San Francisco-based Homejoy has launched in it’s second Canadian city after Toronto, earlier this week, opening its doors up to Vancouver. The startup provides an easy way to match homeowners with trusted, professional service providers at an affordable rate (around $20 per hour).
Founder Adora Cheung said that the Vancouver launch “validates our ability to work in markets outside of the United States,” while it “confirms the need” for services like Homejoy.
“Part of why we chose Canada as our first international country to launch in is in large part due to demand. Vancouver also has a vibrant startup ecosystem that we are excited to be part of,” said Cheung.
The company of over 50 launched in October 2012. Ten months later it raised $1.7 million in seed cash from from Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, and others.
In August Techcrunch’s Anthony Ha questioned whether indeed Homejoy was an actual startup, and requested a personal tour around the San Francisco-based office. Apparently the backend technology was impressive, which detailed a data-driven system featuring an interface of cleaners’ geographic preferences, as well as a “demand map” that Homejoy has created to display where its customers and cleaners are. Furthermore, a custom CRM system tracks cleaners, clients, and jobs, while a custom phone system, allows cleaners and clients to communicate without actually knowing each other’s phone numbers.
But “sharing economy” services like these depend heavily on top notch customer service, as there’s never a guarantee that a cleaner will show up on time and completely please the customer every time. What the startup can do is try and solve the customer’s problem as much as possible through customer service investment, evidently something Homejoy has done.
Homejoy is similar to Canadian-made startup Kutoto, which unveiled its “Express Cleaning” app in July. Then the Montreal company scored major exposure on the app store which no doubt lifted its appeal among customers. However Kutoto itself was largely boot strapped until they closed a modest $350,000 seed round. I wondered whether $1.7 million was actually necessary for a cleaning app (no matter how impressive the app is).
“Homejoy was bootstrapped — actually, I accumulated a ton of personal debt, which I’m still paying off, to start Homejoy. We didn’t raise until we wanted to expand past the Bay Area,” said Cheung. “The seed funding was necessary for us to hire to create and sustain the team Homejoy needs to expand to as many cities as we have. In just over six months we’ve grown to 25+ markets across North America.”
Like many interesting startup ideas, this one came from a personal need. Cheung and her brother Aaron graduated from the Y-Combinator accelerator in Winter of 2010 with Pathjoy, a company connecting life coaches to people online. “We had a lot of great ideas that were not necessarily good business ideas,” said Cheung, so they iterated for two years and came up with Homejoy when Aaron was looking for a house keeper to clean his home.
“He could not find anything reasonably priced, and after some research, which included us going out and cleaning homes ourselves, we created Homejoy.”
As for expansion plans, Cheung said that they are “continuing to expand and build upon the cities we’re currently in.” I asked if she would one day take over the world, to which she replied: “if by taking over the world you mean creating happy homes outside of North America, that idea is not out of the question. The Milky way might be tough, but the Moon might not be out of the question.”