December 12, 2018

Israel’s Hometalk Nails Down Top Spot in DIY Marketplace

Israel has a well-deserved reputation as a leader in developing deep technologies: cybersecurity, laser-operated sensors for self-driving cars, silicon chips and personal drones. More surprising to some, the “startup nation” also is the location for the world’s largest do-it-yourself (DIY) website.

With more than 13 million members, Hometalk has quietly become the Pinterest of the DIY home improvement space — a site where you can scroll through ideas, tutorials and content from other users.

You can learn how to reupholster a chair, fix an outdoor walkway with sinking stones, or plant a rooftop container garden. There are projects for members of all skill levels, from serious DIYers to those just dabbling in arts-and-crafts projects.

Hometalk members ask questions of others on the site or search for tutorials — written and video — all for free. There are more than 100,000 DIY projects made by Hometalk users on the site and another 1,000 videos, adding up to 1.2 billion video views in the past year, said Hometalk’s director of business development, Moe Mernick.

“Our user community includes some phenomenal talent,” Mernick said. “We’re just a platform for them to disseminate that content.”

Its numbers should only increase in the coming months as Hometalk brings its DIY videos to the brand-new Facebook Watch, the social media giant’s foray into original programming a la Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

Hometalk happened almost by accident. Founder and CEO Yaron Ben-Shaul owned Networx, a successful lead-generation business for home contractors. He started Hometalk in 2011 as a way for contractors to generate more engagement — and new customers — by posting pictures and videos of their work.

But the contractors weren’t interested. Instead, it was the homeowners who jumped in. Hometalk now receives 23 million unique visitors a month, with 80 percent of its members English-speaking.

Hometalk has been solely supported by advertising, and now serves about 1 billion ad impressions a month, Mernick said.

But that’s about to change. Hometalk is angling to become an A-to-Z e-commerce conduit, enabling members to buy all the supplies and tools they need to undertake a particular project via links provided next to the tutorials. Hometalk will get a cut of each sale.

Another option for monetizing the business is monthly subscription kits.

There are more than 100,000 DIY projects made by Hometalk users on the site.

“This is a very hot trend,” Mernick said. “It’s where you pay $10 a month or $19 a month and receive a box at your doorstep with everything you need to produce a DIY product.”

Hometalk’s monthly boxes won’t be random. Users can sign up for specific categories.

Hometalk has a staff of 70 with offices in Jerusalem and New York — all without outside investment. “We first want to validate the business we’re in and prove that it works,” Mernick explained. “We’re not against raising money. We just don’t want to raise money prematurely.”

The Hometalk team comprises a diverse only-in-Israel kind of staff. “We have team members from nine countries, many new immigrants, secular, ultra-Orthodox, more women than men,” Mernick said.

The company sometimes is compared with Houzz, another home-centric Internet business with Israeli roots, but Mernick said the two companies are very different.

“We’re huge fans of theirs, but Houzz is an upper-end marketplace for furniture,” he said. They show you what you can buy. Hometalk shows you what you can make.”

And at the end of the day, that’s where Hometalk’s passion lies: helping people improve their lives via the power of DIY.

“Since I started using Waze, I have totally lost my sense of direction,” Hometalk CEO Ben-Shaul said. “People are quickly losing the capabilities to work with their hands. We are passionate about empowering people to embrace DIY because we’ve seen them regain confidence and know-how, not to mention how it impacts their financial stability. These benefits extend far beyond DIY.”