Disruptive businesses can sound pretty crazy at first. I thought Jim Brown might have a screw loose when he first told me about Haven. It’s a free mobile app and website that uses public data and predictive technology to help homeowners identify maintenance needs and then get that work done and pay for it at the touch of a button.

Okay, maybe the business model doesn’t sound so crazy. (I wish I had-had something like Haven 20 years ago when I first bought a house.) It does, however, sound a lot like some new app products from Angie’s List that allow users to find service providers, schedule work to be done and more. I asked Jim if it was a smart idea to go head-to-head with a public company that has competition-crushing marketing dollars.

“The simple answer is that we’re not going head-to-head with anybody, really,” Jim said. “What we’re trying to do is proactively help homeowners be better homeowners, and nobody else is doing that. When we originally started talking about this business, we thought of ourselves as Mint.com meets Uber, but for your house. The biggest differentiator we have is that we’re building this business as an analytics platform. It will learn and get better over time. It uses data from all sorts of sources to improve its recommendations to our homeowner users.”


How Haven Works from Joe Wanninger on Vimeo.


Essentially, the Haven customer and the Angie’s List customer are two very different homeowners. It’s not a zero-sum game where someone has to lose if someone else wins. And since only about 2 percent of the more than $400 billion home services/home maintenance market is being captured online — yes, that’s a market approaching half a trillion in value — Jim thinks there’s plenty of room for growth with all kinds of customers.

The niche for Haven is the busy professional who understands the value of proactive asset management and wants to be a responsible homeowner; but has zero interest in bargain hunting or waiting for contractors to call back. Haven users are likely to be millenials who are very comfortable buying things on the internet without researching. They just want to know what they should be doing to keep their home ship-shape, and then they want the solution to be as easy as tapping the “buy now” button.

“To be clear, our app is for those who want to click a button versus those who want the lowest price,” Jim said “Now we are definitely going to be competitively priced, but we may not be the lowest. We aren’t going to be doing Groupons or bundled deals or things like that. We’re going to do a quality job for a fair price, and our research with actual customers here in this community says that users just want someone to do the work. For things that are very routine maintenance, they don’t care who does the work so long as it’s a quality job done at a fair price.”

Haven intuitively tracks maintenance items that most homeowners constantly face but tend to neglect amid their hectic schedules. The app issues reminders for routine tasks like changing an air filter, scheduling lawn or pool service, and summoning quick response for incidents like a water leak or storm damage. When maintenance services are required, Haven users can obtain instant pricing quotes based on their personal information, schedule an appointment with a pre-approved contractor, and pay for it all within the same app.

Here’s what’s really cool about Haven. If you buy a house in a neighborhood where Haven already has users, it’s likely that the app is going to know more about your house than you do. When you open up the app it’s going to verify a few things like whether or not you have a gas furnace by Trane model XC95m. How does it know? Well, most neighborhoods are built by the same builder and that builder has preferred vendors and equipment. Of course, it won’t be right 100 percent of the time, (furnaces get replaced, etc.), but this is the type of user experience Haven is offering through its predictive technology.

“We never want to ask a homeonwer questions that we can figure out the answer to through data sources,” Jim said. “So an example here is we might ask you to verify your HVAC system and the last time you changed the air filter, but we don’t need to ask about the size of the air filter or how often it needs to be changed — in fact, we’ll be the ones telling those things to the homeowner! We might ask a few people what day trash day is in this neighborhood, but as soon as we get a statistical confidence level that says trash day is Friday, we no longer have to ask that.”

In the simplest terms, what is Haven?

Haven is a free, intuitive mobile app and website that equips homeowners with predictive technology to be better homeowners. It provides value to both do-it- yourself inclined homeowners by providing an individualized reminder and tracking system, as well as homeowners who need help, by providing licensed, insured, pre-vetted service professionals, scheduling services, and accepting payment–all without ever leaving the app. Haven gives homeowners confidence and peace of mind to be responsible and proactive in home maintenance decisions.

What are Haven’s most important features?

Haven enlightens and empowers homeowners with several core areas of functionality. Our “Bright Ideas” provide personalized, relevant and timely recommendations, our “Punch List” is an intuitive, learning task list and calendar to keep track of home projects, and reminders, our “My Home” is a virtual ‘manila folder’ containing preferred providers, preferences, warranties, and, service contracts, and our “Haven Now” allows homeowners to hire pre-vetted home service providers by just answering a few questions and scheduling inside the app. Underlying all of these features is an intelligent learning engine that gets smarter over time.

 What problems are you trying to help homeowner users solve?

Haven customers are looking for answers and solutions regarding their home maintenance direct from their mobile devices. They don’t have time to review lists and make calls or wait for calls from service providers. Haven customers have told us they’re looking for convenience and quality at a fair price. They’re used to being able to hail a taxi, get groceries delivered, or have their laundry done on their mobile devices and believe home services should be no different. Haven is all about making home services simple to understand and simple to schedule.

Who is the team behind Haven?

Haven was founded by Jim Brown, Joe Wanninger and Craig Sturgis. Brown previously worked at Compendium and Slingshot SEO, in addition to several other marketing-related businesses. Wanninger was the co-founder of Indianapolis-based Orbis Education and worked there for the previous ten years. Sturgis was one of the first developers at SmarterRemarketer, and is the person most responsible for the framework and architecture of the product.

Since September, we have added three additional developers (Nathan Davis, Jason Luebke, and Anthony Panozzo). With challenges like machine learning, complex pricing algorithms, and intelligent suggestion queueing, what we are building is complicated and requires a significant investment in software development.

How is Haven funded?

Haven has completed a $1,025,000 oversubscribed round of seed funding. In addition to sixteen angel investors, both Elevate Ventures and the Innovate Indiana Fund participated in the round. The capital will be used to continue enhancing the product, add employees, and fuel marketing efforts.

We are looking for engineers from the software side, we are looking for UI/UX designers, and we are looking for marketers from all over the spectrum of experience, entry level and senior people.

What is the growth trajectory of Haven?

We are launching in Indy in January and plan to test two additional markets in 2015 before going national. We look at 2015 as the year we prove (and modify) our business model, and then 2016 and beyond as expansion. We started this business to grow quickly (but not at the expense of burning too much money). The on-demand economy is a quickly-growing market and we want to be a big part of the conversation.

At this point, we’re most interested in having people sign up for early access to the app at www.joinhaven.com.


Raising the profile of Indiana startup companies through stories like this is made possible by Tailwind, a TechPoint initiative powered by the Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.