Born from what Los Angeles designer Jake Arnold describes as a deluge of Instagram DM requests for remote design consultations during lockdown, The Expert connects clients to top interior designers via videoconference. At its launch in February, the virtual platform had more than 60 design pros signed on, including the AD100’s Martin Brudnizki, Joy Moyler, and Michael S. Smith. Now, the industry startup hopes a new round of funding can further entrench its position as the interior design platform of choice for star practitioners and a high-end clientele.
Cofounded by Arnold and tech entrepreneur Leo Seigal, The Expert recently announced a $3 million seed funding round led by Forerunner Ventures, with contributions from Sweet Capital, Pormus Ventures, Golden Ventures, and WndrCo, AD100 designer Brigette Romanek, and Goop founder and CEO Gwyneth Paltrow.
A few months after its founding, The Expert has grown its pro roster to 85 designers, each of whom can offer expertise without setting foot in a client’s home. Prospective clients can browse designer profiles to assess aesthetic fit and price. Once signed up, clients can upload relevant information about their home’s layout and design preferences before the meeting, with remote consultations taking place on The Expert via Zoom’s API.
Based on what the company shared with TechCrunch about its early results, The Expert predicts it will hit $1 million in bookings by the end of its first quarter (based on a February launch), indicating that its customers are fine with paying the $300 to $2,500 an hour that designers on the platform typically charge. Those rates may also explain why there’s a waitlist of 700 designers angling to get started on the platform—more than eight times the number currently offering their services through The Expert.
With its new funding, the company hopes to take advantage of broader trends favoring the remote consultations. For fellow design consultation service Decorist, for example, whose existence predates the pandemic, 2020 was a good year: The company cited a 90% increase in website traffic during the pandemic, with customers increasingly looking to invest in furniture, art, and accessories that can elevate the look and feel of their homes.
Though the rates designers on The Expert charge may feel limiting to some, Paltrow suggests that the hourly fees help close the gap to top talent that clients otherwise might not enjoy. “I’ve always felt that access to great design—and those who create it—is too rare of a commodity,” the Goop founder and CEO said in a statement cited by TechCrunch. “It’s a game changer for someone without the budget for a full-time designer to have this roster of talent on speed dial.”
The challenge for any remote design platform will be assessing what kind of appetite its clientele will have for virtual consultations in a post-pandemic world. But with a roster of willing designers and a few million in funding to expand their efforts, perhaps The Expert can be trusted to figure it out.