Trying to make architecture free FreeGreen.com
As our architecture firm, ZeroEnergy Design, flourished and got more recognition, I noticed that we tended to serve wealthier and wealthier clients. This is typical in a service-oriented professional firm. It’s difficult to scale custom services, so the business focus tends to shift to the economic density that only high net worth clients can bring. I wanted to figure out a way to give away progressive designs to the masses, so I started a company called FreeGreen. We created affordable home designs and gave away complete construction drawing sets so that people could download them and take them to builders to have them constructed. We generated revenue by selling advertisements directly into the designs. It was a valuable experience, and we gave away complete home designs to hundreds of thousands of people before we got acquired in 2014 by Houseplans.com. This endeavor was a mix of success and failures. We won a bunch of business plan competitions, raised quite a bit of capital, and got to feel that “start up” rush of having people competing to give you money for your ideas. We also experienced the crushing helplessness of 2008’s economic crisis that wiped out the fund that had promised us close to a million dollars in funding. I learned that the idea of distributing design as a type of media and monetizing it is powerful. I also learned that I wanted autonomy in my next endeavor even if I had to bootstrap it.