Benedikt Franke is co-founder of Helpling, a global home cleaning platform headquartered in Berlin, Germany, that has had amazing growth and funding success since it was founded in early 2014. He shares Helpling’s journey with Ireland-based curator Elizabeth Douet.
The easiest way to explain Helpling is …
Helpling is Europe’s leading marketplace for home cleaning services. On the website or via the app, customers can book a vetted and insured house cleaner with just a few clicks, freeing up more personal time for themselves. For cleaners, the innovative online service makes it easier than ever to access new clients and to manage when and where they want to work.
The idea came from …
Since it has become common practice to purchase clothing and electronics online, it seemed logical to us that technology would impact how home services are ordered and purchased. With the success of apps like mytaxi or airbnb, we realized that there is a constantly growing demand for online services – as long as they are well-curated and reliable. And we started discussing this more intensely, concentrating on how to create the greatest added value. Finding a vetted house cleaner was always a tedious and time-consuming process. Consumers relied on inconvenient ways, searching numerous listings or waiting for word-of-mouth recommendations. We wondered why booking a domestic service online could not be as convenient as booking a taxi? So the idea of Helpling was born. No more searching and trying to decide – only three clicks to have a clean and cozy home.
How long did it take to build Helpling?
The initial co-founders -Philip Huffmann and myself – got the idea to build Helpling in early January 2014. By the end of January, with support from Rocket Internet (an internet company headquartered in Berlin, Germany), there were ten software programmers already starting to develop the platform. Eighty days later, the website was launched, and two months after that, Helpling already began expanding throughout Europe.
How much funding has been raised to date?
Since founding Helpling in January 2014 with Philip Huffmann and Rocket Internet, the company’s global footprint, the paid growth in business and brand strength as well as the technology lead have helped us to raise over 56.5 M Euros to date. Investors include: Mangrove Capital Partners, Phenomen Ventures, Point Nine Capital, Lukasz Gadowski, Lakestar and Kite Ventures. While 56.5 M Euros seems at times like a surreal amount of funding, it makes sense when you translate it into business terms of 300 employees, scaling into new countries, community-building with cleaner vetting and full customer service in each country, meeting platform growth challenges and more.
What cities/countries is Helpling active in?
Helpling is active across three continents, with operations in the following countries: Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, UAE, the UK and Ireland (hassle.com). In Germany, Helpling is currently operating in 75 cities.
A unique fact/statistic that surprises people about Helpling is…
Almost 30% of house cleaners have a university degree. Almost 50% of cleaners are male. 85% of customers book regularly.
How did you promote Helpling initially?
The marketing mix really matters, especially when you are building up a category. You need to go wider because you are working to create a desire AND offer a solution (vs just addressing an existing demand). While digital advertising is an obvious choice for online businesses, you are limited to people already doing this and having the mindset already to book home services online. To get to others, you have to use more channels – TV, offline, traditional advertising. We used TV early and found this to be effective. Traditionally, well-established brands are on TV, so there is an inherent element of trust in the advertisers appearing on TV.
What are the advantages of working as a cleaner on Helpling?
Helpling provides all cleaners with a high level of predictability and flexibility: They decide when and where they would like to work. As the platform’s system automatically creates invoices, administrative work for cleaners is reduced significantly. In addition, Helpling enables cleaners to access a broader client base in their local neighborhood, so that they are no longer dependent on single customers. Our personal customer service team is available 7 days a week to answer any questions cleaners may have.
What are the advantages of using Helpling cleaners?
Previously, finding a cleaner was a time-consuming process that could take 6 to 8 weeks, with people relying on recommendations or spending a lot of time going through personal listings. Helpling simplifies the process of finding a cleaner by breaking down the tedious process into only a few steps: Helpling provides trusted local cleaners anywhere, anytime, within 60 seconds and with only a few clicks. Every cleaner has passed a multilevel vetting process, including testing of cleaning skills as well as providing copies of their ID, business license and police clearance. Additionally, all cleaners are insured for possible damages or injury during the cleaning. We also offer a personal customer service from 8-20PM, on hand to answer all questions.
Can you give a snapshot of the typical Helpling cleaner?
A ‘typical’ cleaner doesn’t exist. The majority of cleaners collaborating with Helpling are working part-time, so most of them have a further occupation.
- Almost two thirds of cleaners are between 25 and 45 years old (Worldwide)
- Male/Female – about 50% (in Germany)
- Origin – . ⅓ German, ⅓ european, ⅓ non-European (in Germany)
- More than ⅓ of cleaners have a university degree (in Germany)
- Based on internal surveys and conversations with cleaners, we estimate that one out of every two cleaners used to work illegally before (in Germany)
Can you give a snapshot of the typical Helpling user?
- about 40% previously had “private” cleaners (or even undeclared cleaners). In this case, we help to build a new market, or help transfer work from black market into a legitimate market.
- 60% female / 40% male
- ⅔ one- or two-person households (over 90% employed)
Where do you see Helpling in five years?
We can imagine that five years from now, people will still be using newspaper ads and personal recommendations to find a cleaner. However, as we provide a better solution for both sides, we believe that more and more people will be happy to use our service over the coming years. We look to create long-term relationships and are focused on providing and expanding a relationship-centric service that has trust at its core. Longer term, we want to make Helpling a household brand of cleaning services, leveraging other home services too eventually. At the moment, however, our biggest potential is in creating liquidity in the markets we operate in.
In your opinion, what other sectors are ripe for disruption?
In the continued digitalization of home-based services, I’d keep an eye on home care providers as there is opportunity to better meet efficiencies and add value. The care sector is definitely up for a shift.
Helpling by Numbers
2: Company founded two years ago
9: Countries Where Helpling is Active
300: Global staff
100,000+: Number of households Helpling serves
56.5 M Euros: funding to date
+10.000: cleaners on the platform globally