Home Depot looks to Silicon Valley for growth

Home Depot announced it has acquired online home services marketplace Redbeacon. Combined with Home Depot’s recent partnership with PayPal on its new in-store payment system, it’s another reminder that brick-and-mortar retailers are having to look to Silicon Valley for ways to get innovative.

Redbeacon comes to iPhone to make good help easier to find

Redbeacon, the web marketplace that connects people with professional home service providers such as plumbers, painters, and yard workers, has launched its first native app for the iPhone(s AAPL).
The company, which lets you search for, get bids from, and ultimately book jobs with background-checked and licensed local service providers, has already seen solid growth since it was founded two years ago — but the capabilities in the iPhone app could help Redbeacon take off even more. The biggest new perk of the app is it lets people shoot videos, take photos or record voice memos when requesting home services; this makes it easier for consumers to show potential contractors what specifically they need done, and it saves contractors’ time in assessing job prices.

Redbeacon for iPhone screenshot (click to enlarge)

Mobile move is a ‘game-changer’

Redbeacon has already been testing its users’ appetite for mobile apps in a way, the company’s co-founder and president Yaron Binur said in an interview this week. Two months ago, Redbeacon rolled out a mobile web app strictly for service providers that works on all phone platforms, and since then more than 30 percent of the platform’s project bids have come from a service provider on the mobile app. The company expects to see a similarly strong response with its consumer app.
Binur put it this way: “We think it’s a real game changer for us. It’s hard to explain exactly what your yard looks like, or what your carpet looks like. And for providers, they’d rather not have to waste their time to come on-site to provide an estimate of how much a job should cost. The photo and video changes all that.”
The new consumer app is launching only on iOS because the majority of Redbeacon’s user base has an iPhone, Binur said. Down the line, the company will probably launch an Android (s goog) app as well.

Competition from TaskRabbit? Not quite

The service-oriented online marketplace has heated up in recent months, with companies like TaskRabbit and Zaarly garnering attention and venture backing. Binur says that Redbeacon is different from those kinds of startups since it is focused solely on the licensed service professional market. “They’re creating a brand new category, convincing consumers to contract someone else to do something that they may have done on their own previously,” said Binur. “This is an established market for a certain kind of job for your home. We don’t have to convince people; we just need to provide a better experience.”
It’s a fair point. And so far, Redbeacon’s somewhat narrowly focused strategy has proved fruitful: Redbeacon is now live in eight metro areas in the United States, and is currently seeing month-over-month growth rates of 80 to 85 percent, Binur said. Redbeacon is backed with $7.4 million in venture capital and it makes money by taking a small percentage of each completed service transaction it facilitates. Overall, I think it’s a solid approach because it provides benefits and empowerment to both the consumer and the service provider — and the mobile debut seems to have the right elements to make the process even better.
Here are a few more screenshots of Redbeacon for iPhone (click to enlarge):
      

Video: Redbeacon’s Plans to Live Up to the Hype

Redbeacon is just a year and a half old, until recently was bootstrapped, and has deployed its local services marketplace in only one region. But something about what it’s doing makes people think the company’s on to something big. CEO Ethan Anderson explains the appeal.

How Startups Can Win Big With VCs

[qi:012] Startups looking for VC funding need to make two things crystal clear when pitching to investors: One, how your company plans to distribute your product or services to the masses; and two, why it’s going to shake up the tech industry. That’s the advice offered up by the panels of venture capitalists and tech executives to startups that presented at the TechCrunch 50 conference this week.
While during a demo, startups have to explain what their offering is and how it works, that’s only one part of a successful pitch. “There’s been a lack of focus on distribution,” said Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape and now the head of a $300 million venture fund. “The typical path a lot of startups take is they launch their product and no one finds out about it.” They also need to do a better job explaining how they’re going to catalyze the industry. As Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s put it after viewing demos, “I didn’t see anything where I thought ‘Oh wow, I think this will change the world.'” Read More about How Startups Can Win Big With VCs