[Q&A] E-Commerce Enters the World of Home Cleaning with Helpling

- Leadership - Aug 19, 2014

A wave of new companies has swept over Europe which are brokering self-employed professionals for household services such as home cleaning.

Some of them are supported by the internet’s big players - such as Homejoy by Google - indicating that this could become the next big trend in e-commerce. We talked to Benedikt Franke, co-founder of the most widely-available home services portal on the continent, Helpling.

BRE: Do you think booking cleaners online could become a mainstream idea? Are Europeans ready to get their baths and bedrooms cleaned by someone they have booked online?  

BF: We absolutely do think this will become mainstream. You could even consider it mainstream today already. From the tremendous success of Airbnb we know that for people today it is a normal thing to connect online for private services - to rent a bedroom, for instance.

We believe that local household services are the next big trend in online shopping. And this trend is subsuming not only cleaners, but also nannies, gardeners, dog-sitters, personal cooks and so on.

You started in Germany in April and then expanded to the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Austria within just 60 days. Why is expanding quickly so important in your industry?

You want to be the first one because it gives you a unique opportunity to prove thought leadership, to raise brand awareness and to claim the domain. This is even more relevant when you know that there are other companies working in the same direction and on the same countries.

And how do you manage to expand so rapidly?

When you’re moving into several markets within a matter of weeks it’s important to have a crystal clear business model and then be able to adapt it local needs. Adapting our business model to local demands is probably one of our biggest strengths.

We also benefit from the support of Rocket Internet. Two days after we decided to go forward and build Helpling we had 10 developers on-hand to start working on the product. Also, getting it right from the beginning is important because, with the speed at which we are growing, mistakes can be repeated and become habits.

What is the trick to starting up with speed?

Planning and execution need several things done right if you want to grow quickly. Get the product basics right. If you need to go back and make changes you should have fixed early on, you’re wasting valuable time. Also, be hungry for data. The more data you have on each market the better able you are to understand local needs.

Take considered risks. Deciding quickly is essential even though not every swift decision will always be right - but that’s OK as long as they move the company forward. If things aren’t going the way you expect, gather your team together, iron out the issues and move on.

What advice can you give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs who have a great idea?

Find a starting point and go for it. Keep focused on what your goal is and how you’re going to get there. Learn on-the-go because you can’t prepare for all scenarios with a textbook. Also, be passionate - it doesn't matter whether it is the business idea that drives you or the hunger to be the best and most successful - as long as you love what you are doing.

Helpling operates in more than 130 cities across Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Italy.


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