Web Startup fixR Picks Boston as Ground Zero for Contractor Marketplace
(Updated: Additional information has been added to this story. Please see the editor’s note below.)
Call it eBay for contractors—and at least initially for plumbers and carpenters and electricians in the Boston area. FixR, a Spain-based Web startup, has chosen the Hub for the first launch of its online marketplace where contractors bid on jobs posted by homeowners. FixR quietly launched in the Boston area in October, company co-founder and CEO Andres Torrubia says, and the startup aims to grow its customer base here before expanding to other U.S. markets.
FixR works like this: Contractors register on the site and include information on their skills. People seeking, say, a plumber to fix a leaky faucet post the job on the site with basic details such as where and when the work is needed. Then, contractors registered with fixR submit their bids to the person who posted the job, and he picks the plumber whose offer he likes the most. The bids of each contractor are visible on the site, Torrubia says, to create a competitive environment like eBay that theoretically results in the best value for people looking around for skilled labor. The site also notifies contractors via e-mail of jobs that fit their skills. Plans are to develop an iPhone application for fixR and to add a Facebook Connect app to the site, Torrubia says.
Initially, fixR plans to offer its services for free to both people who post jobs that need to be done, and to contractors while the site builds a larger group of users, says Torrubia. He adds that down the road his firm may broker transactions between job posters and contractors, and take an undetermined cut from the contractor. Yet he noted that the revenue model for the company is still a work in progress.
Torrubia says that fixR has advantages over existing services for both job posters and contractors. The Yellow Pages make people seek out contractors, rather than the contractors finding them at fixR, he says. Angieslist, a popular Web site that provides ratings on service providers, doesn’t have a bidding board to prompt contractors to lower their prices as fixR does, Torrubia notes. FixR also provides customer ratings of its registered contractors. People can post jobs at free classifieds website Craigslist, he says, but bidding contractors can’t see the prices their competitors are offering on that site, and wouldn’t know to reduce their rates to compete with lower bids.
The slumping economy and contractors’ increased use of the Internet to find work are playing in fixR’s favor, Torrubia says. His site already has 500 registered contractors offering their services. Indeed, Wade last week profiled Boston-based Web startup Assured Labor, which launched publicly this month to play matchmaker between service providers and employers. FixR chose to launch initially in Boston because the firm wanted to be in a city on the East Coast that was similar to other U.S. markets, Torrubia says.
Torrubia says he first conceived of fixR’s business model while he was dealing with the hassles of finding and awarding bids to contractors to work on his new house. “I had one of these eureka moments when I got two bids,” says Torrubia. “One contractor wanted to charge me $10,000 and the other wanted to charge $20,000 for the same thing.”
Torrubia, who founded fixR in early 2008, previously co-founded Trymedia Systems, a San Francisco-based provider of secure distribution of PC games, which was sold for $34 million in 2005 to digital entertainment firm Macrovision, headquartered in Santa Clara, CA. He now runs fixR from offices in Alicante, Spain, and Barcelona. The company’s co-founder and president, Arvin Abarca, is a Barcelona-area entrepreneur who previously held posts at firms such as European online job board InfoJobs International. Torrubia notes Abarca’s expertise in online job search market was key in the creation of fixR.
(Editor’s note: Information was added to the above paragraph to amplify the description of how fixR co-founder Abarca played a key role in the formation of the startup and to clarify that the company operates from offices in both Alicante and Barcelona. When first posted, the story did not note that fixR has an office in Barcelona.)
Abarca, Torrubia, and a Spanish angel investor are funding fixR. It’s possible the company would move to the U.S. after it closes a round of venture capital, but Torrubia would not reveal the company’s specific financing plans. He says that his earlier company, Trymedia, attracted investments from Intel Capital and Dot Edu Ventures. (Macrovision reportedly sold the Trymedia business to Seattle-based gaming firm RealNetworks last year for $4 million.)
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