If you’re already getting groceries delivered, dry cleaning picked up, and a dog walker on call 9-to-5 for Fido, you might be ready for the next step: a personal home manager.
At least that’s the bet from a new Seattle startup called HeyThrivy, which offers a monthly service in which an assigned personal assistant will run unlimited errands and do countless tasks for you. That includes chores such as delivering packages to the post office, helping arrange travel plans, and scheduling home repairs and yard work with vetted contractors.
HeyThrivy’s basic package is $499 a month and includes one 60-minute home visit each week, which is when the manager picks up and delivers items and can perform light chores like sorting mail and folding laundry. The $650 package includes a 90-minute weekly visit and the option of dropping off and picking up automobiles for repairs or detailing.
The 5-person startup enters a competitive arena that is perhaps best defined by the online marketplace TaskRabbit, which last week announced plans to cut its service fee in half in order to attract more customers. Those who survived the dot-com days in the Seattle area may also recall the now-defunct MyLackey.com, which similarly tried to make life easier for time-crunched worker bees with an errand running service.
HeyThrivy also competes against traditional personal assistants, paid on an hourly basis or salary.
New York-based Hello Alfred likewise offers home manager services through a digital platform. But the company, which coincidentally was also launched by two women, only operates in apartment buildings and condos with which they have partnerships. Hello Alfred is currently available in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, Boston, Washington D.C. and Chicago. In May, the company raised $40 million from Divco West, Invescom New Enterprise Associates and Spark Capital.
“What I love about the startup world is there’s this opportunity for you to fix something. We had seen this problem for a really long time,” said Winegarden, who is 44. “We had the chance to build a solution to give people more time and energy and equilibrium in how they live their lives.”
The business currently serves people in single-family homes, but this summer is launching their service for downtown apartments and condos. Their geographic range is Seattle, West Seattle and Mercer Island, with plans to expand to a city outside of Washington in the near future.
Scaling up is a challenge, but not insurmountable, Winegarden said. “There is that initial investment in time and resources to build that list of vendors.”
Subscribers use an app to manage the errands and tasks that they need completed. One of the benefits is that HeyThrivy will prompt users to request seasonal chores, such as yard work in the spring or signing up for kids’ summer camps.
We caught up with Winegarden for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We help people “do life better.” We do the errands, tasks and day-to-day that take up your valuable time. We organize your home, ship packages, pick up dry cleaning and take your car to be serviced. We help plan travel and small events. We manage household projects, start to finish. And we do it all for one monthly fee and clients manage it all via an app. Our goal is give you the time to focus on the important things in life.
Inspiration hit us when: When Danna and I realized that many people are all struggling with the same problem: very busy lives and not enough time to focus on what really matters. We recognized that we could provide value for clients if we add a layer on top that helped to coordinate all the different services and then go a step further by proactively making recommendations to clients on their needs. In this way we are identifying a need and solving it before they even have to ask — that’s powerful and it works. Our clients tell us it’s a game changer for them.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. We wanted to get to market and prove the model and concept. We are growing, new clients are joining regularly and our clients keep referring us to others, so clearly our solution works. We are now ready raise outside capital to fund expansion and technology development.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: The combination of high-touch personal service, technology and data insights. Our goal is to address all of the different things that create stress and take time across an active lifestyle. Clients have unlimited tasks and errands as part of their HeyThrivy service, which is good for clients and gives us great insight into client needs. We use that insight to further develop our offering, so we get better at doing the things that elevate our clients’ lives.
The smartest move we’ve made so far: Hiring excellent employees. Many people questioned our decision to hire employees rather than using a contractor model, but we felt strongly that the team engaging with clients directly are the heart of our company and we wanted to ensure that we could grow and retain our employees. Our home managers are really involved in our clients’ lives, and they are smart, proactive and highly trustworthy. I’m convinced this is a huge part of why our retention rate is so high.
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: I don’t know if it’s a mistake yet, but our name, HeyThrivy, is surprisingly divisive and some people find it a little hard to pronounce. There are people who really love it and those who really hate it and we aren’t quite sure what to do with that information.
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: That’s a tough one. I’d pick either Gates or Bezos. I love the vision of being the most customer-centric company on earth, but the vision to have a PC in every home has also had tremendous impact on the way we work and live. I’d be thrilled to have either of them in our corner.
Our favorite team-building activity is: Team happy hours are always fun for us. It’s a very social group of people and we have a great time when we are all together.
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: A mixture of customer empathy and problem solving. We are always asking ourselves, “What is going to make the best experience for the client?” and “How can we solve a customer problem rather than just execute a task?” These ideas permeate through all that we do, from features in our app to services we offer to how we execute on client requests. The focus on client experience across the board is critical.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Stay focused on the problem(s) you are trying to solve. It’s easy to get distracted when you have lots of feedback coming at you, but it drives focus if you orient your decisions to the original customer problem you want to solve. And choose the right co-founder!