After a complicated journey to the shop to buy an air filter again in 2012, two N.C. State College college students, Thad Tarkington and Kevin Barry, got here up with the thought to make this routine house upkeep buy a subscription-based enterprise. The next yr, their startup FilterEasy had a number of hundred subscribers. Quick ahead to now, and that service — now known as SecondNature — has grown its buyer base to tons of of hundreds by increasing past its unique direct-to-consumer mannequin to additionally embody trade partnerships.
Right this moment, the N.C. Triangle-area firm is saying it’s closed on $16.four million in Sequence C funding from new and present traders, together with strategic investor, MANN+HUMMEL, via its company enterprise group.
Different traders within the spherical embody IDEA Fund Companions, Multiplier Capital, Lead Edge Capital, Arsenal Development, One Higher Ventures, Bonaventure Capital, NC State’s investor community WIN, and UNC’s investor community CAN.
SecondNature started its life solving a common homeowner problem: serving to individuals to recollect to vary the house’s air filter. Typically, it is a forgotten job as there’s no built-in reminder or alerting system to sign when the filter’s time is up, in contrast to another family merchandise. Your smoke alarms blare when batteries are low. Lightbulbs go darkish when it’s time for a change. However air filters simply sit there, quietly amassing extra mud as your air high quality worsens and your power invoice climbs.
Tarkington says the thought to place air filters on subscription not solely made sense as a method to remind the owners to make the swap, however the mannequin labored for retailers as properly.
“It’s a product that’s probably not well-suited for retail as a result of they’re giant, they take loads of house, they usually’re simply broken,” he says. “And usually, you may have hundreds of various sizes, so a retailer can solely serve a sure share of the market.”
The founders quickly left school and commenced to work full-time on the corporate. They later participated in The Iron Yard accelerator and raised $1.2 million in seed funding in 2015.
Whereas the startup’s buyer base of house owners steadily grew, SecondNature discovered that it wanted extra channels than simply direct-to-consumer (D2C) alone to extend gross sales. Within the years that adopted, the corporate started working with trade companions, together with HVAC firms, actual property brokers, utility firms, and industrial properties. These classes have contributed to buyer progress, however D2C stays the biggest to date, given its head begin.
MANN+HUMMEL’s current funding alerts the place SecondNature is headed subsequent. The corporate now not considers itself simply a better method to get your air filters. As an alternative, it’s now positioning itself as a “house wellness” model that may ultimately embody a variety of merchandise that owners want to exchange on a recurring foundation.
For starters, this consists of SecondNature’s latest product line: water filters.
“As we began rising, we discovered that folks actually appreciated the comfort of [our business],” says Tarkington. Plus, individuals had been beginning to discuss different issues, like how filters helped with allergy symptoms and created a more healthy house surroundings, he notes.
“We noticed this large development in the direction of private care — like what we put in or on our our bodies,” Tarkington explains. “We spend loads of time in our houses — so our indoor air high quality and what we’re consuming, from a water high quality perspective, has turn into crucial.”
It made sense, then, to broaden the idea of a “wholesome house” to additionally embody water filtration.
In Q2 2020, SecondNature will launch its first two merchandise on this water filtration house, which can embody filters on your fridge water. One might be centered on bettering the style, high quality and readability of the water, whereas the opposite might be extra about filtering out dangerous particles from native water methods.
Going ahead, the corporate plans to embrace something that improves your house’s well being, Tarkington says.
Within the extra instant future, nevertheless, SecondNature could profit from elevated curiosity in house well being merchandise within the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. For instance, SecondNature’s MERV 13-rated “catch all” filter can scale back the percentages of you catching the flu or a viral an infection when somebody in your house is sick. That’s as a result of it’s capable of catch about 87% of droplet nuclei that cross via. (To be clear, this isn’t a COVID-19 preventative, it’s about danger discount — like washing your palms or sneezing into your elbow, for instance.)
Whereas some space’s of SecondNature’s enterprise has been considerably impacted by COVID-19 — like industrial properties the place lease could longer be coming in, Tarkington says general, enterprise is nice.
“Usually, demand for the product has gone up – because of the nature of it,” he says.
It’s price clarifying, although, that SecondNature isn’t aiming to market in the direction of shopper fears because of the outbreak. As an alternative, it’s making an attempt to assist. The crew has coordinated with hospitals to get them donated filtration media for masks, and is now actively utilizing its manufacturing facility and provide chain to get masks to hospitals in want. It has supplies to supply round 800,000 masks readily available, and plans to supply as much as 2 million masks per 30 days so long as it has the supplies.
COVID-19 isn’t simply impacting its manufacturing line, but in addition how the enterprise operates. The corporate at present has round 150 workers, two-thirds who work in achievement and distribution. To handle the specter of COVID-19, SecondNature reorganized its two warehouses (in Ardmore, OK. and Wilson, N.C.) to maintain workers separated — together with by creating further break rooms. It’s additionally working to make sure all processes keep clear and sanitary. A devoted crew is targeted on cleansing the power, together with by wiping down doorways and handles and different surfaces.
SecondNature’s further funding will go in the direction of increasing the companies and hiring to help its plans for brand new merchandise, together with forthcoming first-party merchandise it has now in R&D. As for what these could also be, particularly, Tarkington hints they’ll deal with merchandise the place the corporate can “innovate and make a product higher or a course of higher — perhaps extra environmentally-friendly.”
So far, SecondNature has raised $18.four million.