Why are there so many cleaning startups?

2013-12-09 2 min read

    The recent rise of marketplace startups is great and benefits all except the incumbent. They provide much needed liquidity and transparency to markets that helpfully reduce costs to the consumer and increase volume to the provider.

    Yet I’m surprised by the number of home cleaning service startups out there. I’m aware of HomeJoy, Exec, GetMaid, MyClean, and HandyBook, but am sure there are countless other copycats. The Uber approach works because it’s for an immediate service with a one time transaction where the value provided is somewhat of a commodity. This is not the case with home cleaning services. The range of quality among cleaners varies significantly more than the quality among drivers and I’d be willing to have a good cleaner come in at a slightly inconvenient time rather than a poor cleaner at the perfect time. And once I find a cleaner I like I’d want to book them directly rather than go through the company again. This way I can get a lower rate while also giving a cleaner more than they’d otherwise make from using the service. This would violate the company’s terms but I don’t see how they can be enforced.

    I’m sure there’s still a large market for such cleaning services, I’m just not as optimistic as others seem to be. I see it being great for one off events - cleaning after a party, getting your apartment ready a visit from the parents, or preparing your home for sale. I just don’t see how this is a huge market that warrants all these startups. I understand it’s just the beachhead but it doesn’t seem to be a very strong one. Have the better ones already been done? Uber is dominating car service. Food delivery is full of one-time transactions that need to be met quickly but it’s already a mature market. Laundry is another one and there are two startups I’m aware of working on it - Washio and Prim. HandyBook also offers handyman services although they seem to be more focused on home cleaning. I really don’t know why home cleaning startups are so popular.