Home care marketplace HomeTouch quietly picks up backing from 500 Startups, launches UK-wide

HomeTouch, the U.K. home care marketplace, is announcing its nation-wide launch today, along with revealing that it now counts 500 Startups as a backer.

TechCrunch understands that the Silicon Valley VC has invested $200,000 in a round that closed in January, joining HomeTouch’s existing investors, which include Passion Capital, Bupa, Nominet Trust, and Rocket Internet’s venture arm GFC.

I’m also told that HomeTouch’s full U.K. expansion comes in part via an acquisition of the assets of LiveInCareJobs.com from previous owner Target Recruitment. This includes its database of 25,000 registered live-in carers who are being automatically invited to HomeTouch’s application process, but will still be subject to its standard face-to-face vetting process.

Should the majority make the cut, HomeTouch claims it makes the company the U.K.’s largest online provider of care professionals.

Regards the decision to invest in HomeTouch, 500 Startups’ Matt Lerner tells me that the early-stage investor has seen home care marketplaces growing quickly in a lot of markets, “which really validates the opportunity”.

He also talked up HomeTouch founder Dr Jamie Wilson’s experience as a former dementia physician. “[He] understands the issues that face families, and puts a premium on trust and the quality of care. He’s a smart operator and he’s built a strong business,” says Lerner.

In addition to a U.K.-wide rollout, adding to HomeTouch’s initial market of London and Brighton, the startup has bolstered its search functionality by employing so-called ‘elastic search’.

This means that families/those requiring home care can search for freelance care professionals on HomeTouch via a combination of criteria, such as languages spoken, specialist skills with dementia, qualifications, and holding a driving licence. It’s similar to the search technology used by traditional dating sites.

In fact, Wilson has previously likened the service to online dating, claiming that price sensitivity often plays second fiddle to actually matching the right people, taking into account a carer’s experience and particular skill set and the required cultural fit to successfully place a carer in somebody’s home.

With that said, just like any online marketplace has the potential to do so, by cutting out (or at least replacing) the traditional care agency middle-person, HomeTouch claims its carers earn up to 75 per cent above industry average, whilst still offering good value for money to care seekers.

In other words, this might be a rare beast: a gig economy story that is unambiguously good for workers.

On that note, I asked Wilson if he thinks Brexit could place more pressure on social care, considering that migrant workers, not least from the EU, are over-represented in the care industry.

“I do think it’s true,” he says, “but it can be offset if there are opportunities in social care that offer more competitive remuneration, which then makes this form of work more attractive to current U.K. residents. It’s perverse that cleaning can be better paid than more demanding and higher skilled care work”.