Israeli Immigrants Named ‘Tech’s Newest Power Couple’ by Forbes
Two Israeli immigrants who started a home design website five years ago, which has now become one of the top 200 Web properties in the U.S., were named “Tech’s Newest Power Couple” by Forbes magazine in its Nov. 3 issue.
“We’re not typical founders,” said Adi Tatarko, chief executive officer of Houzz. “We’re simple people. We don’t come from privileged backgrounds.”
Tatarko and her husband Alon Cohen, who serves as the company’s president, came up with the idea for Houzz at their kitchen table. The website allows visitors to browse 4 million interior design and home decor photos, decorating ideas and also connect with home professionals online. Tatarko was Houzz’s first client when she was trying to get ideas for remodeling the couple’s four-bedroom ranch house in Palo Alto, Calif.
Each month Houzz draws more than 25 million visitors to its site and venture investors value the company at more than $2 billion, according to Forbes. For Tatarki and Cohen, their combined stake of nearly a third of the company puts their net worth above $500 million.
Tatarko, who was born in Israel, comes from a family of zealous working women, according to the report. Her mother sold real estate and her grandmother was a prominent fashion designer who flew abroad for exhibitions, Forbes said.
“I was fascinated how she juggled everything so well,” Tatarko told the magazine. “I was so proud of her.”
Tatarko graduated in 1996 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a degree in international studies, and plans to travel and “make ugly places beautiful,” she said. She visited Thailand with two girlfriends in the 1990s and met Cohen as they sat next to each other during a 15-hour bus ride from Bangkok to the island of Koh Samui.
“We talked nonstop for the whole bus ride. It was like four dates, one after another,” she told Forbes. “It was wonderful.” Cohen, however, told the magazine he remembers that she did most of the talking.
The two were together for the rest of the trip and when they returned to Israel they opened a small tech-services company, PROmis Software. They married in 1998 and shortly after moved to New York, seeking better opportunities. They kept going west and moved to Silicon Valley by 2001. They now live in California with their three sons, ages 12, 8 and nearly 1.
Forbes pointed out that it is rare to find a female executive in Silicon Valley’s tech industry, and start-ups led by women tend to attract less capital than their male-run counterparts. However, the magazine said Tatarko runs Houzz “with a style that makes no apologies for her gender or her nontechnical background. Instead, she blends razor-sharp strategic thinking with down-to-earth gestures that help rally other people to her way of doing things.”
Houzz expanded its revenue in late September by making it possible for consumers to buy home items they see on the website, including bathtubs and sofas. The company routes orders to the appropriate manufacturers or retailers and collects a 15 percent commission fee along the way. Houzz’s customer service team will also monitor vendors to make sure they follow through on the orders. Forbes reported that Houzz could easily reach $1 billion in sales in the next five years if it can convert all of its browsers into buyers.
Houzz employs a little over 300 people and its main source of cash has been its annual listing fees. Prices are typically $2,500 to $4,000, paid by thousands of architects and designers who are looking for extra visibility. The company also produces revenue from paid listings for big manufacturers and retailers, such as Kohler and Ikea.
Speaking of Houzz’s guiding philosophy for consumers, Tatarko said, “Be welcoming. Don’t hunt for one official sense of taste. Stay away from celebrity homes. This isn’t about unrealizable fantasies. It’s a site where users can see realistic ideas for their own homes.”
Tatarko is now focusing on expanding Houzz internationally, Forbes reported. She opened sites for the U.K. and Australia, and has additional ones coming soon for France and Germany.