Oisin Hanrahan, Handybook

With Handybook, consumers can book home services from cleaners to plumbers to electricians, at the tap of an app

Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 01:30

A native of Dublin, Oisin Hanrahan was 18 when he got his first taste of entrepreneurial life.

While a student at Trinity College Dublin, he set up Clearwater Group, a real estate development company in Budapest, Hungary. It was in Budapest that Oisin first saw the problem Handybook solves – he struggled to find a handyman he could trust to do work on his properties.

Oisin went on to set up the Undergraduate Awards, which has become the world’s largest pan-discipline awards programme. Supported by Google, Microsoft and others, it is a global annual awards event hosted in Dublin with the award distributed each year by the President of Ireland.

Oisin also established MiCandidate, which became the leading source for online election information across Europe in 2009.

A few years later, while at Harvard Business School, Oisin returned to the problem Handybook is solving today – how to help the world buy on-demand services.

Founded in May 2012 by Oisin and Umang Dua, Handybook has grown from three markets to over 25 cities across North America. Consumers can book home services from home cleaning to furniture assembly, at the tap of an app.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it? One of the most memorable moments at Handybook was during our first year. We had a system failure and accepted 50 per cent more bookings than we had staff for. We rallied the whole team – the engineers, designers, Umang and myself, anyone who could help – and we completed the jobs ourselves to make sure we didn’t let our customers down.

Were there any interesting or unusual circumstances surrounding the inception of the company or its evolution? When I founded Clearwater Group, a real estate development company based in Budapest, I first experienced the problem of finding trusted cleaning and repair professionals. It was only later, after I moved to the United States for university, that I realised this was a global problem – my roommate and I struggled to find a cleaner we could trust and spent a long time scouring the internet, reading online reviews and negotiating over pricing. We created Handybook as a solution.

What has been your biggest business achievement to date? The past six months have been incredible for Handybook. Starting in October, we announced our second round of funding totalling over $10 million from Highland Capital Partners and General Catalyst Partners and, in January, we announced the acquisition of California-based cleaning company Exec to grow our presence on the West Coast.

Most recently, we opened four additional offices, entered 12 new markets across the US and doubled our staff to over 100 employees. We’ve been experiencing 60 per cent month over month growth this year alone, which has been incredible.

What tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today? The importance of customer service cannot be overstated. No matter how enticing your product is, if you don’t have a great customer experience team, people won’t come back and that’s what we’re most proud of, our staggering number of repeat users. We’ve seen a real need for Handybook as evidenced by our growth, even beyond our wildest dreams.

When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for? We have a motto at Handybook: “Recruit smarter than you”. We believe in hiring the best and the brightest and we admit what we don’t know. That’s how we’re able to build such a strong team.