How MiNeeds, a Local-Services Startup Run by Software Guys, Softened Up for Weddings

11/18/11Follow @curtwoodward

When the ex-Microsofties behind local services site MiNeeds thought about expanding their business, they got what seemed like weird advice. They had built their company as a resource to help people connect with service providers like plumbers, painters, accountants, and more. But when they looked to expand into wedding services, they found a niche that didn’t think it should be lumped in with all that other stuff.

“The feedback was very strong, very consistent, and clear: I love this experience, but I need it to be beautiful and I want to feel it,” co-founder Raed Malhas says. “I’m planning my wedding. I don’t want there to be a carpenter there.”

Like typical guys, Malhas and co-founder Deniz Erkan thought that was nuts. We’re trying to build a strong brand name here! Why would we fragment our audience?

Raed Malhas

“Then we said, ‘You know what? We’re very data-driven,’” Malhas says. “We have a philosophy in this company: It’s not my opinion or your opinion. Let’s let the data decide.”

So they tested the idea with a wedding services site that had a special look and feel, and the results were basically a slam dunk. Conversion rates of people coming to the site for wedding services doubled, and MiWeddingNeeds was born. Even after a very quiet debut in February, some 5,000-7,000 brides per month are coming to the site to help plan their big day.

If MiNeeds does its job right, a good chunk of those brides-to-be could become repeat customers. More than a quarter of them are already searching for honeymoon packages to add on after the wedding, Malhas says. And it’s obvious where things go from there.

“Suddenly, she starts to think about the mortgage,” Malhas says. “When she comes back from the honeymoon, she starts looking for home-related services.” Baby-related services might not be too far behind. “The lifetime value of that bride is massive,” he says.

That success is a big part of why MiNeeds sees a bright future for its twist on local services search. The startup lets consumers post the services they want performed and gets professionals to bid for the business, offering up reviews and ratings to help make the choice. Outside of the wedding vertical, the startup still maintains its standalone site for all kinds of services, from photographers to house cleaners to lawyers. Investors include Paul Thelen, founder of Seattle’s BigFish Games, and former Yahoo chief data officer Usama Fayyad.

The company is definitely not alone. There are several other players in the sector, including membership-based service reviews site Angie’s List, which just raised more than $100 million in its public stock-market debut. Other companies like San Mateo, CA-based startup Redbeacon or ServiceMagic, a unit of media conglomerate IAC, use a similar mechanism of letting professionals bid for consumer jobs.

MiNeeds claims more than 50,000 service providers have signed up so far to bid for jobs through its website. Servicemagic claims more than 80,000, and Malhas says Yellow Pages has in the neighborhood of 800,000. But MiNeeds seeing strong growth and should have more than 100,000 professionals signed up by early 2012, Malhas says.

“Once we go over six figures in terms of professionals, we’re no longer a small player. Even today, I’m sure people are eyeing us and thinking, ‘Who are these guys?’” Malhas says. “Once we’re over six figures, it’s at a point where they can no longer ignore us.”

MiNeeds, which has offices in Seattle and New York, is generating revenue but focusing on growth over profitability, Malhas says. The service is free to use for consumers and free to join for service providers, but MiNeeds requires a paid subscription from the skilled professional to actually communicate with possible customers. Prices are tiered, from about $25 to $100 per month.

As for the possibility of other verticals to follow the wedding example, Malhas says MiNeeds has hedged its bets by securing domain names and doing some preliminary research. So far, shopping for home or legal services, for instance, may not require a special site. But they’ll keep their minds open this time.

“Looking at the data there, it does not seem that we need to have a white label for each of those industries,” Malhas says. “Then again, I might be completely wrong, and it might be worth launching it to see the conversion rates.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • http://twitter.com/WarrenPHarris Warren Paul Harris

    These guys are nothing more or less than an endless source of SPAM.

    They change their domain name servers they use for email regularly, as the old ones a blacklisted for SPAM.
    > I never “signed up” for their “service”.
    > I don’t know where they got my email address.
    > I’ve “unsubscribed” numerous times.
    > They send me “leads” for the ONE thing my website says I DON’T do – weddings.
    > Endlessly.

    ‘d love to get these twirps in a dark alley for 15 minutes with at pair of pliers. Maybe then they would erase my email address from their SPAM Servers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=566530092 Robert Alexander Battle

      interesting. I’ve never heard of them until today and I own one of their large competitors. Seems like theyre pfishing your info from craigslist more than likely and adding you to their system…shady indeed

    • The Will for Photography

      So you haven’t actually used their service then Warren? You do realize how easy it is to block emails right? Maybe you should spend the 15 min in a computer class…. or call the phone number that is everywhere on their site. I have booked at least 2 jobs a month, and pay to get 10 leads per month. The 3rd client I got from them referred me and I got 6 more jobs out of it. So that is $19.99 I paid for that lead and it turned into 7 jobs. No one is going to sell your services for you, that is your job as a business owner. MiNeeds and the knot just get you customers.

  • Sayitlikeitis

    MiNeeds Scam they should be in jail

  • zxoiesru

    THESE SPAM FUCKERS KEEP SPAMMING ME WITH SHIT LIES. FUCK THEM!!!!

  • DM

    MiNeeds is a TOTAL scam. They send me 1-2 job requests a day for wedding photography. Not even a site like TheKnot generates that many inquiries. Total BS.

  • sunshine

    This is a scam , they should be ashamed of themselves , each lead they sent me was fictitious . They deducted my bank account $250.00 . They all need to go to jail .

  • NormL

    Maybe I’m a slow learner. I keep getting leads with no wedding date. Their contact the customer phone link rarely works. Have yet to actually connect with a “bride.” Most of the leads may be legit, but few seem to have any realistic idea what wedding services cost. MiNeeds makes little effort to educate them.

  • MiNeeds Customer Support

    It is unfortunate that the small handful of customers that have a bad experience are quick to post comments like these instead of contacting our customer support department via email or phone. The fact is that people are much more likely to post a review following a bad experience than a good one. Our Customer Support phone number is posted everywhere on our site so that we can help you in live time with your problem. 1-800-771-8710.

    MiNeeds does not, and never has created accounts from info on Craigslist. You can opt-out of receiving emails from us any time by contacting our Customer Support department. We have over 5,000 affiliate websites where you are able to request emails from MiNeeds, so it is easy to start receiving our emails because of how much we advertise. We can absolutely guarantee that you will stop receiving marketing emails from us by calling or emailing our Customer Support Center. When you create a service profile as a paid or unpaid member the leads that we send out are real customers that have come to our site and posted their request for service.

    We are happy to hear from you, and would be happy to resolve any problems you have with MiNeeds. Our offices are open Monday-Friday, 6am – 6pm PST.

    Thank you,
    MiNeeds Customer Support
    1.800.771.8710
    customersupport@mineeds.com

  • Fabia

    I see so many negative post where people are blaming MiNeeds for their business failing, I’ve been using their service for a couple of months. I already got 3 clients and made more from them than what I’d pay MiNeeds for the entire year. Sure some leads aren’t great, but overall it’s worth it.