As strategic corporate venture capital plays a larger role
in the startup funding world, North Carolina can be glad it's got Lowe's Home Improvement.
An increasingly active investment arm associated with the home retailer from Mooresville, N.C. has made its second investment in two months in a Triangle startup. Today, Raleigh startup Canopy,
formerly known as Pack Purchase (which we wrote about last month
), announced a closed $1.5 million round with Lowe's notable among its newest investors. The home retailer also made a seed investment in SoloPro
, the Durham startup that is unbundling the homebuying process.
But Canopy aligns closely with two other startups in the Lowe's portfolio. Two years ago, Lowe's made its first investment in Seattle-based Porch.com, which is featured in nearly every store as a matching service for homeowners and home repair and renovation professionals. Lowe's re-upped in Porch's recent $65 million round
. And earlier this year, it participated in a $4.5 million round in year-old San Francisco startup Decorist
, which helps homeowners find interior decorators that match their style and taste.
Canopy's technology also matches homeowners with home services, but in an on-demand way and targeted to repetitive or routine home maintenance. It works like this: Homeowner needs HVAC upkeep, lawn mowing or pest control and shares the details of the job with Canopy. Canopy vets potential vendors and combines public data about properties and homes with drawings or instructions provided by the homeowner to make a match. All scheduling, payment and customer service happens through the site.
When I asked Canopy CEO Hunt Davis if his company could be integrated into the in-store experience at Lowe's, he said: "We think there are great possibilities with all of our investors and their portfolio companies."
He's referring to the portfolios of new investor Great Oaks Venture Capital
of New York, which includes home-oriented businesses like Trulia and Houzz, along with Durham startup Move Loot, and existing investor Cofounders Capital, a key funder of FilterEasy, the Raleigh startup that automates the delivery of air filters.
Lowe's hasn't commented on the Canopy investment, but it hasn't revealed any specific integration plans for Decorist either. Decorist wrote on its blog after its funding news that, "we've attracted the attention of retailers who recognize this ever growing need for design help."
Davis says that he pursued Lowe's as an investor and introduced its director of corporate venture capital Christopher Langford to Idea Fund Partners and NC IDEA—Langford is now an NC IDEA grant reviewer. The Great Oaks connection came through a fellow CEO at a West Coast startup.
As for plans for the funding, Davis says it'll help grow Canopy to Charlotte and Atlanta, and eventually other markets.
For now, the site is live for homeowners and vendors first in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas.