HelpHive, a Referral Site, Seeks to Rope in SMBs with Free Video


Smelling blood at the presumed decline of Yellow Pages, a number of sites have launched that provide leads to local service SMBs. You got Angie’s List on the membership side. And ServiceMagic, Tree.com’s DoneRight, Sears’ ServiceLive and a number of regional companies (i.e. RedBeacon, Fixr, LocalPrice) using some type of leads model.

Now add HelpHive. Launched this summer in Seattle by four tech vets, HelpHive builds on licensed listings from iBegin to provide a “hand curated” directory of SMBs in 50 categories. Its business model is to charge SMBs an annual fee of $199 for a variety of “Pro” level services (introductory priced at $99) and five percent of the total job value. When leads don’t result in jobs, the service takes a $5 fee from the SMB.

It is interesting to note that the commission is half of ServiceLive’s 10 percent fee. Also in contrast to ServiceLive, all payments are done on an honor system. ServiceLive has a complex system – perhaps necessary — of collecting payments and distributing funds only after consumers are satisfied

HelpHive’s Pro service has a number of distinctive features, most notably one year of a basic, free TurnHere video, including a site visit by a videographer, and a 60 second clip. As with many other video offers, however, the video is not portable to other sites.

Citysearch had also provided introductory free video at one point. But those contracts were many times more expensive than what HelpHive is charging.

Co-Founder Karim Meghji says that the team considered the full range of business models currently offered in the space. At Real Networks, where two staff members worked, “we ran a subscription business,” he noted. “You’ve got problems with churn, lifetime value of customers, and customer acquisition costs. It will be a challenge for Angie’s List to sustain that.” Subscriptions also run counter to the company’s hopes of providing information “to the broadest base,” he says.

As for a leads based model akin to ServiceMagic, where SMBs are charged for leads whether they win the job or not, that doesn’t work either. “Consumers are seeking a service model, not an RFP-like model,” says Meghji .

The company launches its promotion this week with a $10 gift card to consumers that register to provide reviews. It is also appearing at a Seattle home show.

2 thoughts on “HelpHive, a Referral Site, Seeks to Rope in SMBs with Free Video

  1. The main problem I have with this kind of service is that the really experienced contractors already have enough business that they won’t pay a 5-10% cut of their business to get new clients.

    So you’re left with the new guys on the block and when it’s a repair task that’s too complex for me to do myself, I’d rather have someone experienced.

  2. Helphive.com provides no real service to our community but seeks to corrupt the relationship between homeowners and their service providers.

    Helphive.com is not like other home service locator websites. They look like other sites and they are similar but they are very different because of these unique characteristics:
    1. They have harvested all merchants and/or contractors in the home services/home repair categories in a particular region. (Like a real directory). Unlike a real directory that actually may serve some useful purpose to the public, they do not faithfully provide the information a directory provides, namely the company name, address and phone. They remove the phone number of the listed company and substitute their own proxy phone number for the real one. At this point the website is no longer a public serving directory but a tool for manipulating the public and the business community in a local area. The phone number attached to the service providers’ listing now misdirects all incoming calls to Helphive’s data collection servers. The caller thinks that they have called the service provider. They get a recording that states that the service provider is unavailable. The message recording then proceeds to collect the callers name, contact info, type of service desired, how soon they need the work etc. Helphive has effectively just hijacked the service providers incoming customer.
    2. Once the hijacked customer data is collected the question is what is Helphive doing with the stolen customers information. Well, they simply attempt to sell it. First of all, they attempt to sell it back to the company they stole it from. They call it “Referral Pro Plan. For an annual fee plus 5% of the job value the service provider can buy his own lead back from Helphive. Of course Helphive maintains that it is “their” lead in spite of the fact that the lead was generated with false contact information in their faux service provider directory. If the service provider balks and does not agree to pay Helphive then Helphive simply utilizes the lead for their own purposes. Since Helphive gets a percentage of all actual work done by any participating service provider, it is obvious that Helphive is not going to allow that hot active lead to go to waste. The stolen lead has nowhere to go really except to one of their participating service providers that are willing to pay Helphive 5% of the job value.

    The Helphive business model is based upon an unethical, and I believe – illegal, misappropriation of an entire communities’ business’s property. There is benefit to neither the business community nor the public with such a scheme.
    The Helphive business model is apparently based upon:
    1. Their belief that they are entitled to do what they please with property belonging to others.
    Specifically registered trade names, trademarks and contact information including a business telephone number.
    2. Their belief that it is OK to create the illusion to the consumer that the information presented in a directory format is real and that it belongs to the service provider when in actually it is a bait and switch technique. The entire directory is a half-truth; The company name, logo, address etc is accurate but the phone number is a fraud. The message conveyed to the caller is a lie “The service provider is unavailable please leave your info etc).
    3. The mistaken assumption on the part of the principles of Helphive that those of us in the service industry are going to lay down and take this corruption of needed and useful directory information on the internet shows profound ignorance on their part. These marketing geeks need a reality check in a big way.

    Since this situation came to my attention last week October 30, 2009 I have had to compromise my normal work schedule and concentrate my efforts on getting this situation remedied. Apparently nobody else has noticed has dangerous the mindset and business activities of Helphive are to the public and service companies like mine.

    As of today I have taken the following actions:
    A complaint was filed with the Washington State Attorney General
    A complaint was filed with the Washington State BBB
    I contacted 6 Washington State contractor groups and associations
    I contacted my attorney regarding a civil suit and requested research regarding a possible criminal complaint
    We are actively seeking others that feel they have been damaged or believe that may suffer future damages that are willing to participate in a class action lawsuit.

    The media is starting to pick up this controversial subject. Here is a tech blog that is generating some comment::

    http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2009/11/plumber_vs_programmer_a_face_off_over_an_online_directory.html

    I contacted 20 service providers from Helphive faux directory asking them to take a look at the site and comment. Every one of them reacted the same way I did when they examined the website.
    If you have an interest in this matter Please contact me:

    Evan Conklin
    Evan Conklin Plumbing and Heating Inc.

    http://www.Helphive.info
    http://www.SeattlePlumber.com

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