TC50: RedBeacon Lets You Hire Local Service Providers Online, Without Any Phone Calls

The web is loaded with sites offering listings and reviews for local services, with mainstays like Yelp and Craigslist leading the pack. But when it comes to actually executing a transaction with one of these service providers — establishing details like establishing a price and timing — most people still turn to their phone books to call the service. RedBeacon is a new service making its public debut today at TechCrunch50 that further streamlines this process by bringing the OpenTable model of online transactions to much broader spectrum of services.

Using the site will be easy for anyone who has used a local review service like Yelp. Simply type whatever service you’re looking for (be it plumber, gardener, or hair stylist), and the site will present a list of recommended service providers in your area. RedBeacon also employees natural language processing so it can figure out exactly what you’re looking for (for example, “Cupcake maker” would search for any bakers in the area). The site will then present a list of profiles for each match, featuring reviews and comments from other users, basic information like their hours, and star reviews imported from Yelp.

To figure out exactly how much a given service will cost, you first detail what you’re looking for and the site begins an auction among the matching providers, where each bids on how much their fee will be. Once you’ve picked a provider, you can schedule your time online, without having to ever pick up the phone.

The site also has a feature that allows you to quickly find workers for projects that don’t require any training. Say, for example, you needed someone to hand out 500 cupcakes at TechCrunch50. RedBeacon would let you post a job, and then would automatically ping RedBeacon members in your vicinity to see who was available. They could then respond with a price quote, as well as an ETA for when they’d be able to perform the task.

The site is launching today in a limited beta, inviting local services to fill in their profiles. And in two weeks, it will launch to the public, allowing anyone to start hiring local providers.

Q: How do you get over the chicken and the egg problem?
A: We’re launching two weeks early to invite providers to join before opening to the public. Also don’t need to necessarily have lots of providers, just need some in each category.

Q: How do you reduce friction
A: Can receive Email or text message notification. Just enter the time and hit submit. It’s also complete free for them to respond to jobs and create a profile.

Q: ServiceMagic seems to be the same idea.
A: Started in the mid 90’s, started by IAC. They charge service providers lots of money to sign up initially, and charge every time they receive a lead, even if they don’t win.

Q: Is there a class of job you anticipate being especially popular?
A: In the Bay Area, household services (handymen, maids, gardeners). But never know how people are going to use your products.

Q: Have you thought about focusing on specific verticals?
A: Yes. We’re reaching out to strategic verticals (less than five). But we’ll support virtually any occupation.

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Other Coverage:
TC50: Need someone to mow your lawn? Redbeacon creates a market for local services. VentureBeat.
Redbeacon Launches At TechCrunch50 Reuters.