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Making a Material Improvement in Design Logistics

  • May 6, 2021
  • by Holly Maloney, John Monagle, and Johnson Yang

The State of the Materials Industry
Shaw. HunterDouglas. Owens Cornings. PPG. Together, these companies represent over ~$60B in market cap. They are the global manufacturing titans in foundational building material categories such as carpet, windows, roofing, and paint; with an average founding year of 1920, they’ve been instrumental in innovating and evolving the architectural design space for a century. Despite their broad influence on architecture all around the world, their brands have stayed relatively unknown to the average consumer as the building materials purchase journey has historically been heavily dominated through B2B or B2B2C channels limiting the direct interaction between end consumer and manufacturing brand.

As a result of the incumbent distribution model, the materials industry has been largely untouched by digital transformation. While the world of architectural design and materials manufacturing has steadily evolved throughout the years to encompass different stylistic preferences and material science innovations, the discovery and procurement aspects of the customer journey have eluded the seamless, curated and digitally optimized user experience consumers have come to expect.

Figuring out what to buy involves in-store visits, phone calls with sales reps, and other burdensome research. It isn’t realistic to expect the average homeowner or even a licensed architect to understand the subtle nuances in functionality, safety, durability, sustainability, etc., between the hundreds of brands of a blue carpet tile they’re looking to purchase, especially without any sort of digital database to compare and contrast.

Furthermore, in a highly tactile product category where a digital image of a certain type of kitchen marble simply can’t communicate the true color, texture, and look and feel of how it’ll fit in your building project, it’s imperative that prospective customers can hold an actual sample in their hand before they commit their entire building project to a certain SKU. Figuring out how to sample building materials is still quite an old-fashioned, inconsistent journey involving the decentralized procurement and shipping experiences of each of the brands you’re considering. Best-in-class logistics typically isn’t a core competency of a boutique material manufacturer, leading to delays and errors in shipping that push back project deadlines and lead to poor experiences for all involved.

We believe one of the last great consumer markets untouched by technology is in building materials, and that a one-of-one platform can and will emerge to bring the much needed, Amazon Prime-like experience to all stakeholders in the value chain.

Optimizing the Design Industry with Material Bank
There couldn’t be a better person to bring the building materials market the digitization and optimization that it deserves than Material Bank Founder & CEO Adam Sandow. In 2003, Adam first started his namesake media company, SANDOW, dedicated to integrating the best content, tools, styles, and trends in the Design industry. Through growing SANDOW into one of the world’s most respected voices in the domain, he was uniquely positioned to witness the inefficiencies of the procurement process firsthand while also establishing the trust required to build relationships with key industry leaders. In 2019, he launched Material Bank, the world’s first-and-only one-stop-shop B2B marketplace focused on centralizing and digitizing the materials sampling purchase.

Material Bank is a two-sided marketplace connecting the world’s leading materials manufacturing brands to professional designers. Driven by their unprecedented investment in centralization inventory, logistics, and supply chain, any credentialed architect or designer can browse their online platform and order a wide range of samples from various brands, all consolidated in a single box and delivered by 10:30 AM the next morning, free of charge. The company has built a back-end infrastructure that centers around their new state-of-the-art 380,000 sq foot (that’s 6 football fields!) logistics facility just minutes from FedEx’s World HUB in Memphis, TN, where through the use of autonomous robots and other proprietary technology, they are able to service tens of thousands of sample requests every night. The result is a step-function improvement in the searching, ordering, delivery, and carbon footprint of sampling materials which enables designers and architects to better serve their clients. To-date, through their brand centralization, Material Bank has eliminated more than one million packages from being shipped and is committed to ensuring packages ship 100% carbon neutral. In the future, the Material Bank platform will leverage their existing logistics and technology infrastructure to enable D2C sampling, on-demand materials printing, and other industry changing services to optimize and demystify the world of design. 

Our Partnership with Material Bank
Today, we are privileged to formally announce our partnership with Material Bank by co-leading their Series C financing round alongside Durable Capital, BOND, Lead Edge Capital, as well as insiders Bain Capital Ventures and Raine Ventures. Long-time-friend of GC Bob Mylod, who has led some of the world’s category-defining Internet companies such as Booking Holdings, RedFin, and Vroom, among others, will be joining the Board of Directors.

Lastly and most importantly, thank you to Adam and the Material Bank team for welcoming us on your mission to continue to demystify and simplify the interactions between your manufacturing brands, designers, and end users. Together, we’re excited to continue to grow the Material Bank platform in depth and breadth and bring much needed change to this archaic category.

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