Many of today’s homeowners aren’t savvy DIYers (ahem, looking at you, Millennials). They lead busy lives and would rather spend the evening at a trendy new restaurant than learning to clean the air ducts. Jiffy, a mobile app offering 23 categories of services on demand, was designed to alleviate the hassle of home maintenance.
The Toronto-based startup was launched in the summer of 2015 by co-founders Paul Arlin, Jaimie Grossman and Ryan Shupak. The app is an Uber-like dispatching tool, providing users with a network of trusted professionals. Jiffy offers everything from snow removal and furniture assembly to skilled work like plumbing and pest control.
Demand for home maintenance services is on the rise — in 2015, the company was able to secure more than $500,000 in seed funding from a group of investors, including Jordan Banks, the current Managing Director of Facebook Canada and its Global Head of Vertical Strategy.
To find out more about Jiffy and its promising future, BuzzBuzzHome News sat down with co-founder Paul Arlin.
BuzzBuzzHome: How did you come up with the idea behind Jiffy?
Paul Arlin: When I first moved into my house, my wife and I bought a few light fixtures. At the lighting store I asked if they offered installation. They didn’t, but they gave us a couple business cards of electricians. It was a Saturday morning, but I called anyway and left messages. Then I went online and read reviews to try to vet a decent company myself. I didn’t even know what an electrician in Toronto should charge for the service, so I checked out a few blogs.
Honestly, all I needed was a decent electrician to come by and install the lights. I was sure there were electricians driving around my neighbourhood that would have happily come by to do the 40 minute job. That experience, combined with my love for Uber, gave me the idea to create a dispatching tool that connects homeowners with home service professionals in real time.
BBH: This isn’t your first business venture — can you tell us a little bit about your background?
PA: When I was a university student at McGill I started a business called Campus Vacations. My partner and I had been running the McGill ski trips, and when Facebook came along in our third year, people from the University of Ottawa and Queen’s University started messaging us, asking us if we would run busses from their campuses. We did it — and when we graduated we extended [the ski trips] to the University of Waterloo, Guelph and Western. The business kept growing, and eventually we sold it to S-Trip in 2013. I was helping the transition there until March of last year, and after that we started Jiffy.
BBH: How did you meet your co-founders Ryan Shupak and Jamie Grossman?
PA: Jaimie is my brother-in-law, he’s married to my sister. He was in the advertising space, and started, what was at the time, the largest ad repping firm in Canada. He sold it to Yellow Pages, and he’s been investing in tech for years. When I sold Campus Vacations, I was coming up with business ideas on a weekly basis. Every Sunday night dinner I would pitch him a new business idea, and he eventually fell in love with this one. Jaimie was actually the driving force to put Jiffy into motion. He handles the business side — our fundraising, finances, etc.
Ryan, our third partner, is a friend of mine from McGill. He was an investment banker who wanted to get into a tech startup. We’d have a catch-up every few months or so, and when I told him about the idea [Jiffy], he wanted to get involved. He’s like the genius of the partnership, he leads all of our growth and handles the marketing. I deal with the supply side of the business. We have hundreds of companies that are featured on the app. Since day one, I’ve been hitting the phones, signing up companies.
BBH: Can you explain how Jiffy works?
PA: A homeowner would go on our website or the Android or iPhone apps and select the service they’re in need of. There are 23 categories, but they’re all based on home maintenance. You select a service, which is accompanied by a rate card. It’s easy to understand — plumbing, for instance, is $90 an hour with a $135 job minimum. You can rest assured that the rate is based on the Toronto average. We’ve called 30-plus companies in each category and documented all their rates, which allows us to determine the average. All of the companies on our app have agreed to charge the same rate for Jiffy jobs.
From there, you choose when you want the service provider to come to your house, write a brief description of the issue and confirm the job. A pro, who is best suited for the job and can get to you when you want, will accept. You can even say “in a Jiffy,” and they can only accept if they can be there within three hours. Once they accept, you get a confirmation email with a one-hour window of when that person will arrive.
When the professional shows up, they log their hours, enter any additional costs and then Jiffy will bill your credit card with an invoice. If you have any issue after the job, you can always contact us. The money is actually held for four days, just to confirm that you rate the professional a five out of five. We don’t submit the money to the professional until the customer is completely satisfied. We’ll either send them back or send someone else and remit the money to the customer. We have a vested interest to keep our users happy, because we know if they love us for plumbing, they’ll use us again for the 22 other categories.
PA: To get on the app, the company or professional has to apply. They’ve got to meet standard criterias such as up-to-date certificates, WSIB, insurance, licenses, minimum $2 million of liability insurance, etc. — but they also need strong references. If they’re a big company they’ll have hundreds of reviews online that we dig through. Then we meet the professionals in person, and if we want them on the app, we’ll train them on the software.
We only provide 4+ star professionals. Every user rates their professional, and if someone has received a few bad ratings, we take them off the app. Customers will soon be able to leave comments on the app, but we do get tons of feedback in the form of emails and chats, praising certain individuals. In the odd case where a job didn’t go smoothly, we hear about it too.
BBH: How does Jiffy benefit the providers it works with?
PA: It doesn’t cost the providers anything to be on the app, they pay us a nominal fee of all jobs billed through Jiffy. Unlike other lead generation sites, every notification a provider receives from Jiffy is a firm job order. It’s someone who has their credit card on their profile and they’ve already agreed to the minimum charge. Plus, let’s say a provider doesn’t have any appointments scheduled between 2pm and 3pm. If they get a Jiffy job alert during that time, it allows them to fill their schedule.
BBH: Who is your target audience? How often does the average user return to Jiffy for their household service needs?
PA: Our target audience is all homeowners, with a strong emphasis on younger homeowners that don’t have a rolodex built up of professionals for very specific jobs. These are people who are open to technology, putting their credit cards online and having us tell them that the professionals we provide our awesome and trustworthy.
On average, customers who have used us two or more times, use Jiffy every 29 days. Because all 23 categories are hand selected, every month or so, a homeowner will likely have a use for our services.
PA: The money is being used for our staff — we have two developers, a designer and another person who works with me on the operations team. But it’s being used primarily for marketing, to prove our concept in Toronto. Once we’re at scale in Toronto, we’re going to raise more money to branch out into more cities, especially in North America.
BBH: What are your plans for 2016? The next five years?
PA: Our plan for 2016 is to be in more cities, with Jiffy being the go-to, one stop solution for all of our users. The five year plan would be to be in every major city across North America, with millions of users.