One of the trends constantly confirmed in recent years is the decentralization of energy expertise and decision-making. In the field of generation, the clearest example is the emergence of the prosumers, supported by the reduction of the scale at which electricity can be generated efficiently. Encouraged by similar developments in other sectors, the end-user asks for quick and direct access to various solutions, proposed by as many specialists. The Feexers is an application to answer such needs and it promises to develop a (new) market where the demand for services could meet the aggregate supply of thousands of tradesmen – plumbers, electricians, etc. We discussed with Felix Tătaru, the founder of P2P Technology Hub, about the business model, the current stage and the anticipated impact of this application.
Dear Mr. Felix Tătaru, you are one of the entrepreneurs who launched the Feexers app, a so-called “Uber for home services”. People who need minor repairments done at home or at the office, to the electricity grid, or to the water and heating system, can use a mobile application to identify the right professional. A simple idea, but, I am convinced, a difficult one to turn into reality… What stage are you at now, 3 months after launching the application?
When we started, we were three shareholders – me, Eusediu Margasoiu, who is also the CEO, and Cristi Udrescu; then the investors came – two funds (Gap Minder and Roca X) and two entrepreneurs (Andrei Pitiș and Lucia Costea).
Currently, we have more than 20,000 customers, as the application has been downloaded 20,612 times. As for the home service providers, we now have 1,698 feexers registered in the application and we have counted over 1,400 job applications.
The first challenge is to make the application known, the very fact that it exists!, because its performance depends essentially on the number of people who use it. What are your goals for this year and what are your strategies?
This year we intend to strengthen the application in Bucharest, to add 2 more categories to the 4 existing ones and to expand into one more or even two more cities in the country, probably Cluj-Napoca and Timișoara. The decision will be taken in the second part of the year taking into account the subsequent investments.
What are the main challenges you have identified? Are they more related with the degree of digital “education” of the public or are there other elements?
The predominantly “lack“ market for this category of services is the most difficult paradigm we are struggling with, from the perspective of the “feexers“, At the customer level, a challenge is the low frequency of these services, compared to Uber or Takeaway, Foodpanda etc. The long-term solution is to add new services in order to keep customers engaged.
The registration and use of the application by the professionals to find jobs means they leave the “black“, unregistered work, area. How do you think they might become interested in using Feexers?
Potential clients of the application want professional services provided by professionals and, consequently, invoice and post-work guarantee. We know this because we did extensive research before launching the project. It is not easy for us to convince the craftsmen! We have programs to motivate them and we support those who are not legal persons through specialized consultancy for setting up PFAs or SRLs.
Is the application strictly open to individuals (regardless of the legal form in which they operate) or does it also allow the enrollment of companies that already have teams of professionals?
Today, the application allows the enrollment of any legal entity, either PFA, SRL or SA, regardless of the number of employees. So we speak strictly of legal entities.
Confidence from the users is key to the success of Feexers. How do you make sure that the registered plumbers or electricians are really capable to solve the jobs?
In order to be registered in the application, each feexer goes through a screening process in which we check the legality of the legal entity they represent, the fiscal and judicial records and, last but not least, the experience and the certifications of each professional. We already had some situations when we did not registered in the application certified feexers with high level of professionalism because they did not have a “clean“ record. We also carry out an induction program both from a technological standpoint and from a behavioral standpoint, and in some situations we offer free equipment too. Last but not least, they sign a contract with us agreeing with the terms and conditions under which we will collaborate and by which we are empowered to bill on their behalf.
Is there implemented or are you considering to introduce a method for the users to rank craftsmen? On what levels will they be evaluated and how?
We have already introduced two dimensions of evaluation. First, the feexers are evaluated by customers on a scale from 1 (extremely negative) to 5 stars (extremely positive). Also, customers can write comments or opinions about each feexer. We encourage objective evaluations, carried out in good faith, and reserve the right to delete evaluations and comments that violate the specifications in the Terms and Conditions section. The process is mutual, as the feexers also evaluate the clients, on the same dimensions.
How can you prevent abusive use of the platform by people who are strictly interested in accessing users’ homes?
Feexers is a collaborative platform where communities can filter value. As far as we know, at present we are the first mobile application in Romania that makes this pre-screening process so rigorous. There are various forms of ‘market places’ that connect different communities, but apart from connecting them, they do nothing more. Through this complex and somewhat time consuming process, we believe we can reduce these risks.
I just discovered there are some similar initiatives in different parts of the world. Have you identified a model that you consider to be market tested?
Initially I thought we were the first to follow such an idea, but only few days later we have realized that there were similar solutions, especially in the US. One of the solutions that inspired us was TaskRabbit, launched a few years ago in the United States, which was purchased more than a year ago by IKEA. We closely followed the evolution of TaskRabbit, but our solution was created based on a serious research and starting from a good understanding of the local culture.
This interview firstly appeared in the printed edition of Energynomics Magazine, issued in March 2020.
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