Online Marketplace Thumbtack Pins Hopes On Local Services
San Francisco-based online local services marketplace Thumbtack launched today to offer users a place to easily compare price, availability, location, and other detailed provider information on thousands of local services. Already, Thumbtack offers some 15,000 providers where consumers can find, compare and book local services from the mundane – tutors, caterers, handymen etc – to the quirky, such as belly dancers, henna body artists and cartoonists.
“The local service market, though enormous, is highly fragmented, fraught with inefficiencies, and largely transacted offline,” said Marco Zappacosta, Founder and CEO of Thumbtack. “Just as eBay and Amazon moved products online, Thumbtack aims to lead the transition of services online. We know this goal is ambitious, but the trend is inevitable and Thumbtack is poised to create this change.”
Thumbtack also offers a free personal concierge service that helps consumers find a service they need within 24 hours. An important aspect to Thumbtack is its suite of safety tools that allow consumers to verify and vet the identity of all providers – there are some 12 tools such as identity verification, criminal background screens, professional license checks, and customer testimonials and reviews to ensure that services are legitimate and trusthworthy.
The availability of verification tools have been welcomed by its service providers. “Trust is the essential ingredient when purchasing a local service,” said Thea Mason, a personal chef in San Francisco. “Thumbtack‘s unparalleled safety tools protect consumers and allowed me to build a permanent online reputation that helps me attract new clients.”
Far From A Tacky Idea
Thumbtack was founded in August 2008 by a group of twenty-somethings from a broad range of backgrounds. The inspiration first came over many conference calls amongst the founding members over startup ideas they found promising. “After months of discussion, and many dead ends, we stumbled upon the idea of a marketplace for services,” says Thumbtack‘s CEO Marco Zappacosta. “You can find any product imaginable online today, but you can’t do the same with people or services. We thought: this has to change, and change soon, and we want to make it happen.”
After over a year in private development, Marco says, they’re excited to have created a comprehensive solution to this problem. “We have put over a year of work into designing our marketplace to make it flexible and sophisticated enough to accommodate a large segment of the local service marketplace.”
Marco believes there are three types of consumers who will benefit most from Thumbtack: homeowners who need domestic services such as handymen, parents who require help around the house such as babysitters, and people who move to a new home in a different area and are unfamilar with available local services. “All currently existing mediums are highly deficient. Asking friends and family for recommendations is safe, but severely limits your network of providers. Craigslist has a deep network, but is highly unreliable and often unsafe,” Marco explains. “We are a vast improvement over both of these current options – we provide consumers with both a large and safe network of service providers.” For example, Thumbtack gives service providers a permanent webpage where they can upload photos and videos and even choose their own URL, solving the issue of trust which can be lacking in competitor offerings.
Thumbtack is focusing initial growth in San Francisco’s Bay Area.”We’ve signed up about 15,000 service providers so far, and hundreds more are signing up every day,” Marco says. “We’re excited to finally start recruiting consumers as well now.” Thumbtack is looking to continue growing its service provider database, and will begin next week reaching out to consumers via an old-school flyer campaign in San Francisco. If that is successful, Marco says, they’ll extend that to other cities around the country.
Its revenue primarily comes from three sources – a transaction fee from facilitating any online transaction through its online booking and payment system, selling marketing tools to service providers to find and recruit customers, and charging for access to identity verification tools. Currently, transactions remain free for early users.
Thumbtack received a round of financing in June of 2009 from a group of angel investors including the co-founder and former Chairman & CEO of Logitech and an early angel investor of Angie’s List. Marco declined to disclose the level of funding, but disclosed that they have enough runway for another year.
“I’m a big proponent of entrepreneurship,” Marco says. ” I believe that it’s the ultimate driver of growth and our increasing standard of living. ”
“If there is one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that you should not say no to yourself,” he adds. “There are so many obstacles in your way already, you shouldn’t add another!”
Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.