Friday, March 27, 2015
How LawnStarter Is Turning Lawn Care Into An On-Demand Industry
In the day and age of ubiquitous connectivity, smartphones, apps, and more, for the most part, lawn care is an old, traditional industry. What if you could apply some of the trends in on-demand apps to that industry? Austin's LawnStarter (www.lawnstarter.com) is doing just that--trying to bring some of the advantages of on-demand apps to what has been a not very technology savvy business. We spoke with Lawnstarter co-founder Ryan Farley about the company.
What is LawnStarter?
Ryan Farley: We're a platform that makes it cheap and easy for consumers to manage their lawn services. On the back end, we have a network of vetted, high quality lawn service providers. The benefit to them is that we are their marketing and back office.
What's the story behind the company?
Ryan Farley: My co-founder Steve did lawn care throughout high school. Around four years later, he saw the guy who he was doing the lawn care with, quit accounting and go into lawn care full time. That prompted him and I to realize there was a huge industry, full of hard working people, who could use some technological innovation.
How does the service work?
Ryan Farley: You go to our site, or download our mobile app for iOS or Android, type in your address, and you get a price based on four or five factors based on public data. From there, we source a lawn care provider. We match you up with the best provider, where we tend to give providers jobs close to their existing jobs, for convenience and so it makes it super profitable for them. From then on, we manage everything from the app, including specialty services, notifications, and rescheduling, which is pretty important if a Texas rain happens, which you know can cause lots of delays. Those are the big pain points we solve.
You guys were at Techstars Austin, weren't you?
Ryan Farley: We went thorugh Techstars in Austin in 2014, which ended around Setember. That's what brought us to Austin in the first place, and we decided to stay.
Where were you before that?
Ryan Farley: We were in the DC area, around Virginia.
So what made you decide to stick around Austin?
Ryan Farley: It's an awesome place to live, mostly. It also has a pretty awesome startup community. Everyone is super helpful. I don't think we would have stayed without that, and it's a great city to live in.
What is your coverage for the service and app right now, geographically?
Ryan Farley: We're in DC, Maryland, Virginia, Orlando Florida, Austin Texas, and soon to be in Dallas and Houston.
We assume you have plans to expand beyond those markets, what's the strategy there?
Ryan Farley: Lawn care season plays a big role in it, as does pricing in an area. Some areas lawn care is priced much lower than others. That depends on population density, percentage of a population in suburbs versus in high rises, and so on. Those are some of the things we think about.
For lawn care providers, what's the biggest benefit to working with LawnStarter?
Ryan Farley: The first, is your average lawn care company is way too busy, and marketing is not necessarily their expertise. Even though we take a small fee, they still come out ahead compared to if they tried to market themselves. Most of them grew by word-of-mouth and the sign on the side of their truck. There are some that have mastered Angie's List or Yelp. But very few can go beyond that. We're much more efficient at marketing, and we can potentially lower the cost of that so that it's more profitable for our providers to use us, than market themselves, because it's all just incremental customers. The second benefit, is we take the burden of customer service off of them. A lot of that is automated by technology, and avoid the business owner having to spend lots of time returning voice mails, where their office manager is already swamped. Just not having to deal with customers is a big benefit for these companies.
Finally, what's next for you, and what should we be looking out for?
Ryan Farley: You're going to see us everywhere in the cities we are in, and we'll be expanding into other cities when the time is right. Right now, we're buzzing in Austin, as people are getting our mailers and people are seeing our billboards. We're trying to gain some notoriety.