“We’re not typical founders,” says Adi Tatarko, poking at a paper-plate lunch of diced tomatoes and cucumbers. “We’re simple people. We don’t come from privileged backgrounds.” The chief executive officer of Houzz is doing her best to dodge any discussion of the economic gains that she and her husband, Alon Cohen, have created with their home design website. He’s mum on the topic, letting her talk while spearing some falafel with his plastic fork.
Just five years after starting Houzz at their kitchen table, the two Israeli immigrants have produced one of the top 200 Web properties in the U.S. If you’re a homeowner looking for dreamy new ideas for your kitchen remodel or if you’re a designer wanting to drum up business, Houzz may well be your happy place. Each month Houzz draws more than 25 million visitors to its endlessly shoppable photo galleries, more traffic than retailing giants such as Nordstrom, Gap and Staples enjoy. Venture investors, betting that Houzz will capture big chunks of the $300 billion global design and decor market, now value the company at more than $2 billion. To the founders’ professed astonishment, their combined stake of nearly a third of the company puts their combined net worth meaningfully north of $500 million.
In Silicon Valley’s bro-coder culture, it’s rare to find a female executive at the top, let alone a couple who started dating in the 1990s and still share takeout lunches most days of the week. Among venture-funded companies, only 13% have a female cofounder, Pitchbook reported last year. Even when funding occurs, women-led startups often make do with less capital than their male-run counterparts. Yet Tatarko and Cohen have raised more than $200 million in venture capital, including a $165 million whopper of a round negotiated earlier this year. 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.