Monday, 29 June 2015

The Rise Of The App' Based Service Middlemen

Apps do your chores: shopping, parking, cooking, cleaning, packing, shipping and more.
There’s an Uber for Everything Now - Apps do your chores: shopping, parking, cooking, cleaning, packing, shipping and more: The fabulously wealthy may call their servants by ringing a little bell. In the lifestyles of the geeky and lazy, one can now summon a household staff just by tapping on a smartphone.

There's a maid, masseuse, doctor, chef, valet, personal shopper, florist and bartender. Each has his own app and can arrive at the door in as little as 10 minutes. Yes, this sounds ridiculous. But it might also be the future of how busy non-billionaires get all kinds of chores done.

A concierge economy is sprouting up on phones, and no place more so than in my city of San Francisco, the capital of Internet La La Land. These startups like to say they’re just like Uber, the car service that has upended transportation, because they use phones to connect customers with nearby workers on demand.

All of these prices could go down if services became popular, but that’s a big if.
There’s an Uber for everything now. Washio is for having someone do your laundry, Sprig and SpoonRocket cook your dinner and Shyp will mail things out so you don’t have to brave the post office. Zeel delivers a massage therapist (complete with table). Heal sends a doctor on a house call, while Saucey will rush over alcohol. And by Jeeves, cutesy names are part of the schtick—Dufl will pack your suitcase and Eaze will reup a medical marijuana supply.

Q Raises $775,000 From Big-Time Angel Investors To Become A Godsend For Office Managers Everywhere: When your day at the office is ending, it's just beginning for another set of workers: the cleaning staff. Cleaning staffs are often hired by buildings or companies through legacy agreements. There isn't some sort of app to help speed up the scheduling, management, or payment process between the cleaners and the offices who book them. Often, companies have to hire employees dedicated to office management to oversee the process; they also handle day-to-day issues such as changing lights, fixing Internet problems, and stocking fridges.

Q (named after the Star Trek character and James Bond's Q Branch) is a software and management startup that wants to make it easier for companies to work with cleaning services and other service providers on a routine basis. Its mobile platform allows office managers to book cleanings, leave notes for the cleaning staff, assign tasks to be completed, and pay for the service all in one place. Q buys hours in bulk from cleaning services in the NYC area, then turns around and sells them to offices at a slightly higher price, for $25 an hour.

When a cleaning is booked through Q, the workers clock in on a Q-provided iPad in the office. They can check off what they've done (vacuumed floors, cleaned desks, etc) so the office manager can see. Offices are required to book at least 4 hours worth of cleanings per week on the platform. Q also has a network of local service providers (electricians, exterminators, etc) that can be booked and payed for through its mobile app.

Founded by Daniel Teran and Saman Rahmanian, Q launched this past April with 15 customers. The technology is used by companies like Uber, Elite Daily, and Flatiron Health, and Q estimates it will be used by over 100 offices by the end of this summer. "Right now, no [office manager] really knows what they’re paying for," Teran says of hiring a cleaning service. "There's a paper list of things people say they’re going to do...We're creating an operating system for offices, providing the products, services and technology to make it easy to run an office."

Already, Q's looking at an annual run rate of more than $1 million. It recently raised a $775,000 seed round from notable angel investors including Behance co-founder Scott Belsky, College Humor founders Ricky Van Veen and Josh Abramson, Barkbox co-founder Henrik Werdelin, Max Burger and Jay Livingston. Path founder Dave Morin and early Facebooker Kevin Colleran also invested through their fund, Slow Ventures, as well as Panarea Captial's Len Blavatink and Alex Zubillaga.

MyClean is a similar mobile platform for booking residential cleanings in New York, but there didn't seem to be similar widely-used product for local businesses. So Teran and Rahmanian met with 30 local cleaning services to gauge interest and onboarded some of them to Q.  Q currently has 14 employees including a former Apple employee who leads its tech operations. The team is split between New York and Buenos Aires.

Eventually, Q wants to expand beyond cleanings to run more like one of its customers — Uber — with on-demand services for anything offices need. Scott Belsky, an early investor in Uber, sees that promise in Q. "I love businesses that replace the pipes and upgrade the user experience for some aspect of everyday living — I  call these 'interface layer' businesses," Belsky told Business Insider via email. "Uber did this for transportation. Shyp [another investment] is doing it for shipping. And Q is doing it for office/space management."

Belsky says that Q might look like just a cleaning service platform right now, but it has the potential to become a lot more than that. "I was impressed by the potential for customers to rely on Q for other services such as ordering more office/cleaning supplies, handymen, etc.," he says. "The interface of Q has the potential to revolutionize many industries that operate underneath."

We're operating in Delhi right now, with 1,500 service providers.
Is There a Market for 'Uber for Handymen' in India? These Startups Think So: Need to get your AC repaired? Maybe your door's latch has gone out of alignment and needs to be fixed? Or perhaps your fridge has developed a strange odour and you want someone to come and clean it until it's as good as new?

There's a whole crop of Indian startups that now exist to address such needs; companies like Mr Right, Housejoy, Local Oye, and Urban Clap allow you to hire a carpenter, a plumber or a cleaner with just a few taps, while others like Goodservice and GetMyPeon offer a digital concierge where you can ask for a wide range of services through the apps. But are they finding many takers in India, a country that has traditionally relied on the unorganised sector to bridge this gap?

Most of these startups are inspired by international companies like Homejoy (not to be confused with the Indian company Housejoy) that have shown the model works. The Indian companies have added local flavours like cash on delivery and are finding favour, especially with young professionals relocating for work across cities or to a new part of town. If you're busy with a demanding job - very likely in a startup yourself - then you won't be able to track down the various handymen you need around the house.

Even if you find someone, there's no guarantee of quality, and no way of knowing what a fair rate really is; instead, you just have to hope that the electrician didn't fleece you when he came over to repair your malfunctioning switches.

Interest in the space is booming; Mr Right was launched three years ago, as a full service company that had a regular staff of cleaners and other handymen on its employee-list, but changed into an aggregator at the start of last year. Meanwhile, the idea of an Uber-for-repairs has been gaining traction in India. Housejoy, which launched in January and already has a pan-India presence appears to draw inspiration from the US-based Homejoy for both its name and its model, and the company has raised $4 million (approximately Rs. 25.5 crore) from Matrix Partners.

Local Oye, which operates in Mumbai, started operations in 2013 and in April it raised $5 million (approximately Rs. 32 crore). Urban Clap, which was founded in October 2014, has raised Rs. 10 crore from various funders, also in April. Mumbai-based errand running service GetMyPeon just raised its first round of seed funding for Rs. 1.5 crore - clearly the sector is seeing a lot of interest from investors, if not customers themselves.

Also see:

Amazon Now Offering Home Services
Now Google Go Head to Head with Amazon Home Services

1 comment:

Massagite said...

More and more middleman apps are targeting small businesses. Is this healthy? The businesses are happy?

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