Adora Cheung, co-founder and CEO of Pathjoy, said her goal is to make maid service “ubiquitous” — a basic service for a broad audience, rather than a luxury for the rich.
To make that happen, Cheung and her brother/co-founder Aaron are offering four main twists on the traditional cleaning service model. First, she said Pathjoy is more affordable, charging only $20 an hour, compared to the $40 charged by most other cleaning services. (The default apartment cleaning on Pathjoy takes 2.5 hours, so it would cost $50.) Second, it’s more convenient, because you can book, cancel, and reschedule cleanings from the Pathjoy website, rather than having to call. Third, Pathjoy performs a background check on every cleaner, then bonds, insures, and trains them, so you’ve got some assurances of high-quality service.
Those are probably the important points for the customers, but Cheung said there’s a fourth goal — making sure the cleaners are well-treated too.
Now, some of those goals may seem a bit paradoxical. How can you promise high quality and good treatment of cleaners if you’re charging less? Cheung said it’s because she and her brother actually spent some time working as cleaners after they decided to launch a cleaning startup, so they’ve figured out how to take a lot of the inefficiencies out of the industry. (Cheung said that experience and focus gives Pathjoy an advantage over startups that offer cleaning as part of a broader range of services.) Perhaps understandably, she didn’t go into too many details, but she pointed to the transition from phone to web booking as one example. Here’s another:
We’re also streamlining the way we go into a city. We can scale up the workforce at super high quality. We know where to get the cleaners and where to get the demand. It’s a lot of moving pieces, and it’s hard if you just showed up and had nothing.
To test it out, I signed up for a cleaning of my own, and the process went as smoothly as Cheung promised. Making a reservation took about a minute (I got a little hung up because I didn’t know the square footage of my apartment), then I got email and phone confirmations the day before the appointment, and they also sent me my cleaner’s profile so I’d know who she was.
And the cleaning experience was great. It took a longer than expected (apparently that’s normal for first-time cleanings), but Rana was super-friendly, offering me tips on how to keep things clean in the future, while also being unobtrusive and allowing me to work when I needed to. Apparently she’s one of the more experienced cleaners, but since she’s also involved in training the newbies, hopefully some of that rubs off.
Rana also gave me some insight into one of Pathjoy’s other innovations — she’s figured out a way to pack all of her cleaning supplies into a relatively small box that she was able to carry on mass transit, and other cleaners are given a similar kit. After all, parking can be a big challenge, especially in an urban environment, and tickets can quickly turn into a big expense.
Most importantly, my apartment is cleaner now than it has ever been. I’m totally hooked.
Pathjoy has raised a seed round of undisclosed size from Y Combinator, First Round Capital, PayPal and Slide founder Max Levchin (Cheung was a product manager at Slide), Paul Graham, and 500 Startups. Apparently Cheung and her brother actually graduated from YC two years ago, but it took them a while to settle on a startup idea that might work.
Initially, I was a little skeptical about whether it makes sense to consider Pathjoy a tech startup, since a big part of its operations don’t have anything to do with technology (at least, not web or mobile technology) at all. Still, the web ordering is pretty great, and judging from the positive response this idea got in the TechCrunch office, the service could certainly take off in the startup world.
Even though it’s officially launching in the press today, the Pathjoy site started offering cleaning in the Bay Area back in July. Cheung said the site had “hundreds” of customers last month, and that it’s doubling or tripling every month.
Y Combinator is a venture fund which focuses on seed investments to startup companies. It offers financing as well as business consulting along with other opportunities to 2-4 person companies looking to take an idea to a product. Y Combinator looks for companies with “good” ideas over companies with experience and a business model. The company made its first investments in Summer 2005. Y Combinator selects companies to finance and consult with twice a year. They are located in...