Adora Cheung and her brother Aaron developed the idea for Homejoy while working on other projects in Mountain View – and living with a mess. Their housecleaning company aims to make hiring a cleaner addictively easy online.
Homejoy was born in the local area based on a founder’s domestic life. But as local companies mature, they often move out of the area.
The Town Crier emailed Adora to ask about her startup’s first two years, its move to the big city and its crash course in the “business of people.” Like Fluc, Airbnb and TaskRabbit, Homejoy works as an interface, connecting consumers to independent contractors.
Q: You live in San Francisco now, but Homejoy started in Mountain View. What’s different for a company based on the Peninsula rather than in San Francisco? Why did you move up to the City?
Cheung: We started in Mountain View because that’s where we lived. Our decision to move to San Francisco was based both on our desire to be in the City as well as accessibility to the cleaning professionals we partner with. San Francisco is a hub for the North Bay, East Bay and South Bay.
One of the main differences for companies based on the Peninsula is simply transportation. Unless you are close to BART or have a car, it can be challenging to get down to the Peninsula. San Francisco is simply easier to get around, with access to a variety of public transportation.
Q: You ran through a variety of different business possibilities before settling on Homejoy. When did you realize that you had an idea with legs? Was there a particular moment/story that sticks out in your mind?
Cheung: Finding an idea that had legs was a lot of trial and error. During this time, we spent all our waking hours coding, and Aaron just didn’t have time to clean his really dirty apartment. One day he finally decided to just find a cleaner. We ran into two problems: (1) At $40-$60 per hour, going through a cleaning agency was too expensive. (2) The more cost-effective option was Craigslist, but it was hard to find individuals we knew that we could trust. As a result, we realized that we had the opportunity to turn an outdated industry on its head.
Q: Homejoy is adding a philanthropic operation to its projects. Is this a comparatively early time in the business’ life to be adding that element?
Cheung: Homejoy’s goal is to make home happier for all of our communities, from the cleaning professionals we partner with to the clients whose homes we service. I believe that it is critical for companies to have a social mission people can be passionate about. Day-to-day can be a grind, so it’s important for morale to believe in the work you are doing. Homejoy employees volunteer frequently, everyone cleans homes and I am proud to say that everyone has a solid grasp of what our social mission is.
The launch of the Homejoy Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is an extension of our social mission to create happy homes. This year our focus is on supporting veterans and families of veterans.
Q: How does a startup have to think/work/grow differently when its success depends on a large number of human contractors?
Cheung: The cleaning professionals we partner with are critical to the success of the Homejoy platform. We treat them as our colleagues – with the same respect and importance we treat our clients. They are entrepreneurs, and through the Homejoy platform, they have opportunities to build their own book of business. We have a number of teams dedicated to supporting our home-service professionals. When working in the business of people, it comes down to communication, and we are constantly engaged with all of our communities.
Q: You’ve alluded to expanding into other home services. Is there a natural opportunity to grow from cleaning into other household tasks?
Cheung: We want to be the “get help” button for all home-care needs. If your toilet is broken or your home is a mess, we want you to be able to come to Homejoy to take care of it.
There are a variety of categories we can expand into that would strengthen our core product – it’s just a matter of deciding which to go for first. Right now we’re very focused on cleaning.