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'Uber for lawn care' lands $10.5M to expand in GR
Five-year-old LawnStarter app connects homeowners with vetted yardwork professionals.
An app and web platform that provides an easy way to order, manage and pay for lawn care is about to grow its capabilities in Grand Rapids.
Austin, Texas-based LawnStarter said on Nov. 12 that it secured a $10.5 million growth investment from Princeton, New Jersey-based growth equity investor Edison Partners and individual investor Lerer Hippeau to expand its presence and service offerings in Grand Rapids.
The investment will fund the addition of services to the platform, including landscaping, pest control, tree care and snow removal. Grand Rapids is among a select group of markets where the company will pilot these services, alongside Baltimore; Chicago; Denver; Charlotte, North Carolina; Kansas City, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri.
LawnStarter has raised $24 million since its creation and currently operates in 120 major markets in 41 states and the District of Columbia.
Grand Rapids currently has 32 active professionals on the LawnStarter platform, with another 56 on a waitlist to join.
LawnStarter was founded in 2013 by Steve Corcoran and Ryan Farley, who now serve as its CEO and president, respectively.
Corcoran dropped out of college at Virginia Tech to pursue the entrepreneurial path and was looking for business ideas. He called on Farley, a former classmate, for help after realizing how tough it is to start and run a lawn care business, as the industry’s profit margins are slim and customers have often been conditioned to expect poor service, Farley said.
Rather than moving on to a new idea, the duo decided to create a platform on the marketplace side of the equation that would connect customers to reliable and skilled professionals with the promise of secure and easy ordering, scheduling and billing.
Not having any technical skills didn’t stop the business partners from developing the app, Farley said.
“We actually taught ourselves to code. What we did was we would sleep three hours a day, twice a day, so that we could write code at night and run the business during the day,” he said.
The result was an app and website that provides instant quotes for consumers, who can schedule lawn mowing and maintenance services from a vetted, insured group of professionals.
“Our vision has always been that by making lawn care a quick and easy online activity, we give consumers something they truly value: the freedom to do what they really want to do,” Corcoran said. “For our customers, that means time saved.”
How much time? According to LawnStarter’s records, lawns in Grand Rapids average 14,066 square feet. With that size lawn, for every 1,000 mows LawnStarter does, Grand Rapids customers will gain an extra 46.9 days’ worth of free time.
Farley said although the app is similar to Uber, in that it’s a digital interface and service providers are rated on performance, it differs in a couple of ways: First, the lawn care workers on the platform aren’t “just anybody” looking to make money on the side. They’re almost always people who already run a full-time lawn care business with a name, commercial-grade equipment, a truck and a trailer. To join, they must apply at pros.lawnstarter.com/signup and be vetted; then they are placed on a waitlist to be notified when jobs come up.
For each service performed, LawnStarter takes around a 15%-20% cut from the fee to customers, depending on which market the provider is working in.
For the professionals, joining the platform offers a growth opportunity, Farley said. Businesses that join LawnStarter as independent contractors can expect to generate $15,000-20,000 in the first year on the platform and grow their revenue by 30%-50%, the company said.
“And that’s not to mention that we make it way more convenient,” Farley said. “You don’t have to chase down customers, you don’t have to do any marketing, and we help out with the scheduling. It’s a pretty strong value proposition, and I think that’s why we have such good word of mouth on the lawn pro side.”
Another way LawnStarter differs from Uber is it’s not instant. People can’t order service and expect a mower at the curb in five minutes. Users and providers work together to schedule maintenance calls ahead of time. The goal is always to match professionals to jobs that are nearby to save time and gas money.
The app charges customers by the service. They can pay a subscription fee to set up recurring services, or they can simply do one-time orders.
Most of the time, customers will have the same technician do their recurring services, unless they want to mix it up, or unless something changes with the provider.
Farley said he believes the LawnStarter platform is a perfect way to “manage that ongoing relationship with your lawn care pro,” and he can’t wait to see how it grows after this investment.
“We are really excited about this expansion,” Farley said.