Much of the focus on online education – and, let’s face it, education in general – has been on the professional development of knowledge workers, K-12 education. and how best to deliver cost-effective and engaging higher education to students and beyond. . But in what could be a sign of the times, today a startup that focuses on e-learning and the resulting job market for a completely different end of the spectrum – home services – is announcing funding. to continue to seriously develop his business.
Nana, who runs a free academy to teach people how to fix devices and then gives students the chance to be part of her own market to connect them with people in need of repairs – raised $ 6 million.
The tour de table is led by Shripriya Mahesh of Spero Ventures; Next Play Ventures (new fund from Jeff Weiner, former CEO of LinkedIn), Lachy Groom, Scott Belsky, Geoff Donaker of Burst Capital and Michael Staton of Learn Capital are also among the participants.
Nana has now raised $ 10.7 million, with former backers including Alpha Bridge Ventures, Bob Lee and Uber Syndicate, an investment vehicle to support Uber alumni in new ventures. Founder and CEO David Zamir isn’t actually a Uber alumnus, but one of its first employees, VP of Engineering Oliver Nicholas is an early Uber engineer and the company has also found a lot of traction among Uber drivers this year, after many found themselves working after the pandemic’s crippling effect on ridesharing.
Nana – full name Nana Technologies (not to be confused with Nana Technology, technology designed for the elderly) – is part a work / future of work game, part an educational game, part a tech / IoT game and partly a green game, in the eyes of Zamir, who himself trained as a home appliance repairer, running his own successful business in the Bay Area before turning it into a training platform and market .
âThere are 5.9 million tonnes of municipal solid waste [which includes lots of electronics like washing machines, blenders and everything in between] in the United States, âhe said in an interview,â and only 50% of that is capable of being recycled. We are in a vicious cycle with home appliances, and part of that is because there aren’t enough people with the knowledge to fix them. But what if you had the cash to do it? It is about creating jobs, but also about preserving the environment.
Nana’s proposal begins with free lessons in fixing a range of home appliances – currently dishwashers, refrigerators, ovens, stoves, washers and dryers – and their typical breakdown / poor performance issues to anyone who wants to know how to fix them. These courses are available to everyone: someone just interested in learning how to repair a machine, but more likely someone looking to learn a skill and use it to make money.
Once you have completed and passed a course – currently at a distance – you have the option (but not the obligation) to register on Nana’s platform to become a repairman who recovers work through it to obtain work solving this particular problem. Nana already has partnerships with major appliance and warranty companies including GE, Miele, Samsung, Assurant, Cinch and First American Home Warranty, so this is how she does most of her work, but she also accepts direct consumer requests for repairs to dishwashers, refrigerators, ovens, ranges, washers and dryers.
Over time, Zamir said, the plan is not just to take jobs and send technicians to fix things in an Uber-style dispatch service – but to expand it to accommodate the types. next-generation devices that are being built today, with IoT diagnostic monitoring and also help integrate these devices into connected homes. It also appears to be slowly growing in other home services, alongside the repair of household appliances (which remains its core business).
Nana has so far registered hundreds of technicians in 12 markets across the United States and said she plans to expand to 20 markets by the end of 2021.
Nana has an unlikely founding story that shows how much the tech world is still focused on turmoil and looking for opportunities on the sidelines.
Founder and CEO David Zamir is originally from Israel, but unlike most transplants you can come across in the Bay Area tech world, he is not a technician by education, training, or work experience. He ran clothing stores in Tel Aviv and vaguely liked the idea of ââbeing involved in a tech company at one point – Israel loves to call itself “the start-up nation,” so this bug is intended to bite even those who do not study computer science. science or engineering – but he didn’t know what to do or where to start.
âThe clothing business hasn’t made a lot of money,â he said. So after a period, Zamir and his American wife decided to move to the United States and try their luck there.
While initially based on the East Coast near his family and wondering what kind of work to pursue, Zamir spoke to a friend of his in Toronto who worked as a freelance craftsman repairing household appliances, and the friend suggested this option, at least for a moment.
âSo I jumped on a plane to follow my friend,â he recalls. âThe light bulb has gone out. I thought I should do it in San Francisco, âwhere he had wanted to move to get into the tech world, one way or another. âI figured I would start fixing appliances while I figured out how to get my way through technology. “
This of course turned into more than a temporary stopgap for income. After discovering that his business was taking off, Zamir realized that technology would be the way to develop it.
He was helped in part in building the idea and the business thanks to his courage. Josh Elman, the famous technology investor, Complains about a broken dryer in April, and asked Twitter’s hive mind if he should get a new one or bother to fix it. Someone reported the matter to Zamir, who contacted Elman and one of Nana’s online teaching technicians. Twelve hours later, Elman’s dryer was diagnosed (by Elman), on the verge of repair, and Elman signed on as the company’s advisor.
Move fast and fix things
The tech world is all about creating new things and solving problems, with âbreakingâ being more synonymous with disruption (= âgoodâ) and fearlessness (see: Facebook’s old mantra to its early employees to go fast and break things). But behind that, there is an interesting disconnect between the technological version of âbrokenâ and the objects that are actually âbrokenâ in the real world.
These days, many of us find using apps and other digital interfaces to be second nature, but most of us have no idea how to fix or work with them. much more basic electronic systems. And most of us don’t want that either. More often than not we give up, decide it’s not worth fixing, and click Amazon et al. to get a new shiny item.
Seen on a larger scale, it’s actually a big deal.
Electronics can be recycled, but in reality only about half of the materials can be usefully reused. Meanwhile, Nana estimates the appliance repair market to be a $ 4 billion opportunity, with some 80 million devices needing service each year in the United States. But currently, there are only 31,000 trained technicians in the market. Nana estimates that to meet the growing demand, 28,000 additional new technicians will be needed by 2025.
At the same time, the switch to automation of many skilled labor jobs is putting people out of work: a study by the Brookings Institution estimates that around 30 million people will lose their jobs in the coming years. because of that.
The idea here is that a platform like Nana can help some of these people retrain to fill the home appliance technician vacuum, while also extending the life of home appliances in a less painful way – by putting less stuff in landfills – while they’re at the same time expanding knowledge for all who care.
Zamir said Nana was named after her mother, who raised David as a single parent after her father passed away, a reference to hard work and practicality.
This sentimentality also seems to motivate him more: Zamir himself is a guy with a lot of heart and emotion invested in the concept of his startup. When I told him an anecdote about how our dishwasher broke earlier this year and a manufacturer customer service representative (Siemens) and another repairman advised me to replace it, he said. ‘is visibly agitated during our video call, as if the topic was something political or much more serious than a story about a dishwasher.
“I am not a supporter of what they told you,” he said in an angry voice. “It really upsets me.” (I calmed him down a bit, I think, when I told him that I myself uninstalled the broken dishwasher and installed the new one myself, due to COVID.)
Zamir said there were no plans to charge for his academy’s classes, nor to force people to register with Nana to work after they took the classes. The fact that it provides a lot of inbound jobs attracts enough turnover – between 40% and 60% of those who take courses stay at work when they take courses in person, and so far the numbers online are between 15% and 35%.
âIt’s still the beginning,â he said, âbut we find the turnout impressiveâ¦ Most want to participate in the market.â He says there are other calling services they can sign up for, but the technology that Nana has built makes her system more efficient, which means better returns.
It all played out well with those who became Nana’s investors. People like Jeff Weiner – who, during his time as CEO of LinkedIn, led the company to acquire Lynda as part of the focus on the importance of job training and education – see the desirability and need to provide an equivalent platform not only for knowledge workers, but those with more manual labor as well.
âWe are excited about Nana’s vision of providing training, access and opportunities for rewarding and fulfilling work while filling a critical gap in our economy,â Spero Ventures’ Shripriya Mahesh said in a statement. âNana has created a scalable new approach to give people the agency, tools and support systems they need to develop new skills and seek rewarding work opportunities. “
The round was oversubscribed at the end, and Nana shouldn’t have too much trouble relaunching if she sticks to her plan and the market continues to grow like she has. That doesn’t seem to be Zamir’s motivation, however.
âWe just think it’s super important to build Nana for people,â he said.