Peer-to-peer service marketplaces let people one side of the equation save time by outsourcing their tasks, while on the other side helping people earn extra cash for their skills. These marketplaces have thrived in the U.S. with companies like Exec, TaskRabbit, and Zaarly expanding south of the border, though they have yet to venture into Canadian territory. Which is why Montreal-based Kutoto, an iPhone app that provides similar functionality, believes it has a head start in the market, launching recently in both Toronto and Montreal.
The startup was co-founded in 2012 by Anton Yushin, Julien Cassis, and Abdullah Al-Sweidi, and raised $350,000 from private equity investors in October of last year. Kutoto currently has over 120 approved service providers who are prescreened and help its users complete tasks that range from delivering groceries, to designing logos, to cooking authentic Indian food and almost everything in between.
“Kutoto, if you want to think of an easy analogy, is Siri for real life. It connects busy Canadians with a network of qualified, pre-approved, and prescreened individuals who have the skills, experience, and time to help you out with errands, chores, personal training, and whatever else in between,” said Yushin in an interview with BetaKit.
Anyone can apply to complete tasks in Kutoto’s network, and have to go through an interview, do a photo ID scan, complete a reference check, and be tested for the skill they claim to want to provide. Yushin said the company has seen quite a bit of demand from people wanting to complete tasks, and has another 150 individuals in the pipeline waiting to be approved.
Users of Kutoto on the other hand download the iPhone app and create a post outlining the task they want completed, which category it fits into (around the house, pick up and delivery, etc.), their location, and the price they’re willing to pay. From there they are assisted by a community manager from Kutoto to guide them through the process as they start receiving bids from service providers, and they can go back and forth with those assistants via in-app chat and photo messaging functionality to negotiate the details of the transaction. The person who posted the task completes the transaction by paying via credit card, and the payment is transferred once the task has been completed.
Currently, Kutoto takes a flat 10 percent transaction fee from its providers for any errand over $50, and then has a sliding scale for any amount beneath that, so for transactions under $50, it can take up to 30 percent depending on how low the final price is.
When asked what would differentiate the company were any of the other U.S.-based startups to enter the Canadian market, Yushin said there were a few key factors. “When you post something on Kutoto, you actually instantly connect with a community manager, think of it as your personal assistant, that’s going to guide you through the process and chat with you,” Yushin added. “A lot of other marketplaces really dump you into this world of well, just find somebody on your own. Whereas our application really takes a hands on approach that says, great we’ve received your request, you’re going to get some offers, we’re here to help you out.”
While that may be true, it might not be a system that scales, since if the company grows to millions of users, it won’t be feasible to have a community manager assist every person who posts a task. The other difference Yushin mentioned is the app also enables P2P payments facilitated through the company’s relationships with the major banks in the Canadian market, so users can set up a Kutoto balance and pay directly through the mobile app rather than paying by credit card.
The startup is currently in talks with VCs to raise a more substantial round and is also looking to add a web app to provide desktop functionality, in addition to an Android app down the road. While right now it doesn’t have to compete with task marketplaces south of the border, if and when they do decide to venture up north they’ll likely give Kutoto a run for its money. Especially since competing services are branching out beyond general task marketplaces, with Exec launching a dedicated housecleaning app last month and Zaarly launching its Storefronts feature for merchants to promote their custom goods last year.