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The Expertise team.
The Expertise team (Left to right: Joseph Dunaravich, Graham Shorr, Kyle Johnson, Drew Schorno, Alice Huang).

The local services industry is hot right now — particularly in Seattle. From small startups to titans like Amazon, companies are eager to take the industry from blue collar to high-tech.

Two-year-old Expertise thinks it has a product that stands out from the pack. The company vets service providers, removing any businesses that are difficult to contact or display a pattern of dissatisfied customers. Then it uses an algorithm to rate each business using criteria like reputation, engagement, and experience. The startup winnows the results further by manually selecting and reviewing the highest-scoring service providers.

The result is a curated directory that Expertise believes sets it apart in the crowded local services space.

Expertise Co-founder Kyle Johnson.
Expertise Co-founder Kyle Johnson.

“Really the problem we’re solving here is instead of people having to hunt through, say, Yelp reviews, we only list qualified, well-reviewed experts,” said Expertise co-founder Kyle Johnson. “So we kind of do the work for everyone.”

Expertise is live in 40 states across the U.S., with plans to continue expanding. The startup operates out of the WeWork Westlake co-working space in Seattle.

We caught up with Johnson for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We help consumers find qualified professionals, be it painters, attorneys, or dentists. No need to hunt through Yelp reviews — we only list qualified, well-reviewed experts.”

Inspiration hit us when: “I needed a plumber to replace the water line to my house. Trying to find a licensed plumber who wasn’t part of an expensive national chain was surprisingly time consuming. The internet has made it easy to find reviews and phone numbers, but the entire vetting process is still quite manual — how soon do they have availability, do they serve my area, when can they stop by to give an estimate, etc.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We aren’t disclosing fundraising details at this time.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We’ve built a team with unique experience both in the local services space and process/data-driven business ventures.”

Photo via Shutterstock.
Photo via Shutterstock.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Talking to small business owners and listening to their needs, understanding how the industry has burned them in past, and figuring out ways to better serve them. While our end users are broader consumers, understanding the talent inventory and their pain points has made our offering even stronger. Additionally, we moved into WeWork Westlake in Seattle so that we could focus on our core business and not worry about office management and IT infrastructure.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Biting off more than we could chew at the start instead of focusing on a minimum viable product.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos for long-term business strategy; Gates for quite literally changing the world.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “We enjoy exploring new places to dine and happy hour. However, we do have a go-to Mexican restaurant near WeWork Westlake where we consistently overindulge on chips and salsa.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Curiosity, tempered with the focus and discipline to become an expert at their craft. Curious people are fantastic problem solvers. But without discipline and focus, they’ll suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Create processes with trackable metrics.”

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