What could sophisticated software possibly bring to a home cleaning company, whose stock in trade is personal attention and manual labor?
Plenty, as a partnership between cleaning company owner Neal Whittington and software developer Steve Dowd is proving. Their venture, Indigru – launched in August – was one of three area startups invited to demonstrate their technologies at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s (CED) Tech Venture Conference in Durham earlier this month.
Whittington and Dowd were separate tenants at the Double Eagle flex space in downtown Wilmington. Whittington, who runs a commercial cleaning service, bemoaned the difficulties he was having with scheduling jobs and finding qualified, reliable people to do the work. Dowd, a programmer and web application builder, had successfully designed scheduling software for several clients.
Working together, the two developed a web-based business model for a residential cleaning service. Dowd’s software allows clients to select an available date and time for the service and also to specify how much cleaning time they wish to buy and add any options. The cost is then shown on the screen, and customers can click and pay.
The order software also allows clients to add notes, such as “Dog is harmless” or “Don’t clean the countertops.”
Once an order is placed, a description goes out to Indigru’s residential cleaning staff via a text. The first staff member to respond can claim the job, Whittington said.
New staffers must complete Indigru’s two-day training and certification process. After that, they begin receiving the job order texts. If their client reviews are positive, they move up the priority list, Whittington said.
“Our ranking algorithm [allows] the top-ranked cleaners to get the best jobs as well as first dibs on jobs,” he said. “It’s a motivator.”
Although Whittington and Dowd continue to tweak the software and plan to launch an app for both Android and iPhone in October, Dowd knows he doesn’t have to invent everything.
“We use a lot of integrations, all hosted in the cloud,” he said. “Our payments are done with Stripe, text messaging is done with Twilio and MailChimp handles our email transactions. Being able to piece together all these third-party programs … leads to our ability to expand.”
And expansion is in Indigru’s sights.
Once the company has gone through its shakedown cruise in the Wilmington market, its owners plan to roll out the service in other cities.
“The technology makes us scalable, so we have plans to expand pretty quickly into Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte,” Dowd said.
“We’ll have a city manager for each city to handle management, inspections and communication to the cleaners,” Whittington added. “We’ll focus on residential to start with,
but if the demand is there, we could possibly expand into commercial.”
Dowd said Indigru has also been accepted into Microsoft’s BizSpark network, which means the startup gets free software and support, access to investors and advisors and business training.
“It’s like getting a startup grant from Microsoft,” he said.
Both men reported positive results from exposure at this month’s CED conference.
“The conference certainly provided Indigru with credibility and momentum to move forward quickly,” Whittington wrote in an email after the Sept. 16 and 17 event. “Steve and I had numerous confirmations that we have a good idea and technology that addresses real problems. We are excited to have follow-up meetings scheduled to talk with investors.”