International

Rocket Internet-Backed Cleaning Startup Sweeps Up $47M

Helpling, a home-cleaning startup backed by Rocket Internet, has picked up another €43 million ($47 million) to keep expanding, Reuters reported.

The Series B round brought in new investors Lakestar and Kite Ventures with existing investor Lukasz Gadowski and Rocket, and it comes less than four months after Berlin-based Helpling announced a $17 million Series A round at the beginning of December, and makes it the best-funded startup among Internet-based cleaning-service marketplaces, which include the Google-backed Homejoy, TaskRabbit, Handybook, Direct Cleaner, Hassle and Mopp.

That’s also how Helpling has been able to expand rapidly into far more cities than its competitors, making it the only player in town in most cases. Helpling is barely a year old, but now has cleaners in 200 cities across 12 countries — Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates — and the new money will be used to continue scaling up operations and providing online and offline marketing.

But not all of those cities are equal, Helpling co-founder Benedikt Franke told TechCrunch. While Helpling claims more than 50,000 customers, “the vast majority of jobs are in our top 20 cities globally,” Franke said, adding that the marketplace is only profitable at scale, and with repeat bookings.

That means there are almost 200 cities where there are no profits to feed back into marketing, but also limited budget for recruiting and vetting new cleaners in the not-yet-profitable cities. Franke said Helpling has tested two approaches: one using an online questionnaire and telephone interview, and the other involving an in-person interview and test clean.

“The results were very, very clear that the additional face-to-face cleaning [test] does not make [a] difference in terms of customer satisfaction in the end,” Franke said.

That’s also less expensive, which may not be so critical for Helpling after its big rise, but is increasingly an issue for its parent. Earlier this month, Rocket shut down its Southeast Asian consumer-to-consumer marketplace Lamido, and has had a bumpy ride with several other companies in its portfolio since its less-than-spectacular IPO almost six months ago.

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