Our Story

When our CEO was a carpenter’s apprentice in Scotland, he witnessed his boss rip off a homeowner and was powerless to help.

So for the next 20 years he travelled the world working on a solution, and with the help of countless amazing people, invented a better way to renovate.

The result is Bolster, a radically transparent way to renovate that delivers beautiful results while guaranteeing the firm (i.e. Bolster), and not the homeowner, is financially accountable for any and all surprises.

Day One

Edinburgh, Scotland

Meet Fraser. It’s 1980, and coming from a family of builders and bankers, he’s growing up on construction sites in his home town of Edinburgh in Scotland.

At the ripe old age of four he begins holding the other end of a tape measure for his father and spending summer holidays helping build family homes—He already knows that when he grows up he wants to make something just as meaningful. Or become a sheriff.

Sheriff.png

The 90’s

At sixteen he quits his stuffy boarding school and takes up an apprenticeship with a local carpenter.

He is assigned menial work, and isn’t allowed to ask questions. The advantage is—when he’s not being sent to buy sky hooks or tubs of elbow grease—he gets to do a lot of watching and listening.

Elbow Grease.png

One day, while working on the renovation of a beautiful Georgian townhouse, he witnesses a renovation nightmare first-hand: his boss causes the first floor landing to suddenly come crashing down.

Fortunately, no one is seriously hurt, but it ultimately costs the homeowners $70K.

He gets angry at the lack of transparency and accountability of his boss and speaks his mind. Shortly after he is demoted to punch bag.

Apprentice.png

The 2000’s

London, England

He attends University in London to study mathematics, but yet again, leaves academic life to launch his own design & build firm.

Him and his team refine every process known to renovation and before long they’re at the top of their game helping Londoners renovate.

But 2008 is just around the corner and the housing bubble bursts. Customers stop paying their bills and Fraser has no option but to lay everyone off. Like all of his favorite Georgian townhouses, he’s gutted.

London.png

Mexico City, Mexico

Fraser moves to Mexico to teach at a design university. With time to reflect between lectures, he publishes a paper on how to fix the home renovation process.

Government officials take note and invite him to pitch for a federal contract with an irresistible brief: Invent a way to guarantee that thousands of renovations every month (worth $30K USD each) are delivered on time and on budget.

He meets local money men Fernando and Roberto who agree to invest if they win the contract. They have 2 weeks to prepare. No pressure.

Big Boss.png

They pitch Fraser’s zero-risk renovation model that sees a bank guarantee the homeowner pays the contractor and an insurance company guarantee the contractor performs - all processed via a web app.

Much to their surprise, they beat The Home Depot and several other major corporations to win the contract and are given 1 year to launch.

Fernando and Roberto get the money together. Anna Karp joins as co-founder. British James joins to code things.

OnisVida goes live May 11th 2009 to 30,000 inquiries and over the next few years grows into 9 markets. Yay!

OnisVida.png

The 2010’s

New York City

In 2012 the founding team moves to NYC, incorporates as OnisLiving, raises $2.4M, bags an insurance partner and goes after the big banks as customers.

Someone refers to the company as “Sonic Leviathan” so the thesaurus comes out and the name Bolster is born.

The American Institute of Architects gets behind the company.

A “network of financially guaranteed contractors” catches on with homeowners and architects but the banks and insurers don’t play along and the company struggles to stay afloat.

NYC.png

Investors want to see “a simple feature that can scale” so the company pivots a few times inventing a transparent bid comparison tool, a fair pricing tool and a way to guarantee homeowners never overpay (without the help of insurers) but no solution on its own has much impact.

In 2015 the founders go their own way and partner with a local contractor and architect. Together they focus on a way to incorporate their inventions into a new process while delivering the projects themselves.

Agustin & Aaron.png

After completing the first batch of in-house projects, the team’s past inventions and elbow grease finally stick.

A streamlined and transparent process, coupled with a new ability to quantify the risks each homeowner is exposed to, enables the firm to offer a fair price and guarantee no cost overruns without the need for an insurer.

Beautifully completed projects and 5-star reviews begin piling up.

The team are high on potential but still low on funds.

SMART.png

In 2017 Fraser gets an email from the CEO of Porch.com saying “hey, we love what you’re doing, how can we help?” Six months later they acquire the company.

They’re nice folk and put the company on a solid financial footing. They’re smart too so Bolster remains independent and gets on with its mission.

Porch.png

In 2018 the company grows from 5 to 30 people and delivers millions of dollars of projects in Manhattan & Brooklyn. Homeowners spend a whopping $0 in unexpected costs.

Somebody jokes “imagine if we could ensure a homeowner’s new home stays new for as long as they live there”. LOL indeed but they’re taken seriously and Bolster’s Lifetime of Ownership (LOO) Warranty product is born.

Customer experience gets taken to a whole new level as bona fide diplomat ‘Caterina the Great’ is hired as Head of Homeowner Experience.

The first canine employee Mr. B. and the Bolster B icon appear on the scene - at the same time. Spooky.

Team.png

One Day

Everywhere

Despite our colorful history, Bolster is just getting started.

You see, we all know that the traditional renovation process—with its signature 2-month delays and $70K hidden costs—is broken, and that it will remain broken until replaced by something better.

This is why every day our team goes to extreme lenghts to make our model accessible to homeowners everywhere.
World.png