Boston-based Handybook announced today that it has closed $2 million in seed funding for its online home services booking platform from General Catalyst Partners, Highland Capital Partners, and several individual investors. The company’s booking and pricing features let homeowners instantly get quotes and availability for home cleaners and basic handyman work, and book through the platform. The company will use the funding to expand its engineering and marketing team, while adding features to the platform and building its network of service providers.
Co-founders Oisin Hanrahan and Umang Dua came up with and tested the idea while at Harvard Business School, where they later dropped out to kickstart the company. “We’re solving a problem that’s annoying for people. Right now if you want to book a cleaner, handyman, plumber, or electrician it’s really difficult, it’s a drawn out process based on request for proposal,” Hanrahan said in an interview. “You ask them ‘hey I’ve got this thing, can you fix it, clean it, or do it?’, and people send you prices, then you have to negotiate the prices, then there’s a third step which is a really annoying part, where you’ve got to figure out their availability versus your availability, and one of you either has to compromise or somehow through serendipity someone’s free at the right time.”
Contrary to the process Hanrahan outlined above, Handybook users enter their zip code, pick a service, get a quote, and book one of the company’s network of pre-screened service providers for a time slot as early as the next day. Service providers go through an intensive screening process that involves submitting an online application, providing references, and doing a phone interview, background check, and in-person interview before finally making the cut. To date the company has picked 100 service providers out an applicant pool of almost 4,000 applicants.
Handybook makes a cut off each booking done through its platform, however, the exact percentage varies based on the category of the service, geography, and whether it’s a single user or repeat booking. “From the very beginning we were focused on two things, one is to deliver a great customer experience, and the second part is to provide a real value to the provider. So if we’re in a situation where it’s a race to the bottom on prices, we’re not doing that. We stepped in and we set a price level that providers can sell their services to our customers at. We think its a fair price level, we’ve got a lot of supply at that price level, which tells us it’s probably a good deal for providers, and a lot of demand,” Hanrahan said.
The platform is only available in Boston and New York City, and they want to expand to include other trade professionals like plumbing and electricians before they launch in new cities. The company is also developing a mobile app for its platform which will allow users in those cities to book on the go.
The company has to compete with everyone from cleaning companies like PathJoy, to individual service providers, to other platforms connecting homeowners with service providers. There’s everything from review sites like HomeStars, which lets users search listings of different trades and read reviews, to companies like TaskRabbit, Zaask, and Done. which provider an online marketplace that lets its users find someone for any task or errand, including basic home work and cleaning. However, Handybook is betting on alleviating the trust barrier that accompanies home service providers and looks to differentiate itself with money-back guarantees, an on-time guarantee, and its hand-picked service providers. The company’s success will hinge on the quality of the service providers, and whether they can offer those services at a competitive rate that also makes it worthwhile for cleaners and other approved providers.