Subscription-Based Interior Design

The Origin Story of Interior Design Startup Pabio

Interior design setup.

Designing a stylish apartment isn’t a skill that most of us are simply born with. What’s more, hiring an interior designer to get the job done comes with a hefty price tag leaving many people without a well-designed, functional space to call home. Anand Chowdhary and Carlo Badini, the co-founders of Pabio, a subscription-based interior design startup, believe there is a way to democratize good interior design. With Pabio’s innovative business structure and access to a team of experienced designers, customers are able to achieve great designs for their homes without sacrificing furniture quality. This is the story of how this pair of Forbes 30 under 30 finalists created a startup that is making great interior design for everyone.

Good Interiors: No Design Experience Required

“I was running Oswald Labs, which is an accessibility technology company, meaning we build products for people with disabilities and Carlo was running Cleverclip, which is a design studio and agency.” Chowdhary says, “And so when we were kind of exploring, ‘What do we do next?’ We visited all of our friends and we were talking about anything and everything. And one thing that kind of stuck with us is that most people don't have a nice apartment.” Based on this realization, the pair began to think about how they could solve the problem by identifying the root of where lack of or bad design came from. 

“I used to think interior designers are super expensive and people think that, but also the fact that's kind of elitist.” He explains, “You hired an interior designer and then you have to buy all the furniture that they recommended, which might cost tens of thousands of dollars. And so we figured to solve this problem, we want to make interior design affordable and available to people.” Once the idea for Pabio was established, the pair realized that a subscription-based model would work perfectly for their startup concept. 

Here’s how it works: Pabio users are able to receive $20,000 worth of new furniture that is curated by an interior designer specifically for their apartment, which is paid for monthly over the course of four to five years. The best part, however, is that customers are required to pay $0 upfront in order to utilize Pabio’s services. Not only does Pabio’s business model make designing your home easier than ever, it also makes it far more financially accessible than simply hiring an interior designer. 

The Bond Between Co-Founders

Like many startup founders, the bond between co-founders is vital to the success of Pabio. However, the fact that Pabio’s co-founders connected at all seemed unlikely. Both were from different countries — Chowdhary being from New Delhi, India, and Bandini from Switzerland — and the pair were both featured on Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2018. Though, it wasn’t until Chowdhary noted Bandini’s company Cleverclip was hiring a CTO that the pair officially connected. Chowdhary explains, “I applied for that role, and then we properly met, and then he said ‘You're way too qualified to be the CTO of this company, but I have this new idea that is somewhere in the rental furniture space and why don't we become partners and become founders on this together.’” 

“[U]sually when you find a co-founder like I did from a previous company, you know someone for several years, right? It's like a marriage because chances are you work together for a decade or longer. And we were total strangers, right?” Chowdhary says, “Last year, we did a speed dating thing where we would have multiple hour-long phone calls, multiple times a week for about three/four months. “What was your childhood like? What was your upbringing like? What are your thoughts on this, this, this?” 

Once the pair had spent months getting to know each other, they established that this was in fact a relationship that would work and decided to move forward with their startup idea. “It's been over a year [since] we've been co-founders, and I think what works really well for us is that our skills are very complimentary.” Chowdhary says, “[Carlos] has a BizOps, Biz jobs, sales background. And I have more tech, engineering, design background. So, for building our product and our company, I think it works really well because we are both good at our own parts and then they kind of come together.”

Moving Pieces

Now that the company is established, growth is the next step. “We've done over 60 apartments in Switzerland. We're planning on being in Germany before the end of the year and probably England as well, or otherwise, early 2022,” Chowdhary says. Plus, the pair has help from one of the most sought after accelerators to get them there: “We're one of the first companies to be part of Y Combinator, which is Silicon Valley's most prestigious program for startups and they've previously invested in companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, and Coinbase.” With the help of Y Combinator and a terrific, accessible startup idea, it appears there is no end in sight for the success of these two innovative entrepreneurs. 

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