Housekeep: Avin Rabheru

Ex-venture capitalist and angel investor Avin Rabheru shares his three-step method for choosing a business idea

Name: Avin Rabheru
Age: 30
Company name: Housekeep
Number of Employees: 7
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 21/01/2014
Website: www.housekeep.co.uk

Tell us what your business does:

Housekeep is disrupting the fragmented £4bn home cleaning market by offering online booking and payment, fixed prices, service tailored to you and awesome cleaning delivered by vetted, trained and insured housekeepers.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I spent the past five years as an investor at the venture capital fund Smedvig Capital and as an angel investor (e.g. Streetcar/Zipcar, Kabbee, Crowdcube, Fab.com). My passion is for innovative consumer technology businesses that are trying to disrupt large, existing markets. I always wanted to use that experience to start my own business, so switched to part-time at Smedvig Capital last year to begin analysing different start-up ideas.

I was looking for three attributes when considering which business to start:

(i) Large, existing market – home cleaning is a £4bn market

(ii) Fragmented supply base – home cleaning is 90% direct-to-cleaner

(iii) Scope to professionalise the service – there’s a clear opportunity to enhance quality and consistency of home cleaning

How did you know there was a market for it?

We did a lot of consumer testing that was invaluable. We were able to identify clear “problems” in the market and we built the Housekeep proposition to address these problems, for example, by creating automated online payments rather than having to find cash in the morning. However, the most important thing was getting out there with our first customers and hearing their happy feedback!

What were you doing before starting up?

I started out as a management consultant and then joined Smedvig Capital. At Smedvig Capital we invest £2-10m in fast-growing businesses, many of which were disruptive consumer technology businesses such as Streetcar/Zipcar, Lovespace and myhomemove. I’m also an active angel investor, for example in Kabbee, Crowdcube, Fab.com.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes! I was one of those kids who kept unwittingly setting up small businesses, whether washing cars, selling magazines or organising events. My family all have a business background, so it was always a natural thing to do. I love thinking about and helping early stage businesses.

What is your revenue model?

We focus on providing a regular, repeat service. We charge customers a fixed price per visit, based on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. This gives customers the same price and quality job every time, no matter how long it takes, so there’s no more worrying about how many hours you need.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

It was certainly challenging making the decision to take the plunge.

However, I would describe the biggest business challenge so far as making sure we genuinely understand our housekeepers. We did this by spending lots of time out on cleaning jobs with them.

What was your first big breakthrough?

We had plenty of positive indicators from a market perspective, consumer feedback and similar. The key, however, was to deliver outstanding service. In our first couple of months after launch, I spent most my time on the road with the cleaning teams – and cleaned nearly a hundred homes myself! During this period, we proved that we could delight our customers by delivering a better service and so we validated the customer problem/solution we had identified. This hands-on experience has been invaluable and is guiding our operational and technology development.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

I’d give three pieces of advice:

1) Get out there and do it – you need to understand the product/service you are delivering better than anyone else.

2) Know your customer and how they are thinking – anticipate their needs before they do.

3) Surround yourself with honest, hard-working people – they will deliver for you when you are stuck and they will keep you thinking about how to evolve your business.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

The most important thing for us is to deliver a service that our customers really love. We are delivering this today, which is great – and indeed there are great testimonials on our website. I would be proud if we could continue delivering this as we scale.

In the long-run, our vision is to become the trusted provider of all your household services.

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