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Start-up edges into budding home improvement market

CornerHardware.com plans to officially unveil its Web site tomorrow, entering an open field of competitors that includes Home Depot and Ace Hardware.

    Home improvement e-tailer CornerHardware.com plans to officially unveil its Web site tomorrow.

    The San Francisco-based company quietly launched the site last month and already offers some 37,000 products online, including sanders, water pipes and wheelbarrows. Although CornerHardware is only the latest home improvement store to debut online, company executives say the market is still wide open.

    "There's a tremendous opportunity for the first online home improvement company that can make it easy for customers to buy the right products and show them how to use these products in the most effective way," CornerHardware chief executive Rich Takata said in a statement.

    Jupiter Communications estimates that online sales of home improvement products will grow from about $100 million this year to some $700 million in 2003. But to grab a share of that pie, CornerHardware will have to measure up to some of the biggest names in e-tailing and retailing.

    E-commerce leader Amazon.com, for instance, launched its own home improvement store last November after buying hardware catalog company Tool Crib of the North. That same month, OurHouse.com, affiliated with the nearly ubiquitous Ace Hardware stores, launched its home improvement Web store and has since raised more than $90 million in venture funding.

    In addition, offline behemoth Home Depot plans to offer tools, lumber and other products through its Web site later this year.

    CornerHardware has raised some $6 million in first-round venture funding from Alta Partners and will soon close on a second round of financing, a company representative said. The representative declined to name the company's second-round investors or to say how much CornerHardware expects to raise.