A Q&A with Architizer co-founder and CEO Marc Kushner. The New York City-based startup, which is a digital architectural project database and building materials marketplace, announced in mid-February that it has closed a $2 million Seed funding round. Investors are Alessandro Piol, Joanne Wilson, Gaspar Global Ventures and other unnamed private investors. It was founded in late 2009 by Kushner, Alexander Diehl, Matthias Hollwich and Benjamin Prosky.
SUB: Please describe Architizer and your primary innovation.
Kushner: Architizer is the largest database for architecture online. It is free for architects and architecture firms to come and upload their projects; and we have gathered 60,000-plus projects. With enhanced information from architects, we are cataloging what products they use in their projects—this provides a new resource for architects who collectively specify over $200 billion worth of projects every year in the U.S. alone.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Kushner: We are a two-sided marketplace targeting architectural professionals and the building product manufacturers. Amazingly, most building manufacturers don’t know where their products are specified—they lose track of them once they leave the factory and move through global distribution channels. The manufacturers are equally excited to find out where their products are used as they are to show off how fantastic their products are to architects.
We serve architects by arming them with information. Architects specify so many products, but there is no resource to see where those products have been used. Architizer is built to become a crucial resource for architects to research and specify products.
Kushner: The marketplace is dominated by entrenched catalog businesses that predate the Internet. There will always be a use for the yellow pages, but we know that the contemporary architect is looking for recommendations as much as they are looking for traditional product information; we differentiate ourselves by linking building products with architectural projects.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $2 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Kushner: Architizer is four-years-old. We bootstrapped the launch and did a small friends-and-family round along the way to keep us going. We haven’t gone out to raise money before because we were intent on building our community, building the database and finding the right business model. We had been making money through sponsorship and traditional media advertising, but we knew that with our huge database that there was a way to help the architectural community and serve the building manufacturers too. Once the trajectory was clear, it was time to raise our Seed round.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Kushner: Tech and sales.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Architizer? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Kushner: I am a practicing architect and am partners in a 25-person firm called HollwichKushner. Before the firm was successful, we made it through the lean years of the recession with very little commissioned work. This gave us the opportunity to think about the industry’s larger problems and how the Internet could address them. We started Architizer as the first democratic platform for architecture where anyone could upload their work and show off to the world the amazing work that architects do. Core to our mission is changing architecture for the better by developing online tools to help architects do their jobs better.
Kushner: Having great co-founders. My co-founders Matthias Hollwich and Benjamin Prosky, dean of communications at Harvard Graduate School of Design, brought deep industry knowledge and connections. Co-founder Alex Diehl brought social media and network expertise with the work his creative agency, KKLD, had done for clients like BMW and Lufthansa.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Kushner: It was agony coming up with the name, and there is a long list of also-rans. We liked ‘Architizer’ because it is active; it is doing something. And when we are done, the whole profession will have been architized.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Kushner: Not currently, but we are always on the lookout for investors who can help us achieve our goals.
Kushner: As a trained architect, I have been most shocked by the cultural difference between an architecture studio and the culture of a startup. In an architecture studio there is a collective assumption that architecture is hard and that it requires long hours and huge dedication. A startup can engender the exact same culture, but the value proposition needs to be crystal-clear. The Architizer team did not all emerge from the same insane crucible of architecture grad school, so we work constantly to build a culture of transparency, teamwork, and enthusiasm. It has been a huge learning curve for me, and those changes are now informing the way we run the architecture office.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Kushner: We make money by charging building product manufacturers a monthly subscription fee to be on the platform.
SUB: What are your goals for Architizer over the next year or so?
Kushner: To help architects do their job more easily.