Thumbtack.com aims to eat Yelp's lunch

Thumbtack.com‘s promise is to connect local businesses to consumers, online. While Craigslist.org and Yelp.com among others provide a similar service, Thumbtack has taken a fresh approach to the problem.

The company was founded in August of 2008 and received a financing from a group of angel investors in 2009. Investors included a co-founder and former CEO of Logitech as well as an early investor in Angie’s list.

The site was in development for over a year before going into beta testing last month. The official launch is just taking place today, with over 15,000 service providers registered. Thumbtack separates itself from the field by only including businesses that have chosen to sign up; there aren’t any crowd sourced or phone book listings.

Critics may doubt Thumbtack’s ability to capture a meaningful share of the market. Such doubts are not unfounded but it is worth remembering that at one point, Facebook was a small timer in social networking.

Curious about real-world availability, I started requesting services I don’t need in towns I don’t live in.

I went for massages in Washington, D.C. – check. Mechanics in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania? Well, yes. Body Guard in San Francisco? Against all odds — yes. I couldn’t find a private detective in New York City or a bicycle mechanic in Moab, Utah. Of course the site hasn’t officially launched yet, so there is plenty of room to grow in those areas.

Founder and chief executive Marco Zappacosta says, “The local service market, though enormous, is highly fragmented, fraught with inefficiencies, and largely transacted offline… Just as eBay and Amazon moved products online, Thumbtack aims to lead the transition of services online. We know this goal is ambitious, but the trend is inevitable and Thumbtack is poised to create this change.”

I thought Thumbtack.com had some advantages over Yelp, Craigslist or Redbeacon. Yelp and Craigslist require a lot of sifting and don’t give you the best search results. Redbeacon makes you fill out a services request, which I don’t like either.

Of course, 15,000 services isn’t as large as Craigslist. So where is the benefit?

Well, first is the interface. It’s easy to find what you want, compare notes between providers and locate them relative to each other and yourself. Then you’ve got the specialization; Craigslist has a huge volume of users but Thumbtack is exclusively a listing of services in your area. Thumbtack also aims to be more reliable: each service goes through twelve steps of verification, making scams less likely.

Thumbtack seems to be offering a useful service for free and without registration in an easy to use format. It already has a useful base of services and financial support from angel investors. I’m excited to see how it does in the real world.


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