Finding a good gardener might not sound like a huge challenge, but one startup is working on making it as painless as possible.
Y Combinator-backed Lawn Love is part of an increasing number of companies building specialized marketplaces that look and feel like a single service provider to the customer. And today, Lawn Love is announcing that it raised $1.9 million in seed funding.
As its name suggests, Lawn Love provides customers with an easy way to get their lawns serviced, offering mowing, fertilization, aeration, seeding, and yard cleanup. But its real value proposition for customers is that it provides a quote right from the site (no need for a surveying meeting), handles the coordination with lawn technicians, and above all, saves consumers from having to do the research themselves.
“Right now, the process of booking a lawn service generally looks like going on Craigslist or Yelp and looking at several dubious services,” Yamaguchi said in an interview with VentureBeat. Lawn Love screens its contractors to ensure quality, including background checks and skills demonstration before being brought on.
The benefit to lawn care providers, often local small businesses, is marketing on a bigger scale. Lawn Love helps find them customers and fill up their schedules (though many keep their own customers on the side). Lawn Love takes a 10 to 20 percent cut from the revenues.
Lawn Love is part of a trend of startups that, while marketplaces at their core, provide customers with the convenience, simplicity, and customer service of dealing with one company. Homejoy, Exec (acquired by Handy), GlamSquad, and even Uber have taken that approach — bringing individual service providers under their umbrellas.
The benefits of these consolidations are fairly clear for both sides, but there are also challenges.
“A lot of it revolves around making sure we work with the best suppliers on the market. Figuring out how to get the best [service providers] on your platform is our challenge,” said Yamaguchi.
Lawn Love’s screening process and what it perceives as value-adds for its providers (marketing, booking customers, etc.) are much of its strategy to accomplish this. But maintaining quality is an equally difficult challenge.
“One of the characteristics of our space is that quality degrades over time,” he said. While the startup’s vetting process should take care of always bringing on the best providers, it also has to make sure quality doesn’t drop as time goes on, which is why it asks customers to provide feedback after each appointment.
It should be noted that this isn’t Yamaguchi’s first time running this type of business — he previously started, ran, and sold Golden Shine, a company offering home services, much like Homejoy. Lawn Love is a different incarnation of that same business model, which is why Yamaguchi has been able to single-handedly build the company (he only recently hired web developers and other employees).
Lawn Love started in San Diego, Calif. and has since expanded to Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Jose. Two more cities are planned to roll out before the end of the year, but not in California, Yamaguchi said.
Lawn Love raised its funding from Alexis Ohanian, Allegro Venture Partners, Launch Capital, David Shen Ventures, Binary Capital, Jared Friedman, Robert Wuttke, Bodley Group, Lunch Van Fund, Gang Wang, Haroon Mokhtarzada, Colin Corgan, FundersClub, Next Level Capital, Sam Liu Investments, Kevin Moore, Peter Kazanjy, Zillionize Angel, WeFunder, and others.
Lawn Love was founded in 2014 and is based in San Diego, Calif. It participated in Y Combinator’s Summer 2014 batch.