SkillFlick is a U.K. startup with the self-described aim of building an ‘Airbnb for local skills’. The site was founded two years ago, launching in beta in January 2013 and is just opening up fully to the public this month. It’s bootstrapped and is actively looking to raise a seed round now. TC last came across the startup pitching at our London meet-up back in July, when we described it as as an ‘Amazon marketplace but for local services’.
What exactly is SkillFlick’s proposition? It wants to be a local services marketplace where people with some kind of ability to offer others can sell their talent as a service in their community.
“There are millions of incredibly talented people whose skills are undiscovered,” says co-founder and CEO Ryan Perera. “We are creating a website where any skilled person can have a web presence, be discovered and have an online store to sell their services. We want to help them make money doing what they love. This means a talented local baker could sell cupcakes online, a local piano teacher or DJ could receive bookings online.”
The site currently divides offers into four main categories: services, lessons, food & drink, and custom goods. And then subdivides within those to cover a range of services, from cleaning and handyman repairs, to language and acting lessons, to baking, event catering and even customised jewellery.
The mix is eclectic — as you’d expect with a horizontal platform that’s aiming to be an umbrella portal, rather than a niche specialist in any one area — but the unifying thread here is you’re buying local. Whether that’s a strong enough pull to draw in enough traction remains to be seen. SkillFlick is certainly not there yet — albeit, it’s been building in stealth for the past two years, and is only now starting to shout about its proposition.
“There is no easy way to discover or compare services and prices offered by local skilled people,” argues Perera. “Google is an inefficient and fragmented solution to this, e.g. searching for piano lessons would give a variety of results, which are not sortable by distance, price or reviews. SkillFlick will be the one place where you can compare prices and services and book online.”
Some of the individual skills currently being offered for sale on the site include a barista selling lessons in making the perfect cup of coffee, a baker doing classes in vegan Victoria sponge-making, house and cat sitting services, and language lessons in French, Spanish or Russian.
Users can browse offers and book any service that takes their fancy through SkillFlick’s platform. The startup guarantees a refund if the seller fails to deliver the service. Details of how to collect a service are included on the item’s profile — and might include meeting the service seller in their local area or asking them to come to you. It’s entirely free for sellers to list their services but SkillFlick charges a 10 percent commission fee for services booked through its platform.
The site has around 300 service providers signed up currently — and that’s something it’s looking to start ramping up now that it’s exiting beta, according to Perera. “Initially we handpicked and invited the best sellers in London based on word of mouth and using our in house research to manually reach out to sellers and invited them on an invite only basis,” he says.
The initial beta pool of sellers has resulted in more than 1,000 services being offered in over 100 categories, with the main focus being London — although some sellers are offering services from further afield.
Per London postcode area, the number of services on offer remains relatively low. A search for my local London district brings up nothing for sale as yet. Searching for Croydon, a much larger bit of London, brings up around 90 services in total — with a glut of cake-baking related offerings. SkillFlick is definitely going to need to get a lot more locals signed up and selling if it is to grow into a proper marketplace, and move beyond the feeling of sparse virtual shelves.
Add to that, there are of course scores of more niche online businesses that SkillFlick is effectively competing with. If you want a local handyman, you can put out a call on MyBuilder or RatedPeople, for instance, and get local builders contacting you. For other general tasks there’s TaskRabbit. Want to buy custom goods? That’s what Etsy’s for… And platforms selling access to language lessons/tutors abound online. The challenge for SkillFlick is making local services into a compelling enough brand to stand out in a landscape of online specialists.
There’s certainly an opportunity there — there is a movement to buy more stuff locally and support small-scale sellers, rather than feeding money into the tax-dodging coffers of giant faceless offshore corporates. But building community traction around an umbrella online service is going to require considerable amounts of targeted marketing, and likely a lot of boots on the ground in a lot of different local areas too. (Thinking of the effort a site like Pinterest puts in to community outreach and running local branded events to connect with particular interest groups.)
In the meanwhile, SkillFlick has to rely on pulling buyers in based on the generic idea of ‘skills’ — and really, no one starts an online search with the thought ‘I must find me some skills today’. People might be a little more likely to think ‘I want to find some local skills’ but even then, if they have a specific need in mind that niche need is most likely where they will start their search.
For SkillFlick it’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. It needs to build serious momentum behind its services platform if it’s to become the place people think to search for local first — rather than just going to Google, or using existing local service directories like Yell.com. Or shortcutting to a specialist niche platform. But to get momentum it needs the sellers and buyers to be there.
Ultimately, it may make more sense for SkillFlick to narrow its focus, based on the categories and sub-sections that end up getting some traction. And if it’s going to focus on any particular type of local service, selling local cake-baking services online might be a good place to start. From SkillFlick to SugarFix perhaps?