Sramana Mitra: How long did it take you to reach the $1 million annual revenue level?
Gene Caballero: We did that in 2015.
Sramana Mitra: This is revenue – not gross merchandise value, right?
Gene Caballero: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: As you were scaling, were you still applying the same principles of scraping Craigslist for every market and then bringing the suppliers on first and then going out to acquire customers?
Gene Caballero: On the vendor side, we were still hand-cranking until about a year ago. Now we have been able to use Facebook and Google AdWords to onboard vendors in a new market.
Sramana Mitra: If you could break that down into two parts, I want to first explore when you were doing hand scraping from Craigslist and finding vendors for each market, what was the other side strategy of acquiring the homeowners?
Gene Caballero: We were attacking PR. We were attacking local newspapers to let people know. That is still the practice still today. What we have been really good at is we started our SEO campaign about five years ago. The average dollar amount we get for a mow is about $1.15. We knew we can’t pay $20 to acquire a customer.
We knew we had to do it the old traditional way. Five years ago, we were fortunate enough to know that’s what we were going to do and started link-building campaigns. We started any kind of campaign that you can possibly do with SEO. We knew that we had to start that SEO campaign a long time ago. That’s how we got the homeowner side – through SEO.
Sramana Mitra: At what point did you make the switch? In 2015, you hit $1 million in revenue. Until recently, you’re still doing manual scraping on one side and then SEO on the other. What is the next switch? You said social media starts kicking in on both vendor and customer acquisition.
Gene Caballero: Yes. We got a little bit smarter on aggregating the data for vendor onboarding. We hired somebody on Upwork to scrape those lists for us and put it in a spreadsheet. At night, I knew that from six to eight thirty, I could text around 500 people. I didn’t have to go looking for that information. I was able to target the time zone as well.
We’re in Central Time. I knew that I can get an extra hour of texting people on the East Coast and I could stay late until about 10 o’clock and text West Coast people. We were able to leverage the actual scraping. We offloaded that to somebody who can do that during the day. At night, all I had to do was just text and call. That led us to move a little bit faster. We knew that if we wanted to scale this thing, then we can’t use a process like that. That’s when we started implementing the Facebook outreach. It has gone really well.