Redbeacon is just a year and a half old, until recently was bootstrapped, and has deployed its local-services marketplace in only one region, but something about what it’s doing clearly makes people think the company’s on to something big. It’s won four separate startup competitions, including TechCrunch 50 and Silicon Alley Insider’s top prizes. People seem to really like the idea of using a website to find and negotiate with local service providers to clean their house or detail their car.
Redbeacon’s most recent valuation was its first outside funding: $7.4 million from Mayfield Fund and Venrock. So we invited co-founder and CEO Ethan Anderson over to our office to hear about what the company is doing to meet these lofty expectations. He told us that one of the most interesting services requested on Redbeacon came last week, for an artist to paint a user’s bulldog riding a horse, with Native Americans riding next to him chasing buffalo. That job got 12 quotes. On the more serious end of the spectrum, the most valuable gig acquired on the site to date was for a $15,000 driveway installation. (Redbeacon’s business model is to take 10 percent of jobs won through its service.)
Redbeacon is planning to use the funding to expand, said Anderson, by building up new regional markets and also through online distribution, via a publisher widget and formal partnerships with distributors like phone directories. He wants to build Redbeacon as a brand, while borrowing from the traditional classifieds business.
Next week, someone I found through Redbeacon is coming by to clean my house, after a reasonably easy process evaluating multiple bids, schedules and clarification questions on the site. The company doesn’t guarantee its providers’ work, instead using social feedback, Yelp reviews and ranking to recommend relevant providers and let the user make a decision. In some cases, unfortunately, that means there’s very little information to go on. I’d love to see more about how providers perform relative to the competition and how their pricing stacks up relative to local averages. Still, it was incredibly convenient to use a web interface, and I will most likely do it again.
Here’s our video interview with Ethan Anderson: