A Q&A with Hassle.com co-founder Jules Coleman. The London-based online booking and payment platform for house cleaners last week announced the closing of a $6 million Series A funding round from Accel Partners. It was founded in 2012 by Coleman, Alex Depledge, and Tom Nimmo, and previously raised a small amount of Angel funding.
SUB: Please describe Hassle.com and your primary innovation.
Coleman: Hassle.com is an online booking platform for cleaners. We connect busy local people with trusted cleaners in their local area. Customers type in their postcode when they land on the site and are able to browse through cleaner profiles and customer reviews before shortlisting the cleaners that best suit their needs.
The process—from arriving on the site to booking a cleaner—takes just minutes. We’re proud to have brought technology to an industry which has never had it in the past allowing local cleaners to compete with the big guns. We’re enabling them to establish their own micro-businesses while providing busy people with fully-vetted cleaners in their local area.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Coleman: Time-poor, busy professionals who want a trusted relationship with a local cleaner.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Hassle.com from the competition?
Coleman: A few other startups have entered the space, but our primary competition is the black market. Hassle.com offers a service which is fair, above board, and legitimate. We pay our cleaners more than the minimum wage, and customers know that they’re booking a cleaner through a reputable organization. We check all our cleaners’ references and interview each one personally.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $6 million in Series A funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more funding?
Coleman: We launched in January, 2013, and spent a year establishing our product. Our rapid success means that we now know we have the formula right—we’re providing a service which is needed and wanted and our customers and cleaners tell us that we’re doing it well. That’s why this was a good time to raise funding for the expansion and development of Hassle.com.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Coleman: We’re going to use the funding to enter into a number of new markets. We’re targeting major UK and European cities. We’re also planning to expand our product offering, particularly in the mobile space.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Hassle.com? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Coleman: Back in 2011, I was trying to find a piano teacher online and realized that it was a much harder task than it should be. Listings were either out of date or gave little indication of whether the piano teacher might be any good. After several hours looking online and multiple phone calls to check availability, I realized that if I was struggling then so were many others and that this also applied to other services. I thought surely technology could solve the problem. That was the ‘aha’ moment.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Coleman: I taught myself to code. The business idea was there but we needed to make it happen. So, I bought a book and worked through it page-by-page in my evenings and weekends until I’d built my first website. Two months later I quit my job as a management consultant and lived on savings for 14 months to concentrate on launching the business along with my co-founders.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Coleman: The name says it all, really—Hassle.com. We want to remove the hassle from people’s lives so they can spend more time doing the things they love. We’ve made finding a local trusted cleaner easier than ever.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Coleman: Initially, the biggest challenge was making do with scarce resources. We had to cover all aspects of running a business with just a few people, and had to balance so many different needs while keeping utmost focus on our customers and making them happy. More recently we’ve expanded so quickly from five full-time employees to 30 in the last three months. That’s been another challenge but a welcome one.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Coleman: We believe in being fair, not greedy, so we take a small amount from each booking which reflects the service we provide. This allows us to be a company which can scale. Typical cleaning agencies often take too much commission.
SUB: What are your goals for Hassle.com over the next year or so?
Coleman: It’s a really exciting time for us and we’ve got big ambitions. Cleaning is a billion dollar market and there’s a lot of work to do but we’re already making our mark. The pace at which we’re expanding is testament to our success. Launching in new markets is our primary focus right now.