Facebook backer bets on Irishwoman’s ‘Hailo for cleaners’ start-up
Hassle.com cleans up with $6 million investment from Accel Partners
Tom Nimmo, Alex Depledge and Jules Coleman, founders of home cleaning start-up Hassle.com.
In 2005, venture capital firm Accel Partners bet $12.2 million (€9 million) on a website run by college dropout Mark Zuckerberg. That was Facebook and seven years later when the social network floated, the wager was worth more than $10 billion. Accel has since gone on to back the Hailo taxi app, daily deals site Groupon, digital music service Spotify and file-hosting service Dropbox.
Earlier this year, the equity firm turned its attention to home cleaning start-up Hassle. com, investing $6 million in the company, which is the brain child of Kildare woman Jules Coleman. “The day it came in, we kept refreshing our internet banking screen. We’d never seen a bank balance like that,” she says.
The company will use the money to expand and Dublin is the start-up’s first market outside the UK. The deal also saw Ron Zeghibe, the founder and chairman of Hailo join the board of Hassle.com.
After finishing a degree in economics and finance at UCD, Coleman joined Accenture, where she worked as a management consultant for five years, mostly in London. It was at Accenture that she met Alex Depledge and Tom Nimmo who would later become her co-founders at Hassle.
Coleman spent five years at Accenture working with chief financial officers of large multinational firms, before joining PwC, where she came up with the idea for Hassle. “I had played piano until I was 13 or 14 and wanted to take it up again. I started looking for a piano teacher in London. It was really hard,” she said.
She quickly discovered online listings were either out of date or gave little indication of whether the piano teacher might be any good. Furthermore, it was hard to tell if the person was available without calling. She phoned Depledge and Nimmo with the idea of creating an online database for music teachers, but they didn’t think it was a strong enough idea. “My dad is a driving instructor in Co Kildare. I realised a few months later that it is hard for him to be sourcing customers when he is out and about giving lessons all day.”
Depledge and Nimmo agreed that there was business potential in a website that offered lots of different services.
“We couldn’t afford to pay someone to build a website and we wanted to own our own technology. So I bought a book called Teach Yourself How to Code and built a very basic website. On the back of that we got onto the Springboard accelerator programme in the UK. The three of us quit our jobs when we got onto the programme.”
Different servicesThe company launched in summer 2012 offering 25 services from personal trainers to cleaners to driving instructors.
However, by that November, the start-up was fast running out of money and a decision had to be made on its future. After looking at the company’s data, the trio realised that 80 per cent of their customers were coming to the site for cleaning services. They decided to focus on cleaning exclusively, and a new home cleaning focused site was launched in the UK in January 2013.
The process, from landing on the site to booking a cleaner, takes less than 60 seconds and the service costs just €12 per hour in Dublin. Hassle.com retains €2 of the fee as commission with the remaining €10 going to the cleaner.
Coleman says finding work via the marketplace takes out the agency “middle man” enabling the cleaners to earn more and focus on their clients. It also removes the chance of late payments as the cleaners are paid on a daily basis.
Customers simply type their area code, such as Dublin 8, into the site and browse through cleaner profiles and customer reviews before selecting the cleaners that best suit their needs.
From the point of view of cleaners, the site allows them to have control over the hours they work and enables them to have access to a steady flow of jobs. This eliminates the need for cleaners to use shop window advertising, listings or flyers.
References checkedThe business model sees cleaners who sign up to the service fill out an application form, go through a phone and in-person interview and have references checked.
More than 100 cleaners are already signed up and ready for work in Dublin, and more than 500 have applied to be part of the site.
Coleman said Dublin was chosen as the company’s first market outside of the UK for several reasons.
“The city has a great deal of early adopters who embrace technology. Many cleaners are looking for more work particularly as the economic outlook improves, and we have good market insight given that I’m Irish.”