Technology Spotlight: An Interview with Birdwatch

As part of Beaumont Bailey’s mission to connect founders, innovators and key players that make up the fabric of our industry, our latest Technology Spotlight series highlights the successes of our incredible members and wider network. In this third instalment, we speak with Chris Rosenbaum, Co-Founder at Birdwatch.

Tell me a about your organisation and how your own career path has landed you at Birdwatch.

Sure, I’m Chris Rosenbaum, CEO and co-founder of Birdwatch, a home services company serving Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My career journey began in education and edtech, where I spent over 12 years in leadership roles at companies like Kaplan, Knewton, and Bertelsmann.

Later, I co-founded several companies across the human capital, marketing, and digital product innovation sectors. But my latest chapter, founding a home services business, was a leap.

During the pandemic, the need for quality home services became glaringly apparent as people spent more time at home, highlighting the challenges of finding reliable help.

The existing market is highly fragmented, with local providers abstracted by the marketplace lead aggregators in this increasingly transactional environment, we recognised the opportunity to reimagine the usual experience within the home services industry.

Drawing on our backgrounds in human-centred design, our goal with Birdwatch is to bring delight back to home services by prioritising quality, reliability, and trust. By addressing the frustrations of homeowners and innovating on the customer experience, Birdwatch aims to streamline the process of solving household needs, ultimately enhancing the overall home service experience.

Looking a little closer at the technology, what problem does Birdwatch solve?

Absolutely. At Birdwatch, we recognise that owning a home can be a cumbersome experience. Our primary goal is to simplify this process by offering not just options, but comprehensive solutions. Over the past 15 years, the focus of technology in the home services industry has been on marketplace models, connecting service providers with customers. However, what’s missing is the personal, ongoing relationship between homeowners and service providers that was common in previous generations.

We firmly believe that this absence of relationship-building is detrimental to both homeowners and service providers. By prioritising transactions over relationships, the industry has lost the trust and hospitality that comes with personal connections. At Birdwatch, we aim to restore this by adopting a model based on a long-term relationship.

Through our membership program, homeowners gain access to a dedicated Home Manager who understands their unique needs and preferences. We pride ourselves on delivering exceptional customer service, ensuring that our clients feel valued and supported throughout their journey with us. This human-focused approach allows us to help turn a house into a home that homeowners love.

Moreover, our model extends beyond just providing a personal touch. We employ in-house technicians who are responsible for carrying out the majority of the work in clients’ homes. This ensures consistency and reliability, as homeowners can trust that it will be Birdwatch crew members in their distinctive purple shirts who will be handling their needs.

For more specialised or complex tasks, such as roofing or HVAC work, we seamlessly transition into project management mode. Here, we leverage our extensive network of trusted vendors to coordinate and oversee these projects on behalf of our clients, alleviating them of the burden of navigating such complexities themselves. In essence, Birdwatch acts as a comprehensive facilities manager for homeowners, offering a one-stop solution for all their home service needs while prioritising personalised service, trust, and reliability.

How have you seen this industry change over the years and where do you predict it is heading? 

Over the years, we’ve witnessed significant changes in the homeownership landscape and the broader real estate industry. There is a massive industry ever evolving around real estate transactions. Advancements in IoT technology have revolutionised many aspects of home management. But the realm of home services has often been overlooked. Despite the rise of tech and AI, the reality remains that certain tasks, like fixing a leaky faucet or painting a room, still require the expertise of a skilled human.

While the PropTech sector emphasises the use of technology in the built environment, we’re trying to carve out new territory in what we term “PropCare” — the idea is that truly caring for a place requires a fusion of human and technological innovation. Just as luxury apartments offer amenities to enhance residents’ lives, we’re dedicated to bringing that same experience of hospitality into people’s homes.

At our company, we prioritise designing technology that unlocks delight and convenience for homeowners. Our goal isn’t just to resolve issues but to be the “easy button” for everything in the home. Whether it’s through our intuitive app or a quick phone call, homeowners can communicate their needs within seconds, knowing that we’re familiar with their property and can promptly address any concerns.

With Home Services representing a staggering $650 billion industry annually in the US alone, our aim is to bring a fresh take on relationships, quality, and reliability in the home maintenance landscape. By moving the tech focus away from episodic transactions to more personalised and reliable service, we strive to make homeownership a more seamless and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Would love to touch on your sister non-profit birdSEED, which provides home purchase down payment grants for minority first-time home-buying residents in your markets. How did this come about?

Certainly! Birdwatch and birdSEED are intertwined initiatives that stem from a shared vision of promoting social justice and equitable access to housing. birdSEED, our sister non-profit, emerged from the passion and dedication of lisa wise, a seasoned entrepreneur in the property management sector with a strong commitment to social justice causes.

Recognising the systemic barriers faced by marginalised minority communities in accessing homeownership, lisa founded birdSEED to address a critical need: down payment grants for first-time BIPOC homebuyers. She understood that while monthly mortgage payments are a challenge, the greatest hurdle for many is accumulating the 20% down payment required to secure a mortgage.

By focusing on this pivotal moment in the home-buying journey, birdSEED aims to empower individuals and families to build intergenerational wealth and foster stronger communities. Initially launched in Washington, DC, birdSEED expanded its reach to Philadelphia following the expansion of Birdwatch.

At Birdwatch, we’ve made a commitment to allocate 1% of our net revenues towards housing justice initiatives, ensuring a positive impact in the communities where we operate. This dedication extends beyond financial support, as we aspire to catalyse a movement within the real estate sector akin to initiatives like “1% for the Planet.”

Furthermore, as a public benefit corporation, Birdwatch operates with a dual bottom line, prioritising both shareholder value and social impact. This ethos guides our efforts to provide not only exceptional service to our clients but also equitable opportunities for our team members and broader communities.

Ultimately, through the collective efforts of Birdwatch and birdSEED, we aspire to contribute to the creation of a more just and inclusive society, one where safe and reliable housing is accessible to all.

What is the current climate for fundraising like in the space?

Fundraising is always a challenging endeavour, and 2023 posed additional hurdles due to macroeconomic conditions and a slowdown in the venture market following several frothy years. This finally worked its way down for seed rounds, where companies are navigating the early stages and seeking to establish their footing.

As a tech-enabled services business operating in the built environment, we were not the usual player for PropTech investors. While our pairing of technology with service delivery sets us apart, it also required us to seek resonance with different investor profiles. We found that consumer and fintech funds were more receptive to our value proposition and market opportunity.

Our target customers, after all, are homeowners—consumers seeking reliable solutions for their home maintenance needs. Through our initial success, we’re feeling really convinced that homeowners are yearning for simplicity and convenience, happy to consolidate service providers – provided the service experience is great, of course — rather than managing multiple contractors. This aggregating of consumer spend is a key appeal of our business model to consumer and fintech investors.

Furthermore, our emphasis on execution and delivering exceptional service has translated into high customer retention rates. This aspect of our business was especially attractive to investors, as it signifies the potential to unlock significant customer lifetime value.

In summary, while fundraising remains a formidable task, our hospitality approach and meaningful early traction allowed us to secure investors in the consumer and fintech sectors.

What do you find the most challenging about the talent market right now in your industry?

In our industry, attracting quality talent isn’t as challenging for us as it may be in other sectors. Sadly, many companies don’t prioritise treating their blue-collar workers well. By offering benefits like medical coverage, paid time off, guaranteed full-time pay, and even short-term disability and life insurance, we’re already in a small minority of potential employers. These benefits, commonplace in desk jobs, are often not standard in labour work.

Embracing the value of all work is ingrained in our model. As a public benefit corporation, we’re committed to caring for our team. Not only is this ethically sound, but it also unleashes untapped potential. Engaged technicians are motivated to deliver exceptional service, which is crucial because they represent us directly in our members’ homes.

Currently, sourcing skilled technicians is relatively straightforward—they’re seeking respectful workplaces. However, our upcoming challenge lies in mid-level management. We need individuals who understand the home services sector but also possess a hospitality-driven customer service approach. Unlike many organisations focused solely on metrics and margins, we prioritise nurturing customer relationships.

As we scale, cultivating these soft skills will be pivotal. It’s where we’ll truly differentiate ourselves. While technical expertise is vital, it’s the ability to prioritise customer care that sets us apart. This shift in mindset will require internal training, but it’s a challenge we’re excited to tackle as we continue to grow.

If you would like to discuss any of the topics raised in this piece or if you need support with your leadership resourcing strategy, please get in touch with Emma Callahan on: