Why Bolster was nominated for a Resilience Award

Bolster was recently nominated for an award held by Alley and Entrepreneur Magazine. We were asked to submit a story and share the biggest lesson we'd learned in building Bolster. Here is the story we submitted:

Bolster’s mission is to solve a broken home renovation process by inventing something better- an entirely new approach that empowers everyone with better data and actually guarantees projects are completed on time and on budget.

We began in Mexico as OnisVida, a startup that significantly minimized the risks of home remodeling and successfully delivered thousands of projects with the Mexican Government. We came to New York as immigrants, having acquired seed money, built a team, and invented a product to tackle the problem of financial risk on renovations. But gaining traction in NYC’s market proved to be exceedingly difficult; after 2 years, we ran out of money and had next to zero revenue.

With creditors knocking on our door and bankruptcy looming, we felt we had no choice but to shut down the company. But we didn’t: rather the founders, determined to make Bolster work, agreed to stay on for another year with no pay to try and turn things around.

Naturally, there were plenty of opinions out there as to what went wrong and how we needed to fix it. Some investors told us Bolster was failing because we were trying to solve a complicated process rather than create a simple product to acquire the market with. But a piecemeal approach was exactly what wasn’t working. Initially, we’d focused on trying to eliminate the financial risk inherent in renovations with a guarantee. Then, we developed tools to make bids more transparent. After that, we created reports that empowered owners upfront with data about their budget. Eventually, we realized that there could be no one trick product: The only pathway to success was to use the tools we’d developed to create one streamlined, data-driven process and app for all parties.

And that process—which incorporates vetted professionals, data-driven budget and risk reports and bids financially guaranteed by a leading insurer—is clearly working. Revenue grew from 2015 to 2016 by 1000%, and we will match our 2016 revenue within January 2017 alone. Our general contractors also have the highest conversion rate (81%) in the market by a multiple of three, and we’re on track to win 95% of all bids offered. 

Jonathan Ehrlich of Foundation Capital, who has been following the Bolster journey since the beginning said “I’ve been very impressed with Bolster’s determination to fight through the muck and hardship that is the entrepreneurial journey.  Fraser and team are certainly demonstrating the tenacity, focus, and faith needed to build a company from scratch

We learned that as entrepreneurs, rather than take people’s advice unthinkingly, it is better to use it to navigate your own experienced judgment. The key to Bolster’s comeback seems to have been the confidence we have in our vision, and the boldness not to conform to received wisdom about what makes startups successful. The time we took to hone our process—despite the threat of failure and the doubts of those outside the company—was crucial to developing our unique point of view, solving the renovation process, and building something that is now delivering real value to owners and professionals throughout NYC and growing better than we ever could have imagined.

- Fraser Patterson, CEO