“Homejoy is on a social mission to make homes happier everywhere”, says Adora Cheung who co-founded Homejoy with her brother Aaron in July 2012. Since then the platform for home cleaning service has quickly grown into over 30 cities around the world so as London, New York and Berlin. Homejoy raised $38 million led by Google Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Max Levchin co-founder of PayPal.
We had the chance to interview Adora about the story of Homejoy and her plans to conquer the European market.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Homejoy? What was the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey?
One day when I graduated from college, I was in a PhD – programme for economics, one of my friends from undergraduate studies knocked at my door and needed help for his startup. I decided to help him with his stuff. That was the time when I got obsessed for startups. I knew I had to move to Silicon Valley to learn as much as possible and surround me with like-minded people. I accepted the first job offer I could get which was to work for a startup called Slide. It was founded by Max Levchin, who is also the co-founder of PayPal.
I learned a lot about data and growth in the couple of years I was there. I quit in 2009 and that was when I started working with Aaron on ideas. One of those ideas got us into the Y-Combinator accelerator programme where we met a lot of great people.
How did you come up with the idea?
I started Homejoy in 2012 with my younger brother Aaron, a very messy person and a typical bachelor. His place was really dirty as he finally decided to find a cleaning service. He went to search for a convenient and affordable cleaning service what turned out to be a painstakingly long process. That’s where we decided to look into the situation more and to solve this problem.
What do you think about the competitiveness in the market?
I think it’s a good sign to have many other startups following your idea. This validates the market and shows clearly that there is lots of demand and a big pain point to solve. In that sense, it is good to have competition. But in reality, we believe that there will be a number one player in this space, and we believe that the way to win is focusing on experience. The experiences of not just the client but also the service professionals. That’s what we are doing; we are much focusing on quality and retention. As a result, we think in a few years we will be the top platform for people to book home services.
How do you want to drive adoption and growth in the European market?
Our service is available in London, Munich and Berlin and we will be expanding to other cities soon. To drive adoption is very similar, it is seen as a local service, so in every city, we are starting, it feels like another startup because the people don´t know us. We start from ground zero every single time. At first, we built a reputation with cleaning professionals and show that we are a viable platform for them. On the client side, we do a lot of underground type marketing. Over time it is all about word-of-mouth. Once we get a few cleanings done, people start talking about Homejoy, and that is when it really starts taking off.
How do you recruit cleaners and how do you ensure quality?
We recruit cleaners on application. From that point we phone screen the applicants first, have personal interviews, and last we do test cleanings to check how efficient they work. If they pass these steps, they will get their first real job. Doing the first job someone of the company will check again if everything is okay. If so they officially get listed on the platform, and we assign as many jobs as they want. You see, we have a really high level of quality assurance.
Are there any plans to add more services besides home cleaning?
Definitely, we want to be the ultimate „get help button“ for the home. So anything that you find annoying to do at home, we will do it for you. Cleaning is a great way to start since most people don’t like it. But it’s more – things like corporate cleaning, fixing the toilette, mounting the tv on the wall that we also want to offer.
How do you see the future of Homejoy?
Homejoy will be a globally operating company known for more than just cleaning, offering all the services we just talked about. I think it is about building a great brand. When people have a problem at home that they immediately think of Homejoy – they can pull up the phone and order us to get help whenever they want.
What is the best advice you can give young entrepreneurs starting their own business?
If I only have one answer: have a growth plan! Many entrepreneurs have a great idea and they go work on it, but they don’t know when pivot. What I tell people: always map out the curve you want to see regarding growth, the number of users. When you start off with a new idea it must be that you get users very easily. Always focus on growth channels. If you do not reach your goal, that probably means you should focus on another channel or that the idea is not big enough. That’s the point where you should move on.
There are enough good ideas waiting to be executed. The journey of Homejoy is really inspiring. It’s a great example of how solving problem out of your daily life can grow into a million dollar business.
Editor’s note: Homejoy has now closed down, unfortunately, it ran out of capital between funding rounds. (1 April, 2017)