Fresh off the back of a $38 million funding round, Homejoy is taking its disruptive cleaning service to new shores. Today the company is officially launching in the UK, its first market outside of North America, with its cleaning services costing £13/hour ($21/hour).
Since opening for business in July 2012, Homejoy has been expanding faster than the mess in a teenager’s bedroom, with double-digit growth and now active in 30 markets across the U.S. and Canada. But Adora Cheung, who co-founded the company with her brother Aaron, tells me she thinks the best is yet to come. “London will be our biggest market in the world,” she says. “We think it will be comparable to NYC, which has grown extremely fast.”
Believe it or not, this is not because Londoners are especially messy. Like many a metropolis, London is home to millions of people who work too much and may have a little disposable income that they can put towards a home care, and they are very smartphone friendly. It’s a magic combination that fits directly into Homejoy’s business model, where you can book a vetted cleaner with the touch of an app button, or the click of a mouse. And cleaners equally are able to take advantage of the platform to fill out their week or work, or to take on jobs just for the hours they are available to work.
As with its existing service in its home market, in the UK Homejoy has been spending the last several weeks amassing a network of cleaners for its books, vetting them with interviews and cleaning tests. That beta period has seen “hundreds of cleans”, she says — one of the reasons she is so confident of future growth here.
It won’t be without competition, however. Just yesterday, and likely timed for maximum impact, Rocket Internet launched its Homejoy clone, Helpling, which is starting out first in its own home market of Germany, but as you might expect from a Samwer enterprise, has big ambitions to go elsewhere. And other companies like TaskRabbit, which launched last year in the UK, are also tackling the home cleaning market.
Housekeep.co.uk and Hassle.com are both based in London and also provide a platform to book cleaners. Housekeep works on a sliding price scale, while Hassle costs only £10/hour (which in my experience is much closer to what cleaners cost in London). The existence of all these players could imply that either Homejoy will face price pressure quickly, or will need to prove that it’s actually doing something materially better to merit the extra charge (or find a way of attracting clients with something so sticky that they simply don’t end up hunting around for anything else).
Cheung is very diplomatic about competition. On the subject of the Samwers and their well-timed launch: “It’s very flattering that Rocket Internet has picked up on it, but being the original player we think that we’ll do very well in Europe,” she says. She adds that the company is committed to growing organically, with no plans for acquisitions, the route that so many other e-commerce-based companies take when expanding into Europe. What may come next are expansions into further categories of jobs that help people out in their homes, repairs and other work.
Of the £13/hour, cleaners will be getting “£8 or £9 of that”, she says.