Sramana Mitra: How long did it take you to scrape and convince enough Craigslist lawn mowing people so that you could launch the service?
Gene Caballero: It took about three weeks to a month of calling. For vendors, it’s free. There’s not any cost associated. We knew that if we were calling these professionals and charging them, we wouldn’t be in business.
Sramana Mitra: That’s right. In the beginning, that doesn’t work at all.
Gene Caballero: Probably to this day, it still doesn’t work because you hadn’t really given them any value. You can promise them the world, but if you’re not bringing them any customers or making their lives any easier, then it’s pointless. It took us about a month of cold-calling to be sure that if a homeowner in Nashville signs up, he’s going to get at least three bids. That’s the process that we had to do in all the markets.
Sramana Mitra: When did you start doing transactions? Do you take a percentage of the revenue?
Gene Caballero: That is correct. We started doing transactions as early as 2013 while the shop was building our website. Honestly, it was friends and family. It was co-workers. These are people who you force to use the product. It wasn’t like we had random people signing up. It was still hand holding and running tests while they’re signing up. It was still a manual process. We take 5% of every transaction that goes through our platform. The vendors know that upfront. That’s how we make our money.
Sramana Mitra: What’s next? What was the next major strategic move that gave you an inflection point of sorts?
Gene Caballero: Our major turning point was after a couple of seasons. We started getting vendors asking us, “This is really convenient. How do I get my non-GreenPal customers on GreenPal?”
Sramana Mitra: Explain to me why. What were you doing on GreenPal that caused them to want to do that? That means that you’re not just doing customer acquisition. You were doing more than that.
Gene Caballero: Yes. We are the first true operating system for landscaping professionals. Not only do we handle their demand creation, we also handle their scheduling and payment. They don’t have to invoice homeowners anymore. They don’t have to worry about the easiest route to take today for my lawn. We allow them to upsell, reschedule, and promote for their landscaping business.
When they starting asking, “I don’t want to do it the analog way anymore. I don’t want to send invoices at night when I get home. I don’t want to chase my money.” When they got started, we had a Facebook GreenPal page where we have a thousand members. They were like, “I can see where this is going. This is easier for me to do business this way.” We knew we were doing something right when not only are we creating demand for them but they’re wanting to bring their non-GreenPal customers onto our platform.
We also had a real estate group that came to us saying, “We have 300 properties in the Nashville area that we need to be serviced. How could we use GreenPal to do that?” The light bulb went off and we knew that we needed to create a multiple property platform for real estate agents so they can have multiple properties and manage them from their smartphones.
Those are the two things that accelerate our knowledge on our user base and also build those features that would keep those vendors in our ecosystem. When we do target marketing, we know that if we get one realtor on, you’re not getting one customer. You’re gaining about five or six properties. Those are the two major things that led us to believe that we were doing something right.