OpenChime, a startup that allows users to get online quotes and information from an array of local service providers, today announced that it has raised $700K in seed funding from Lightbank, the Chicago investment firm started by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. OpenChime was apparently discovered by Lightbank Partner Paul Lee and represents his first investment since joining Lightbank from Playboy Enterprises, where he was the managing director of digital ventures. In fact, during due diligence, Lee reportedly used the startup to find a service to repair his roof.
Just as Groupon targets local, OpenChime is targeting what it sees as big inefficiencies in local businesses. Namely, the difficulty in quickly receiving quotes on reputable local service providers. Founded by Erdem Kiciman and his former roommate at MIT, Kale McNaney, OpenChime launched in 2010 to enable consumers to receive valid quotes on practically any local service, from local business owners, like handymen, house cleaners, personal trainers and so on. OpenChime has even booked some more unusual service requests, like a home theater installation, for example.
The problem is that many of us often spend hours doing Web research to find the right local service for a job we need done, which then ends up in a series of phone calls that often yield few quotes. OpenChime streamlines the process, cuts out the middle man by allowing a user to fill out a quick online form and submit that request through OpenChime. The startup then sends the request to relevant local businesses, collects the info the user needs, and then follows up with an email that includes a summary of the service, a quote, etc. Businesses can also request to be added to OpenChime’s roster so that they can be found and accessed more easily by the OpenChime team.
Of course, OpenChime has some competition from other startups like Thumbtack and Redbeacon, and the team hasn’t yet shared a revenue model, so the funding allows the startup to take time to get it right.