Breezeworks, a company working to bring a modern, mobile set of tools to vendors who largely work outside a traditional office environment – like locksmiths, plumbers, electricians, contractors, dog walkers and more – has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams’ Obvious Ventures. Other investors in the round included Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com; James Murdoch of 21st Century Fox; Jeff Skoll; David Sacks of Yammer/Microsoft; Max Levchin; and Peter Thiel.
The company first launched on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in 2013, demoing an app that was then called just “Breeze.”
“Breezeworks” turned out to be more SEO-friendly, co-founder Matthew Cowan says.
The idea with Breezeworks is to offer a series of tools that allow vendors who have multiple appointments per week to run their businesses from their phone. Included in the app are tools for scheduling, invoicing, payments (soon), mapping, collaborating with teams, and more. But from a consumer perspective, the best thing about the app is that it helps vendors manage their day and travel times, so they can actually make it to their appointments as scheduled.
The app checks traffic conditions and alerts vendors how long it will take them to reach their next stop. Meanwhile, customers are kept updated with automated reminders and alerts, including arrival time alerts – so they’ll remember their appointments and know when their vendor is going to arrive.
Cowan, previously of Intel and Bridgescale, and an investor in CNET, iVillage and GeoCities, co-founded the company with childhood friend Adam Block, previously of IDG and Harmonic Communications. He says they realized the need for the service as homeowners and apartment owners themselves who experienced difficulties in coordinating with service professionals around appointments.
Meanwhile, this large segment of the U.S. business population ($120 billion in annual revenue, Cowan notes) doesn’t have many choices when it comes to tools for managing their jobs and keeping up with customers.
“In the pre-mobile era, these guys didn’t have computers and platforms that were easily accessible on the job,” says Cowan. “They’re on the go – they’re mobile workers. It wasn’t practical for them to have computers brought with them…I think the technology industry perhaps didn’t understand what the use case was. The end result was that no solutions were created or delivered,” he says.
The “mobile-first” era changes that. Everyone now has a smartphone, and contractors, vendors and other service pro’s use them for personal and business tasks throughout the day.
There are competitors, however. Vendors today often use a variety of apps for things like invoicing or scheduling. Breezeworks is aiming to centralize those needs under one roof.
Today, Breezeworks has grown to include thousands of business customers across the U.S. and Canada, in both urban and rural markets. Previously free to use, the company is now launching out of beta and charging $20/month for its service.
The largest percentage of its customers are small organizations with four to seven technicians, the CEO says. While it’s not a fit for larger companies with 20 employees or more, Cowan is excited about the prospect of selling to franchises.
Here, individual owners function like sole proprietors, but the franchise model means there’s an enterprise to sell into. He says that the company is in discussions with a couple dozen franchises now, and will likely have announcements related to that in Q1 2015.
San Francisco-based Breezeworks is today a team of 10 and plans to use the new funding for investments in engineering and customer acquisition. Previously iOS-only, the company is also launching an Android app today which should make the discussions with larger organizations easier.
As for taking investment from Obvious, Cowan thinks it’s a good fit.
Cowan says small business owners are under attack from marketplaces and larger firms armed with great technologies. “Obvious Ventures is focused in investing in ‘world positive’ companies…[those] that make the world a better place,” he says. “Our core mission is empowering these independent service providers to remain independent and in control of their business.”