Jamie Roche couldn’t make Bolt, his attempt to create a Pinterest-like service meant to help users save and share anything interesting they found on the Web, work. The company suspended operations earlier this year after failing to secure a second round of funding — its product was just too similar to Pinterest for investors and consumers alike to justify the existence of both services. Roche joined Houseplans (an architecture-focused startup), Bolt closed down, and that was that.
Until now. Houseplans, the home blueprint site Roche joined as CEO in May, is today announcing that it has acquired Bolt’s technologies for an undisclosed sum and hired one of its engineers as its chief technology officer. The Pinterest-for-everything service that couldn’t will become the Pinterest-for-architects service that might.
Roche identifies plenty of problems that contributed to Bolt’s downfall. The service was complicated and hard for new users to understand. The company raised too much money to make a product without a clear vision. He tried to build a startup that could be everything to everyone instead of focusing on what he knew. Many things contributed to Bolt’s downfall, and Roche intends to learn from each as he uses Bolt’s technology to improve Houseplans’ service.
I think that people who succeed are generally people who are selling to people like them. They have an instinctive sense of what’s going to appeal to the consumer they’re addressing, and when we were doing Bolt we were thinking that this was going to be a universal platform. Now, coming back to this, I feel different. I was a builder. I was an architect. I have built and renovated houses as a young kid out of college who was scraping by and doing it with any tools I had lying around. I feel much more comfortable in my ability to understand what’s going to be important to our customers.
Houseplans intends to use Bolt’s technology to improve the sharing capabilities of its platform, which is meant to help renovators and builders connect with architects and work together to build their dream home. People often clip articles, save images, and jot down notes as they try to determine what their home should look like — Houseplans hopes to use Bolt’s technology to make collecting and sharing all those objects a bit easier. That’s why Roche believes that the service that couldn’t survive on its own might thrive under Houseplans’ purview.
“We’re not positioning this in a social environment. We’re not saying that this is entertainment or media — which is what I think that Pinterest is,” Roche says. “In our case this is a tool that should decrease the time, lower the cost, and improve the quality of a project that people do just once or twice in their lives and into which they invest more of their money into almost anything else than they do.”
It’s unlikely that such a service would attract much attention on its own. Pinterest is often used as an aspirational service to which users can save items, ideas, and inspirations for future purchases or events. The service could enable this for architecture just as easily as it does for weddings or fashion. With Houseplans, though, Bolt’s technologies are complementing an existing — and profitable — company instead of powering a new, unprofitable startup.
Bolt died. Now Roche intends to use this chance to save the service, albeit in a nigh-unrecognizable form.
[Image via AMC]