Wildfires Inspire Software That Helps Survivors Rebuild Fast

January 16, 2020
Web Developer
Adult businesswoman working at home using computer, studying business ideas on a pc screen on-line. By undrey - Adobe Stock

Necessity is the mother of innovation, and from the ashes of the California wildfires, the notoriously slow-to-change home building industry may have found the next redesign. Homebound, a startup managing home rebuilds for 150 fire victims, uses software to streamline the home building process to eliminate inefficiencies that slow a project down. Nikki Pechet, the co-founder and CEO, saw how these survivors with nowhere to go needed their homes built fast, so she made a company that delivers: One victim who used the service returned home before others who had started the rebuilding before him. The business’ software analyzes 379 unique tasks common in builds, and helps connect the builders, subcontractors, and clients by sending delivery alerts, facilitating collaboration, and allowing users to track the homes progress. 

From his front porch in the hills of Santa Rosa, California, Richard Hicks can see majestic pines, rolling green slopes—and a bunch of unfinished houses. The 72-year-old retiree lost his home to the 2017 Tubbs Fire and moved into a new one built in its place in November. Some of his neighbors who suffered the same fate began rebuilding before him, but he was the first to return. One is still waiting for construction to start. Another lives in a shed put up by Habitat for Humanity.

“I wasn’t going to rebuild,” recalls Hicks, a lifelong Californian who’s owned the property since 1980. “At my age I should be traveling and fishing rather than going through the time commitment and stress and hundreds of decisions you have to make. But I kind of backed into it.”

More than 24,000 California homes have been destroyed by fires since 2017. Some owners sold. Others opted for ready-made homes built in factories. Of those who chose to rebuild from scratch, many continue to manage headaches ranging from debris removal to insurance claims to hiring contractors, engineers and architects. Hicks’ relatively speedy return was helped by Homebound, a startup formed 18 months ago and now managing the whole process for 150 fire victims.

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