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Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Nick Hegeman, CEO & Co-Founder at Paintjet, a commercial and industrial painting technology company that has raised nearly $17 Million in funding.

Most interesting points from our conversation:

  • Origins in Painting: Nick describes how he entered the painting industry, noting a lack of innovation over the last 50 years, which has created ripe opportunities for disruption, particularly through robotics and AI.
  • Transition to Technology: Starting with a franchise, Nick gained essential insights into the painting industry’s labor shortages and operational challenges, which informed his approach to introducing technology solutions.
  • Robotic Integration: Paintjet’s technology focuses on heavy industry applications, where robotics can efficiently handle large, repetitive tasks, significantly improving productivity and safety.
  • Customer-Centric Business Model: Paintjet doesn’t sell its technology but charges per square foot painted, aligning with how customers already budget for projects. This model simplifies the transition to automated solutions for clients.
  • Marketing Strategy Shift: Initially, Nick avoided using the term “robot” to prevent alarming potential construction industry clients. Over time, as the market became more receptive to technological solutions, Paintjet shifted to openly promote its robotic innovations.
  • Future Vision and Expansion: Looking forward, Nick discusses the potential to broaden Paintjet’s scope beyond painting to other construction-related tasks, leveraging the company’s expertise in robotics to offer more comprehensive solutions.



Innovate Where There's Stagnation:

Nick identified a significant opportunity in an industry that had seen little innovation over decades. For founders, finding a niche that has resisted modernization can present a unique chance to introduce transformative solutions, particularly through technology.

Leverage Industry Experience for Credibility:

Using his background in the painting industry, Nick was able to understand deeply and address specific pain points, such as labor shortages. This approach can help founders ensure their solutions are finely tuned to the real needs of the industry they are targeting.

Adopt a Customer-Friendly Business Model:

Paintjet's per-square-foot charging model aligns closely with how customers are already used to paying, reducing barriers to adoption. Founders should consider business models that ease the transition to new technologies by mirroring existing financial flows and structures.

Gradual Introduction of Innovations:

Initially avoiding the term "robot" allowed Paintjet to gently introduce their technology without overwhelming potential clients. Founders should strategize the introduction of disruptive technologies in a way that feels less invasive and more beneficial to reluctant markets.

Plan for Vertical Expansion:

Nick's vision for expanding beyond painting into adjacent construction tasks suggests a strategy where founders can plan for growth by leveraging core competencies into broader applications. This approach not only diversifies the business but also enhances its value proposition to existing and new customers.

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