It’s that time of year again: snow-shoveling season.
To avoid both having to negotiate with the kid next door about shoveling your driveway or pleading your neighbor to carve your car out of its snowed-in parking spot, the Shovler app is at the ready.
The “Uber of X” type platform is designed to pair neighbors willing to shovel with those that need a driveway, walkway, sidewalk or even a parking space shoveled. Users can upload photos to compare the before and after and then rank those neighborly shovelers when they’ve braved the cold and completed the work.
PYMNTS spoke with Daniel Miller, founder and CEO of Shovler, about why something so simple — and necessary for certain parts of the world — works well, how the second round of the app is better and what the highlight of the business has been to date.
PYMNTS: So, in your words, what is Shovler?
DM: Shovler is a simple mobile app on Android and iOS that connects users with neighbors that are willing to shovel snow for them.
PYMNTS: History of the company?
DM: I started it last winter. When I was younger, I used to shovel snow for neighbors, and I used to have to knock on doors in order to find shoveling jobs. Then, when I got older, I would still consider shoveling snow for neighbors, but it gets awkward when you’re 30 years old or older to shovel. And then, I had a car in New York City at one point when it snowed. One day, I had to use my car, and I didn’t even own a snow shovel, so it was a real hassle to get my car uncovered and out from under the snow. And, I thought, “there must be a better way to do this.” So, last winter, I just decided that it made so much sense. A concept of an “Uber for snow shovelers” made the most sense of any other “Uber of anything” that I could think of. It’s such a simple concept.
On the day of a snow day, shovelers can sign up and log on and be notified when a new job is added near by. And that works for your driveway, it works for a small business owner that doesn’t want to shovel the sidewalk, it works for someone who parked their car at 72nd and Broadway and their car is covered. All they do is log on an hour or two before and select that they need a shoveler, who will come and shovel out the car. When it’s complete, all the payments are made though the app. Just a very simple concept.
PYMNTS: Let’s back up a little. Can you talk about both sides of the market?
DM: It’s literally so simple. You download the app on iOS or Android. You don’t have to log in to make a purchase in the beginning. You go through all the screens. You’ll get to the screen that asks if you “want a shoveler” or you “want to be a shoveler.” So, say you want to request a shoveler, and then, you tap if the work is being done at your home, your car or your business. You can even use the GPS button or type in the address if it’s somewhere else that it can’t find. Push continue, then it gives you the price. We use a fixed-price concept. We really tried to make it as easy and simple as possible.
We used the model from Drybar that does blowouts for women’s hair based in New York City. They also use a fixed-price concept. If a woman’s hair takes 15 minutes, it’s the same price as the woman’s hair that takes an hour and a half.
So, we did the same concept for the home price. You log on, and you will get a price for what it will cost for every driveway for up to a two-car garage with up to three cars in length, your average sidewalk and walkway. You will get a price based on your zip code, and that price is adjusted based on the amount of snow accumulation in that area every day. So, basically, you will see a price — say, $65 — for the driveway, sidewalk and walkway. If you’re happy with that price, you can upload a photo, which is optional but it’s helpful for seeing if the job was done and if there are any extra requests. Then, you hit continue, you post your job and you type in your credit card information, and the job is posted.
But our focus market is actually digging people out of parking spaces in cities.
PYMNTS: Where is the business based, and how far is the reach?
DM: We want to be nationwide. Every time it snows, we want a shoveler to be nearby. But for now, we’re really focused on New York, Boston, the New York suburbs and other Northeast suburbs. But we’re keeping the app open, so if there is an entrepreneur in Wisconsin who wants to sign up and someone logs on needing a snow shoveler, they’ll get an alert.
PYMNTS: How on-demand is it? Eventually snow melts?
DM: Well, once again, it’s supposed to be on-demand, and that’s one of the things that will happen as the number of snow shovelers coming aboard increases and there are more jobs when it snows.
PYMNTS: Speaking of money … how much funding have you received?
DM: It’s completely bootstrapped.
PYMNTS: From the shoveler’s perspective, how much money do they get from a job?
DM: They receive 85 percent of every job. They’re penalized if they get less than five stars, and they lose $5 for every star less than five. If they get only one star, we look at the pictures and may not pay them at all.
PYMNTS: So, the shovelers are ranked. Are they aggregated or averaged?
DM: It goes job by job, but the season is much shorter than say Uber’s. Most shovelers aren’t going to do more than 20 jobs per season.
PYMNTS: So, got to ask: What does the phrase “Uber of X” mean to you?
DM: The ability for an individual to get onto a platform and do a project for somebody else.
We are an Uber of X, but I think we’re doing it better than a lot of other companies are. There’s a difference between a “chronic” and an “acute” problem, which I read about in TechCrunch, I believe. Problems that occur all the time don’t necessarily need an on-demand solution, versus others that are more instantaneous and are less recurring do need an on-demand service. So, I think, snow shoveling is really the best one that needs an on-demand solution because it is a really “acute problem” similar to Uber in that you need a ride “now.” You weren’t sure if you were going to need a ride, but now, you need one now. So, I think that we’re good from that angle.
PYMNTS: Can you talk about a rough patch that you’ve encountered since starting up?
DM: This is my first technology startup that I’ve worked with. I basically built the app with a process where people would list how much they’re willing to pay to get a snow shoveler. And then, someone else would bid against it, and there would be a bidding process. That became very clear that that was way too complicated. So, literally, I spent months building that app, and then getting rid of it, and then completely building a whole new app with this pricing mechanism in order to make it as easy as possible, which is what people are really looking for.
PYMNTS: What’s the highlight so far with the business?
DM: We haven’t had a snowy winter yet. So, the highlight is yet to come. But we have hundreds of shovelers already signed up after only having launched the app a few weeks ago.