Founders’ Story

Founders’ Story

Posted by Jillian Northrup on Mar 9th 2020

I took the photo above of my two co-founders, Jeffrey and Vani, after presenting our business at Y!Combinator. We were exhausted and exhilarated from the experience. And that experience, like so many since, has helped to forge our mission: to redefine the future of furniture. Today, Model No. is operating (and innovating) at the intersection of Design, Technology, and Sustainability. It’s an amazing adventure!

When Jeffrey & I first started talking with Vani about this business idea, we saw potential in a vision that was more than simply a good business idea – but an idea capable of disrupting an entire industry. And a behemoth of an industry at that.

We are addressing a problem we’ve all been experiencing for years: the ability to acquire custom furniture pieces quickly. We share high standards for quality fabrication and beautiful design; and reasonable turnaround times were key requirements.

Jeffrey and I have been in the architecture and interior design industries for over 20 years, growing our design-build architecture firm Because We Can over the last ten years into an award-winning, technology-forward, and creative company. Vani’s background in software, engineering, and startups comes from her dual degrees from Stanford in civil engineering and computer science. She is intrigued at the integration of building and technology. It is no wonder we hit it off!

The inspiration to start Model No. came from a very personal need. Vani was struggling to find simple, elegant furniture that could be customized for her specific requirements. Jeffrey and I were working with her to find the best available options, but we knew that custom furniture was not just expensive, it had much longer lead times than what Vani was hoping for her project. It was a struggle we’d seen many of our past clients also face.

As we discussed the options, we found ourselves in a conversation about parametric design and digital fabrication. Jeffrey and I have used those toolsets for years in our design process, and Vani had the idea to use them to productize a concept: making products that are totally customizable by the client in a web shopping experience, and then automatically produced on-demand when ordered for fast ship times. Due to the speed of production and ability to have unmanned fabrication, we were all drawn to 3D printing as a solution to this problem. At that moment, Model No., and our founding mission, was born.

In the year since, our team has worked tirelessly to produce tables, seating and décor that can be purchased as-is or completely customized by each buyer to their personal preferences. This is customization that goes far beyond the typical color and maybe a few set sizes. And much to the delight of our employees and customers, we are doing it all with eco-friendly, plant-based resins and sustainable hardwoods.

The customization options include size, shape, color, materials, ergonomic fit, and “twist” (the curvature of the product). The products, each with their own unique model number, can be produced quickly, and ship within a two-week timeframe.

As the three founders of Model No. Inc., we agree that sustainable-manufacturing practices, implemented across the company, is a lifelong initiative for us. We’ve extended that sustainability goal throughout our product line in both the materials we use and the end-of-life options for our products. And our commitment extends to our initiative to accept products back from customers to ensure sustainable end-of-life processing, including recycling or reusing.

The operational differences between Model No. and the furniture industry in general are vast. We are on a trajectory to show the world we can create elegant and customized furniture that fits perfectly in anyone’s home or office style without contributing to negative, environmentally unfriendly manufacturing practices. We’re excited about this path we’ve chosen for flexible parametric sustainable design, what we call the ‘future of furniture,’ and we invite you to join us on this journey.