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Mowdo CEO Mike Fingado
Mowdo CEO Mike Fingado hard at work.

The home services market may be on the brink of disruption. Amazon recently made headlines with the official roll out of its own home services program, sparking questions of whether other tech giants will get in the game, too.

But to date, the on-demand service trend has been led not by corporate giants but rather startups like Uber, Airbnb, and Homejoy. Now, another Seattle startup is throwing its hat into the ring.

Mowdo is a new on-demand lawn care service created by Mike Fingado, who left his post as general manager of fellow Seattle startup Tred to launch his new company.

mowdo_logo_no_slogan“The lawn care industry is ripe for innovation as there are huge inefficiencies in scheduling, invoicing, and ability to quickly find the best service providers,” he said. “We have connected customers to reliable lawn care providers in over 10 states as far away as Miami. Our team has worked for numerous venture-backed startups including Priceline-owned and Seattle based car-buying startup Tred.”

Fingado did his homework. He spent six months completing tasks using Postmates, Uber, TaskRabbit, and other similar services to collect intel. He studied their customer service approaches and business models.

“I even interviewed at the corporate level for Uber and Instacart to get a better sense for a how they recruit top talent after a large round of funding upon reaching a growth stage,” he added.

We caught up with Fingado for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Uber for the $74 billion U.S. lawn care industry.”

Mike Fingado
Mike Fingado

Inspiration hit us when: “I ran into a Berkshire Hathaway Home Services realtor during an Uber ride and his phone kept blowing up with texts and emails during the ride. When I inquired how his day was going, he vented about how hard it was to find reliable home services, specifically last-second lawn care to prep properties before he showed them to potential homebuyers.

Everyone knows curb appeal plays a huge role in the selling of homes, so I decided to dig into his problem. I connected with Shannon Harner, a chief legal officer and GM at HomeService of America, and she connected me to other realtors with the same problem.

I then called my brother, who I used to help run a lawn care company with. It was after this call I decided to build a website that could give you an instant quote on lawn mowing and connect you quickly to a provider. I woke up the next morning with our first request, a woman from Omaha on vacation who was frustrated that she couldn’t get a call back from any lawn care providers she found on Yelp. Later that month we had requests in over nine states.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “I think it’s more important to have a plan for the money — more so than where you get it. We’ve spent the last six months mostly bootstrapping and collecting intel from other on-demand marketplaces such as Uber, Postmates, and Instacart. This intel and bootstrapping has allowed us to get our hands dirty and learn to be resourceful. For Mowdo, to scale rapidly we are looking to leverage the backing of VCs and strategic partnerships from the likes of Redfin, Zillow, or perhaps TruGreen.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Simplicity. Scheduling lawn care has never been easier. We give you an instant price without the need to see your lawn for a quote. In the future we will even know when your lawn should be mowed before you do. As for how, well, that’s our secret sauce!”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Relocating back to Seattle. The concept came to fruition in Nebraska and we still have a great support team and customers there, but moving our attention to Seattle has opened doors and put us in some great company with other home service-based startups such as Porch and”

Photo via Mowdo
Photo via Mowdo

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We had customers requesting services from across the country very early on, which validated our business and made it really hard for us to turn them away. We knew growing too quickly without a strategic focus and resources to meet demand can easily cripple a startup. Knowing this, we’ve quickly double-downed and focused on strategic markets with the most upside as we raise more funding to scale operations and grow our team quickly.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “None of the above — we would go with Glenn Kelman from Redfin, who has a great blog post called “Lawn-Mower, Coder, World-Conqueror.” However, given the choices of Gates, Zuck and Bezos, we would certainly choose Bezos because what he has done for e-commerce is what we are doing for home services, starting with the lawn.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Playing Bocce Ball or croquet on a newly-mowed lawn.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We want GI’s, not interns. As a former D1 athlete and military cadet, I look for those with the discipline to listen, but the courage to lead.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Don’t follow your passion, but always bring it with you. Build something people love using, not something you love building.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the companies participating in the 9Mile Labs incubator in the lead up to the Milestone9 Graduation Day and pitch event on May 14. 

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