Dublin entrepreneur aims to clean up with new online service system
START-UP NATION/Handybook:Harvard MBA student’s offering allows public to book household services rapidly for anything from cleaners to plumbers and handymen, writes PAMELA NEWENHAM
WHEN DUBLINER Oisín Hanrahan first enrolled at Harvard University, he found he didn’t have enough time between lectures and study to assemble his newly purchased Ikea furniture, or to clean his apartment.
The 28-year-old MBA student also found current ways to book services – online and offline – difficult and time-consuming. “You can easily buy a book online or book a restaurant, but booking a service such as a handyman was a different story. While Ikea provide a service where they assemble the furniture, I didn’t have the time to be waiting for them at my apartment all day.”
Thus the idea for Handybook was born. Handybook is an online system that allows members of the public to book household services rapidly for anything from cleaners to plumbers and handymen.
Hanrahan, along with his flatmate and co-founder Umang Dua, put together between 30 and 40 service providers in Boston and the same number in Manhattan.
“We spent quite a bit of time putting the list together as we wanted people who were good and reliable. We conducted hundreds of interviews, read reviews of people online, did background checks and social security checks. We also relied on word of mouth – good cleaners could recommend other good cleaners.”
Members of the public enter their area code, the service they are looking for, when they need it and for how long. For example, they might say they need a cleaner for three hours in the Cambridge area outside Boston on August 1st. The site then provides an instant quote, availability and a booking service allowing the transaction to be completed in just 90 seconds.
“The site takes payment instantly and we hold the money for 14 days before passing it on to the provider. If the customer is unsatisfied with the job done, we refund them their money.
“We also have a time rule. If the handyman or cleaner is not there within 15 minutes of the time they are supposed to be, the service is provided free of charge.”
The service is currently available only in Boston and Manhattan, but Hanrahan is hoping to offer it in other areas. The start- up is currently raising additional funding, on top of the $50,000 they raised prior to the launch, and have been looking to expand to San Francisco.
“We’ve just interviewed approximately 40 cleaners in San Francisco and want to be available there next.
“London is our first logical market in Europe, as it has postcodes similar to US area codes, but we would like to come to Dublin ultimately.”
The company has four full-time staff and is looking to hire three more shortly, according to Hanrahan. It is based in the Highland Capital offices in Boston, where the start-up is taking part in an accelerator programme organised by the venture capital firm.
The programme provides 14 start-ups, all of which have to have team members still in college, with office space, help and funding.
“The feedback has been excellent so far. The site makes sense for customers. They shouldn’t have to adjust their calendar for a cleaner or plumber and wait around all day for them. We’re reversing the power balance,” Hanrahan says.
The business isn’t the TCD graduate’s first. Hanrahan also co- founded the Undergraduate Awards and MiCandidate with Dublin Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave while still in college in Dublin.
This was on top of the Clearwater Group, a property development company he founded in Hungary when he just 19 years old.
What next for the entrepreneur? “I’m hoping to defer my final year of the MBA course so I can concentrate on expanding Handybook. It can be deferred for up to five years, which I might end up doing.
“Our vision for Handybook is to change the way people buy services online. It should be as easy as booking a hotel or buying a book.”