A new startup, part of Techstars in Austin, has a solution.
LawnStarter, founded in August of 2013, wants to take the pain out of lawn maintenance by hooking up homeowners with lawn care crews. The company officially launched this week and provides service to all of Austin and many outlying areas from Marbles Falls to San Marcos and Round Rock.
LawnStarter is taking a “highly fragmented, old school industry” and bringing it into the digital age, said Ryan Farley, one of the founders.
“The bar for the customer experience is extremely low,” Farley said.
That’s why it’s ripe for disruption, he said. Farley and Steve Corcoran founded the company originally in the Washington, D.C. area with $110,000 in seed stage capital they raised from a group of angel investors. This summer, they relocated to Austin for the Techstars accelerator.
“Texas is one of the biggest markets for lawn care,” Farley said.
A few guys have become millionaires doing lawn care but that that’s a small fraction of the market, Farley said. In fact, the top 50 lawn care companies account for just 15 percent of the market, he said.
“There’s lots of small companies out there that need help,” Farley said.
While Farley didn’t grow up mowing lawns, he did work on grounds maintenance during the summertime and for a golf course. His co-founder, Corcoran ran a lawn mowing business.
In studying the industry, they found some lawn service companies are completely offline and don’t even have a website. They typically are one to two person companies, Farley said.
“They are at a point in their business where managing the business is becoming hectic,” he said.
LawnStarter wants to take the pain and paperwork out of the process, Farley said. The company takes 15 percent to 20 percent on each transaction, depending on the job. The average price for lawn service is $48 for half-acre lots, Farley said. And typically, homeowners get their lawns mowed every few weeks.
LawnStarter’s platform matches consumers with lawn care providers and lets them get an estimate for any yard work with a few clicks.
LawnStarter is working on developing partnerships with national chains. The company wants to scale to provide service to the entire Southwest region of the U.S. by next summer, Farley said.
“The shared economy is doing well right now,” said Brandon Marker, analyst with Techstars in Austin.
Companies like HomeJoy have found success matching cleaners with consumers.
“But this does not exist for lawn care,” Marker said. “People have tried to make this work for lawn care but they haven’t succeeded so far. I don’t believe that’s because there isn’t a need or a market for it. It’s just difficult to do.”
But the LawnStarter team has got all the ingredients to make it work, Marker said. And now people are more comfortable with the shared economy.
The LawnStarter founders taught themselves how to code and gave up good jobs on Wall Street to do LawnStarter.
“They turned a great deal of financial experience into coding experience,” Marker said. “They found out how to do this successfully in the Washington, D.C. market. And now they’re replicating that success in the Austin market.”