I saw a demo of Workstir earlier this week, a new startup founded by Ryan Merket and Duncan Winter. The site is still in private alpha and is at least a few weeks away from launching, but they have an interesting approach to cracking the local services market. Think Craigslist + Yelp, where people sometimes post listings looking for service providers, and service providers sometimes post listings saying what they do. But listings, profiles, reviews and other data are more structured, and the site works hard to put service providers and customers together.
This is a tough space to launch a new service because of the chicken and egg problem. Until there are customers the service providers don’t show up, and vice versa. There’s some secret sauce there that they shared with me as well that I think gives them a fighting chance of succeeding (and doesn’t rely on paying people to leave reviews, as Yelp did in the early days). in particular, local service providers may see this as an excellent tool to get new customers right from day one.
If you are interested in these kinds of services, sign up on their home page to become a beta tester. The first 100 people will be invited to their launch party coming up soon.