentals or short term vacation rentals. The platform assists customers with their goals, manages the project, and is there to answer questions to simplify a confusing process. By helping make the process simple and hassle free Lighthouse transforms customers’ dreams to reality.
Seattle is experience a large amount of growth and this is greatly impacting the cost of living in the city. Because of this a large amount of condos are being created that many people find takes away from a neighborhood's personality. While many people have unused space in their houses that could be converted to rental units, making them additional income, the idea of taking on a project that size can be daunting and expensive.
Working together we devised Lighthouse. Lighthouse is a online project management platform that provides customized help for homeowners who are interested in turning their unused spaces into vacation or rental units. By working specifically in the niche market of additional dwelling remodels, Lighthouse can focus on everything that a homeowner would need to remodel their space and start making money. Lighthouse works with professional general contractors that know your area and the regulations. The general contractors provide their own team that they work best with and Lighthouse walks the homeowners through the process. If at any point the homeowner need guidance their personal project manager is there to answer their questions and help them along the way.
For service providers, working with Lighthouse allows them to spend their time doing what they do best. Lighthouse screens homeowners and assists them in finding financing if necessary. To make sure Lighthouse only works with the best people, service providers as well as the customers rate their experience working with one another. This allows us to know if there is ever any problems and take action accordingly.
Starting out the project, none of team was familiar with the remodeling or rental industry. We started Friday night by researching possible solutions as well as the feasibility of our initial idea. Due to your limited knowledge of the industry, it took us until early Monday morning to figure out a solution that would be good for not only the businesses that we would be working with, but something that we could be proud of that would help the homeowners.
Since my team didn’t have experience in these industries, customer interviews were extremely important for our research and process. We wanted to know how feasible our idea was, and if it was something that homeowners or service providers would want to get on board with. Throughout the weekend we interviewed two owners of construction companies, two real estate agents, an environmental designer and trained architect, and someone who recently converted their basement to be used for airbnb rentals.
When talking to the business owners we wanted to know how to make this service beneficial to them, how they screen potential customers, and how we save them time. For Real Estate agents, we wanted to know about zoning restrictions as well as their interest in the service. When talking with the homeowner we wanted to know how her experience went and what were problems that she faced
For Real Estate agents, their primary interest was in Lighthouse providing content for potential buyers, in exchange for referrals. We learned that there are less houses in Seattle with unused basements, but they recommended expanding to attics, garages, and tiny houses.
All of the service providers were interested in being involved with Lighthouse because it would save them time in looking for customers. We learned that they spend a large amount of time on unqualified customers writing estimates and surveying the job. Therefore, as long as Lighthouse provided quality leads at a reasonable referral fee than they would be interested in working with us.
The homeowners I spoke with remodeled her basement over the summer and found the process to be overwhelming and poorly managed.Certain parts of the remodel were done in an inefficient order and he brought it subpar subcontractors.The projects ended up costing twice as much as was originally quoted.
After understanding who all of our stakeholders are, we wanted to narrow in on a few of our key players for understanding the customer journey.
A “weekend handyman,” and likes to do it himself, sometimes overestimates his abilities
No-nonsense and values good, quality, work
He is remodeling his basement for his aging parents
Purchased their house several years ago as an investment
Stacy cares about style and is excited to convert their upstairs into an airbnb space
Working professionals. Stacy is an office manager and Keith is a financial planner
A degree in construction management, but found that it wasn’t what he expected and dislikes traditional construction culture
Works at Lighthouse as a project manager (sales/customer service)
He is excited about tech and startups
After creating the user personas and their goals, Holly and I worked through the customer journey for Stacy and Keith. This allowed us to think through what was needed for the website to draw in new customers, as well as how their experience would go after their account was created. This process became entwined with creating the user on-boarding survey as well as our wireframes.
Due to the time constraint, Holly and I worked through the wireframes on the whiteboard and then jumped straight into design. We wanted to create a homepage that would answer the customers questions and get people excited about their future remodel. We did this by designing modular units that fulfilled the needs of our personas. We then rearranged the units envisioning how they might view the website.
An important part of Lighthouse is working through the customer onboarding, particularly filling out the initial survey. The goal of the survey is to get customers excited about their remodel, introduce Lighthouse to the customer’s project, and to weed out customers who are not serious. It was important for us to find the right balance between ease of use and providing useful information for our service providers. We did this by limiting the amount of questions, but allowing customers to upload photos of their spaces.
Work with a personal project manager who knows your project
Receive answers to your questions, referrals for pre-screened professionals, and anything else you might need
Save money by keeping the project on track
Work with local professionals in your area
Lighthouse has people who can help you at any step of the way, whether that is remodeling your space, renting it, or just getting some help with a contract
Survey and Lighthouse connections allow for quality business for service providers
Lighthouse doesn't work with the cheapest service providers, but they do work with some of the best. We wanted to convey with with our branding and have it feel modern, clean, and confident. We did this by using welcoming photography, clean icons, and both bright and dark blue.