I am fascinated by the symbiosis between controllable and uncontrollable actions. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized how little I can control, which has heightened my focus on the things I actually can, and helped me make peace with all I cannot. Random chance will always play a role in any outcome, though I don’t believe that diminishes any of the accomplishments I strive for relentlessly—any success requires the uncontrollable ingredient of right place, right time.
Like everything in life, entrepreneurship is dependent upon factors both controllable (brains, work ethic, teamwork, execution) and uncontrollable (timing). Sumner Douglas, the founder and CEO of Stack Homes, understands and embraces this. A self-described serial entrepreneur, Douglas founded seven different companies (nearly all of them technology-based) before becoming the Managing Director of Boom Startup, an early-stage accelerator and seed fund deeply embedded in the world of tech. For seven years, Douglas screened roughly 3000 companies per year before Boom Startup was acquired by Salt Lake City-based Assure Services in 2018.
Ready for his next venture, Douglas began circling around some business ideas that pulled on his background as a tech CEO and combined that experience with a desire to build a company in a more tangible space. One industry in particular seemed in desperate need of that tech/tangible blend and after months of market research, Douglas was confident he had his next company.
“The construction industry (and the modular home industry specifically) seemed like a really interesting world,” said Douglas. “I’d done some investments in different types of modular home technologies, from a manufacturing-based perspective. I knew what it was capable of. At the end of the day, we’ve been banging nails into wood for north of 100 years now and we haven’t seen a lot of integration with technology in the construction industry.”
Stack Homes was created in 2019 to try and take advantage of a gigantic market overflowing with pent-up demands. At the time, laws across the western United States were changing in favor of allowing Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs), opening the door for Stack Homes to offer that modernized blend of tangible goods accentuated by tech: sustainable modular homes.
“It was the right things coming together at the right time in the right marketplace,” said Douglas. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than smart, to a certain degree. We lucked out with the time we started Stack Homes, it was a really good time for us to jump into a marketplace that was unfolding.”
The right place at the right time means nothing without execution. The past four years have seen Stack take the residential construction industry by storm, growing by over 600% in the past year. To boost its rapid growth, Stack recently purchased Modules, LLC, and moved this new manufacturing arm (known as Stack Modular Development) into a new 80,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Salt Lake City. Douglas says it currently takes about five weeks from start to finish on a standard build and believes that time frame will be even quicker as they fully settle into the new facility. As of now, Stack Homes plans on using their new manufacturing capabilities to produce 620 houses per year.
“I’ve always loved technology and now I get to combine the best of both worlds, a truly tangible product with the integration of technology into our manufacturing facility,” said Douglas. “We want to build in a controlled environment, build at a much faster pace, and be able to have a higher standard of quality control. But where we see those traditional bottlenecks—both in the construction industry in the field and in a manufacturing facility—that’s where we want to add the technology.”
Building faster, sustainably, and at a higher quality is the current mission of Stack Homes. Douglas references their manufacturing process contains 90% less waste than the traditional construction process, an important note to make when 35% of the waste in domestic landfills in the US comes from the construction industry. And that sustainability is one of many reasons he is optimistic about the future.
“The manufacturing expansion provides a next-level opportunity to also allow us to refine and expand our product offerings to provide modular solutions in more areas of the housing industry,” said Douglas. “Our knowledgeable team, combined with cutting-edge technology enhancements we are outfitting in our new factory, will make Stack Homes one of the most capable modular builders in the country.”
To celebrate the new facility, Stack Homes will be hosting their grand opening in conjunction with the Salt Lake Parade of Homes on July 28 from 12-9pm at their new location in West Jordan (6582 Airport Road West Jordan, UT 84084). The Parade continues through August 12 and is closed Sunday and Monday. Tickets to the Parade of Homes can be purchased online and cost $20.