Startup RedBeacon, a self-described “Open Table for service businesses,” has won TechCrunch 50′s top prize and $50,000. I wasn’t at TC50 but I watched the demo pitch on video. RedBeacon is the just the latest startup to take aim at the massive local services segment. The demo was elegant and the theory behind the site makes lots of sense.
There’s just one fairly major problem: execution in the real world.
One can imagine the VC meetings and the pitch: “No one has yet to create an Open Table for the millions of local service businesses in the $14 billion yellow pages industry.” In fact there are a number of startups that have come before and have tried or are still trying to do some version of that very thing. They include (but aren’t limited to): BookingAngel, Bookfresh, Genbook, Libersy and a few others.
If we open the aperture a bit wider there are many lead generation sites and tools for local service businesses, ServiceMagic most visibly among them.
I’ve got nothing against RedBeacon and wish them well. But they will find, like many others before them, that the local space is much much harder to crack than it appears from a distance. There are many failed startups in local. In most cases they failed because they didn’t realize how tough it would be to get businesses to advertise or sign up.
The rest of this post is on SEL.