There's been a lot of interest in the "sharing economy." Scores of startups, many of them based in San Francisco, are building platforms to connect people with goods and services.
Even when it comes to housecleaning.
Adora and Aaron Cheung are siblings and co-founders of Homejoy, a San Francisco-based star-up that connects house cleaners who need steady work to people who need their dirty houses and apartments cleaned. It may sound like a crazy idea but Homejoy, which launched in 2012, has raised $1.7 million from the likes of Andreesen Horowitz and First Round Capital and is now operating in more than two dozen cities, including San Jose, Mountain View and Oakland.
The Mercury News recently talked to CEO Adora Cheung; the interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: There are a lot of sharing economy startups out there. But housecleaning?
A: Cleaning is an old industry. It's stuck in the 1960s. There's no way to book a cleaning appointment online, or pay with a credit card, or manage a cleaning schedule via a computer. With Homejoy, we charge a flat fee of $20 an hour and you can book or change your appointment online.
Q: What kind of screening process do the house cleaners go through?
A: We have a very stringent application process, including a phone screening and an in-person interview and certification. We have everyone test clean for us. Cleaning is not rocket science. But we want to make sure that all of our cleaners can tackle a house in a time efficient manner, as well as be friendly and communicate effectively with clients.
Q: Homejoy charges clients $20 an hour. How much do the house cleaners get paid? What's in this for them? How many cleaners does Homejoy work with?
A: We work with over 500 cleaners. Most house cleaners who work for a cleaning service are paid minimum wage. We do the on-boarding and get them in our system, which gives them legitimacy. The cleaner gets paid per job, up to $15 an hour. The cut we take is 20 percent, but we funnel that back into marketing and operations. There are a lot of independent cleaners out there, and they have to spend a lot of time doing their own marketing and looking for work. Because we are growing so fast, when a cleaner comes into our system they have job stability, and can usually book the schedule they want.
Q: If you've never used a house cleaner before, why should someone consider it?
A: Given the right price point, house cleaning makes sense for everyone. How much time do you spend at home per week cleaning? How much do you value that time? We have a lot of stay-at-home Moms who use our service. They'd rather spend time with their kids than scrub the toilet.
Q: Are you concerned at all that you'll connect cleaners with clients, and then they'll drop Homejoy as the matchmaker? Once a client finds a house cleaner that they really like, why would they continue to use the Homejoy platform?
A: The platform provides value; we aren't trying to milk our customers. Our hypothesis is that for $20 an hour you wouldn't want to go around the platform. My greatest concern is are our cleaners happy?
Q: Homejoy is in 25 cities now. What's the growth been like?
A: All of the cities are growing the same way. Our biggest markets are San Francisco, New York, Chicago. Los Angeles is huge for us well. Cleaning is relevant to everyone. Your house will get dirty at some point. It's a great space to be in.
Q: Aaron, your younger brother, is the company's co-founder and in charge of growth and business development. What is it like working with a sibling?
A: Aaron and I work very well together. We have complimentary skills sets, and we're both hackers. He's the smartest person I know.
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.
Job: co-founder and CEO of Homejoy
Education: computer science at Clemson University; Master's in economics from the University of Rochester. Was a Ph.D. candidate but left to pursue startup opportunities.
Previous Jobs: product manager at Slide, which was acquired by Google in 2010. Oversaw multiple products, including FunWall, SuperPoke, and SuperPoke Pets.
Residence: SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco
Five things about Adora Cheung
1. She grew up in South Carolina. Her family was never able to afford a house cleaner.
2. She has three siblings. Her younger brother Aaron, 24, is Homejoy's director of business development.
3. Adora became a housecleaner for a month to learn about the work.
4. A Homejoy cleaner comes to her house once a week.
5. In her free time, she likes to sky-dive.