If you find yourself wishing for a couple of extra hours every day, well, now there's an app for that.
Meet Porter, an app that allows you to instantly book in-home services like dog-walking and housecleaning – sort of like an Uber for household help.
“Porter essentially solves one massive problem,” says Matt Lucido, the startup's 28-year-old CEO. “It addresses one point – and that is that time is a really valuable asset, and really the only asset that you can't get more of because we live in a finite amount of time.”
Lucido, who grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., speaks with the energy of an up-and-coming entrepreneur. He has just five employees, including an intern. And at Amplify, a startup accelerator in Venice, Porter holds just one desk among many, all taken by young Silicon Beachers hoping that their project is the next big thing. With limited conference room space, Lucido adopts the balcony lounge overlooking a bus stop to talk to a reporter.
Just about one year ago, Lucido explains, he was earning his MBA at USC and working 30 hours a week for Santa Monica-based the Honest Company, Jessica Alba's startup, which sells eco-friendly products for babies and homes. He was really, really busy – so he found himself searching online for dry cleaners, house cleaners, wash-and-fold laundry, even grocery delivery. He found solutions, but they weren't consolidated. It all seemed harder than it needed to be. Porter was born from that frustration.
“The market was very fragmented,” Lucido recalls. “And so I said, 'These are fragmented solutions. I want one that takes care of it all for me.'”
Lucido and three friends from the Honest Company began building Porter in the beginning of 2013. Four months later, thanks to $120,000 in seed money from three L.A. investors, Porter launched and moved into a space at Amplify. Barely a year later, the company is already on the move – heading to Santa Monica's RadPad headquarters, which also grew out of Amplify.
Porter is currently online at useporter.com; Lucido hopes to launch the mobile app April 1. Services are available across the full metro Los Angeles area, including the South Bay, downtown and the Valley. By summer 2014, they plan to be in San Diego and San Francisco – and by year's end, Boston, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Four services are now on the menu: house cleaning, dry cleaning, wash-and-fold and pet care, with that menu determined by consumer surveys. In the future, Lucido hopes to add personal chefs, meal plans, carwashes and personal trainers. That will be the way to differentiate the service from competing in-home service providers such as Taskrabbit or Washio: No matter how many products they add, there's just one website and one place your credit card is stored.
“The cool thing about what we've built is that we're connecting service providers with local consumers and it's pretty much the same thing that Uber has been doing. Uber has really laid the path for companies like ours in the convenience marketplace,” Lucido says. He laughs as he admits, “Even grad students like myself, [who are] penny pinching but willing to buy some time back for myself, because my time is really valuable in my opinion.”
Contractors are paid $15 an hour – Porter keeps about 25 percent of payment for each job they book, Lucido says. The startup also provides insurance, so that customers are covered if something goes wrong. The company doesn't train them but, Lucido says, “When we hire people we check professional references for everyone we hire. We make them give us three professional references, we do a phone call and a Skype interview with everyone we hire, and we test everyone before we hire them – we make them do a test job. Whether it's a chef or a house cleaner, they're going in there and proving to us that they're good.”
If services like Porter take off, they could revolutionize L.A.'s service economy – which historically has included many undocumented workers. After a prospective contractor passes the test, Porter runs a national background check to verify that the individual is a legal citizen. All providers are fluent in English, has a driver's license and a vehicle. It's a requirement to have a smart phone.
“They're texting with our customers,” Lucido explains. “So if they're doing house cleaning or walking your dog, if you're at work you can see if your house is clean or you can see that your dog is happy and getting walked.” You may not know the person doing it, but in this go-go economy, that just may be part of the appeal.