I first met HASSLE, or rather Alex Depledge, one of the founders, at a digital Shoreditch event…
A month later I’m sitting in their offices in Vauxhall, finding out how they’ve gone from idea to a major startup in a couple of years. Maybe there are lessons to be learned.
Chatting with Tom Nimmo, co founder and CTO, I get the story. The three founders, Tom, Alex, and Jules, were consultants at Accenture and PWC, and met through their professional lives. They started meeting at weekends, I imagine over wine, to brainstorm ideas for their own company.
Tom tells me they went about it in a very ‘consultanty’ way, coming up with possible ideas and comparing the pros and cons of each against each other. The best of the bunch turned out to be a ‘marketplace for local services’, including gardening, painting and decorating, driving schools, cleaning, and so on.
They successfully applied to Springboard accelerator program, now called TECHSTARS LONDON, which took them through the process, 3 months, meet mentors and investors, hone the idea, final month, learn to pitch and present.
From this they raised a seedround, and TEDDLE.com was born. Tom thinks it was Jules’ dogs name, chosen primarily because the .com was available… And like many startups, teddle.com soon started to discover its own flaws and weaknesses.
They had too many verticals. Teddle wanted to be everything for everyone, and as such, had no ‘point’ with which to penetrate an identified market. It was time to focus behind a single proposition, and for this they chose domestic cleaning because:
a. There was very little or no competition in terms of web or app based solutions in the UK.
b. The market was unorganised, unstructured, and informally arranged.
c. The agencies that did operate in this domain were taking a big commission percentage and there was plenty of room to disrupt the whole space for the benefit of everyone except the old school competition.
It probably helped having a super credible team, practiced in engaging with big hitters in the startup scene, because they now brought on board Ron Zeghibe, the chairman of Hailo, as a investor mentor, and David Pritchard Founder and Managing Director of OpenTable Europe, as a scale up and execute expert. You can see their profiles here if needed…
Ron introduced them to branding expert Daren Cook and between them they refined the service to a single point, domestic cleaning, and rebranded as HASSLE.com
Accel Partners got on board, the VCs who also funded Facebook, and now Hassle.com was looking pretty tasty in terms of ability to take to the market.
Finding their cleaners via Gumtree and referrals, with lots of people looking for work, the company grew its service quickly, with a rebrand aimed at a single vertical. Customers happened. And in terms of the tech, a lean iterative approach was used. First a website, to get the service and product under way. Then, as the business model and processes became clearer, a web app, easy to adapt and change, and good for discoverability through search engines. Finally a native app, for ease of use for repeat customers, and for person to person recommends.
(There’s a lesson here. Some startups dive straight in with a native app, only to find they need to make so many changes and adaptations…)
So that’s HASSLE, now a major VC backed scaleup with 50 staff and office in London, Paris, and Dublin.
I asked Tom what next, perhaps commercial cleaning, Hassle is home cleaners, plus small offices, but he had obviously internalised the single high vertical lesson. Commercial cleaning is a different ball game altogether, he tells me, better to do one thing, as efficiently as possible, and effectively as possible, and scale it as hard and fast as possible.
Lesson learned… how to K.I.C.A.S.
Keep It Clean And Simple