Tag Archives: RedBeacon

Ethan Anderson Launches Online ‘Scheduling Supermarket’

Red Beacon founder Ethan Anderson has unveiled his latest project, MyTime, a “scheduling supermarket” that sets dynamic pricing for unfilled appointments. Online scheduling intrigues us as a gateway towards promotions and transactions, but it remains underutilized by SMBs and the space is also highly fragmented.

The site launched today in Los Angeles with 1,106 “fully vetted” businesses participating. MyTime promotes open avails in service calendars with ads on social media, email and other channels. It takes a 40 percent, one-time commission from new customers that it attracts. Existing customers who use the system don’t cost the business anything. The system also handles online payment for businesses, sending out payments to businesses in the same day.

Anderson has been working on the project for a year, building a 15 person team. He has raised angel funding from scheduling vets such as Merchant Circle founder Ben T Smith IV, along with others such as Jason Calacanis and Dave McLure (500 Startups).

The site’s ambition is to aggregate as many businesses as possible on his “light” scheduling system to allow consumers to shop for appointments near them. It integrates data from 12 existing scheduling systems, including Google calendar, Zoc Doc, Schedulicity, iPhone/iPad and Android phones, and others. A dozen more systems are being worked on.

Dynamic pricing is used to provide consumers with discount incentive during non-busy periods. Discounts could be 30 percent to 40 percent. Conversely, premiums can be charged for very busy times, such as Saturday mornings at hair dressers.

All services are guaranteed, and each service is vetted via social media and rating and review sites.While the site has 50 service categories, major segments are expected to be health and beauty, fitness, yoga, pet sitting and domestic services

Anderson says his experience launching Red Beacon, a services leads company, taught him that consumers want instantaneous service. “They don’t want to wait a day or two” to get a bid. All the pricing is right on the site and payments can be processed right there as well.

Home Depot Buys RedBeacon

The Home Depot is set to significantly boost its home contractor leads network with today’s acquisition of RedBeacon. No price was announced for the acquisition, which puts Home Depot in the same boat as Sears, which has been quietly developing ServiceLive, its own contractor leads service.

RedBeacon, which takes a 10 percent commission for service jobs, was one of a number of socially driven leads companies that started in the 2008-2009 time frame. Others include Cox’s Kudzu, which has developed an intriguing partnership with Scripps’ HGTV; The Washington Post’s Service Alley; LikeList, HelpHive, and Thumbtack. The latter received $4.5 million in venture funding last week.

Last year, Red Beacon announced $7.4 million in funding from Mayfield and Venrock, but it hasn’t been easy sailing for the company. The service never landed media partnerships that it had been hoping for, and replaced its founder last year with new CEO Anthony Rodio. It has, however, managed to launch services in nine markets. Under Home Depot, one assumes it will take a national approach to contractor leads.

BigTent Focuses on Leveraging its One Million (Mostly Women) Users

Groups have been using the Web since the mid-1980s for a wide range of activities, such as scheduling, discussions, photo sharing, referrals etc. Groups have been a special strength for Yahoo.

BigTent, a group software company based in San Francisco, has recently been vying with Yahoo for the same market, focusing largely on women. It now has over one million members, who reside in more than 50 percent of U.S. ZIP codes. The question for BigTent and Yahoo, in the age of Facebook and other social media, is what will keep users on a dedicated platform? And what will be their own revenue model?

BigTent CEO and Founder Donna Novitsky says the answer is easy: Facebook is great, but BigTent’s groups, which have sizes ranging in size from 10 to “hundreds of thousands,” tend to require a lot of customization and special features. BigTent groups now range from simple mailing lists to groups with discussions, events, memberships, payments, classifieds, reviews, and more.

“Many BigTent groups are local and use the technology to schedule events every week and track participation, in addition to hosting lively discussions 24×7 online, by email and on mobile devices,” says Novitsky. “As groups have grown, they need subgroups to maintain intimacy, so we provide that as well, with all the functionality of the top level groups. It’s all about continuing to scale and deliver value to more local clubs, schools, parenting groups, neighborhoods, sports teams and scout troops,” Novitsky adds.

From a business perspective, one of the core challenges for BigTent, a free service, is how to leverage its aggregated user base. The answer: advertising with national brands who want to target women, such as Clorox and Old Navy; and various marketplace opportunities.

Novitsky notes that one marketplaces effort the company is doing is a partnership with RedBeacon, which helps members find local service providers like babysitters, plumbers and painters. “Much of the discussion in our local groups is seeking referrals and recommendations from other group members so this is win-win-win for the members, partners and BigTent,” says Novitsky.

Deal referrals are another big marketplaces opportunity for Big Tent. The majority of deal a day subscribers, after all, are educated women. “Our audience loves deals,” confirms Novitisky. “But the deals space has gone crazy with too many different providers sending too many emails — it’s deal overload. So BigTent is working with several of the deals providers such as Groupon and The DealMap to bring together the best deals and sort them for our audience. This is respectful of our members’ time and attention, and delivers better results for everyone.”

Redbeacon Raises $7.4 Million; Interview with CEO Ethan Anderson

Redbeacon, the six person San Francisco based service referral company, announced today that it has raised a heady $7.4 million in Series A financing from Mayfield Fund and Venrock. CEO and Co-founder Ethan Anderson tells us that the company needed such a huge round to quickly ramp up the staff, including engineers, designers and marketing people; aggressively expand markets beyond San Francisco (although no markets have been finalized); and build a wide range of business partnerships.

Anderson notes that demographics and population size will play a large role in determining its next markets, but that business “distribution partnerships” will also play a role. For instance, Redbeacon is currently testing with BT in the U.K.

Partnerships, however, will consist of all shapes and sizes, including communities, search engines, media sites. The commission basis for job leads will “monetize better than advertising,” predicts Anderson. It will also feel like a natural, value added feature of their sites Partners “will drive tons and tons of traffic,” he says. “They’ll be moving to value added transactions to users.” The site currently works with BigTent, the women’s group site. It also works with several companies that remain unannounced.

Partnerships are being extended to individual SMBs, who can be partners by plugging a Redbeacon widget into their site. They can emphasize specific service categories and service providers among the leads that are carried, and receive a piece of Redbeacon’s 10 percent commission for jobs. A plumber, for instance, could provide a link to dry wall repair. “It is very contextual,” says Anderson.

Anderson adds that the site’s big challenge right now is not so much online competitors such as ServiceMagic, QuinStreet and others, but “changing consumer behavior,” as people are still used to picking up the phone. The social aspects of the site should help along these lines, especially the solicitation of consumer reviews, which complement reviews imported from Yelp, Google and Yahoo. Anderson notes that 50% of consumers who use the service for a job are providing reviews.

As for learnings from the site’s launch in San Francisco, Anderson says that the site is now up to 4,000 small businesses and service pros, and “is always getting more. It is almost enough to make the service work” with price quotes on every job, he says. “People are getting price quotes from very good providers.”

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.