Rocket Internet’s Helpling Mops Up $17M For Its Cleaners-On-Demand Service

Helpling, the Rocket Internet-backed cleaners-on-demand service, has tidied in a nice little sum of its own after announcing $17 million in fresh funding. Investors in this Series A round include Mangrove Capital, Phenomen Ventures, Point Nine Capital and Delivery Hero chairman Lukasz Gadowski.

TechCrunch also understands that the original target for this round was ~$25 million, and that it may be extended in the coming weeks. It’s not clear, however, if there was a difference in valuation between the company and the value placed on it by potential investors, or why Rocket Internet itself hasn’t participated in the round.

Helpling began in Rocket Internet’s home town of Berlin in March this year. In keeping with the German incubator’s tradition, it has scaled quickly, at least on the surface — today the company claims to be active in over 150 cities across 8 markets in Europe and Latin America.

However, Helpling isn’t disclosing metrics for any of the markets it has a presence. And it’s also not clear how many feet on the ground it has in each city or how many cleaners it has on its books. As one of Helpling’s competitors is fond of saying, “it takes more than a local landing page to own a city”.

To that end, Helpling founder Benedikt Franke tells TechCrunch: “We normally establish a local office with about two handful (of) employees. Launching in a city means that we have at least one handful of vetted cleaners. They have successfully gone through our multistep application process including a personal (telephone) interview, a cleaning test, submission of documents/papers (such as a criminal record, business license and references in Germany)”

Zooming out further, there are a fair few companies competing in this space — which you could describe as ‘Uber for cleaners’ if you were so inclined.

In the UK alone — where Helpling is yet to launch and says it has no immediate plans to do so — there’s well-backed U.S. startup HomeJoy, local players Housekeep, Handy-owned Mopp, and Hassle. Then of course there’s TaskRabbit, which also offers domestic cleaners, and its many local competitors.

So how does Helpling claim to stand out from the rest? In a statement, Mangrove Capital’s Hans-Jürgen Schmitz points to its “highly impressive” scale, and claims the service is ‘market-leading’ in all eight markets. While the latter point is certainly up for debate — we’re hearing that Helpling’s presence in Paris hasn’t made a dent on Hassle’s growth in the French city — raising $17 million gives the company a decent war chest, albeit one that appears to be spread quite thin already.

In comparison, HomeJoy has raised $38 million but is primarily focused on the U.S., Housekeep has raised $1 million, while Mopp sold to America’s Handy in September, and Hassle raised $6 million from Accel in May.

And while Helpling doesn’t reveal how the money will be spent, or give any indication as to its customer numbers or total roster of cleaners, co-founder Philip Huffmann said the company, and by association its rivals too, are tapping the collaborative consumption model to make cleaning services a reality for all for the first time.

“Home Cleaning used to be for a relatively niche audience. Adding flexibility, convenience and security at competitive prices enables more people than ever to benefit from these services. We want to give people more free time and an ever more enjoyable experience at home,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, it seems like its funding season for Rocket Internet companies right now, following the German organization’s public listing in Frankfurt. Its Africa-based e-commerce business Jumia raised $120 million last week, Amazon-clone Lazada netted $250 million over the weekend, and today is Helpling’s turn.