HelpHive Aims to be ‘Yelp for Home Services’

That’s not their description, it’s mine. But it captures the way in which the new home services vertical is trying to provide more depth and community tools to both local consumers and vendors.

Beyond the yellow pages, Angie’s List, Kudzu, InsiderPages and Yelp itself (among still others), there is ServiceMagic, the 900 pound gorilla in the home improvement/repair segment. However the user experience at ServiceMagic leaves a fair amount to be desired.Trulia and Zillow are also adjacent to this segment and could easily try to enter it. Zillow has taken some baby steps in that direction and can be expected to eventually do something more complete.

More immediately, there have also been two recent site launches that I’m aware of: ServiceLive (from Sears) and LocalPrice, which is in Atlanta only. And now HelpHive:

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HelpHive founders Dave Richards and Karim Meghji are trying to bring much more depth and content to the user experience than they feel currently exists on other sites (though this idea exists among other publishers/entrepreneurs in the segment as well). Here’s their story and philosophy. At launch, the company has “6,500 home services businesses covering more than 45 categories.” Wisely they’re focused on a single market for the time being but will eventually roll out to other cities.

In addition to trying to generate more content for users, Richards and Meghji have created a wide range of tools for businesses that allow them to provide lots of detail about their work and projects, as well as specify how they should be contacted. Indeed, they believe a HelpHive presence would/could/should be a viable substitute for a website for those vendors/contractors that don’t have them or that have awkward or under-performing sites.

Most interesting to me about the business tools is a message center that allows consumers and businesses to communicate through the site using voice. (Startup Search to Phone does something similar but in a somewhat different context.). Here’s a screenshot of the business-facing message center:

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Finally, HelpHive seeks to tap social media to extend distribution and reach. Here’s the site’s Facebook fan page:

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Clearly HelpHive is a smartly designed site and its founders are very thoughtful about the space. It’s just that the segment is very crowded. Yet, curiously, there really are no consumer “brands” per se among the home services specific sites — save perhaps Angie’s List, which requires a consumer subscription. (Angie’s List is much broader now than home services, but that’s still the primary association.)

If you were a VC and saw a deck that pitched HelpHive and made some of the claims the founders are making, would you invest?

7 Responses to “HelpHive Aims to be ‘Yelp for Home Services’”

  1. Local media expert gives shout out to HelpHive | Company - HelpHive Says:

    […] HelpHive Aims to be the ‘Yelp of Home Services’ […]

  2. Rich Rosen Says:

    Greg – HelpHive seems to only allow consumers to contact a merchant by completing a form. What’s your take on this approach?

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    Think phone calls work too. Haven’t fully explored every angle.

  4. Rich Rosen Says:

    I found the phone link – its hidden under *Contact* HelpHive is using one Seattle number with extensions for each merchant. Any opinions on this contact method?

  5. Peter Says:

    thank for reviews helphive

  6. Evan Conklin Says:

    Helphive.com is some new kind of scam website

    It exploits businesses and consumers seeking services.

    All businesses listed on this supposed consumer directory have a fake phone number substituted for the company’s real phone number. This fake phone number belongs to the owners of Helphive,com . These local business listings are not placed there by the business but have been harvested from other sources. Helphive.com apparently thinks that it is OK to use any company’s name and substitute the real contact information (the company phone number) with another so that they can harvest the incoming information and make money from it in various ways. If it is your misfortune to own a business listed on this site your customer has been hijacked. Helphive claims that they are giving the company listed a “free” ad or listing. Well, it is not a real benefit to any company if they are collecting data and hiding your real phone number from the public. They have no right to use your company name in conjuction with a phone nuber that isn’t yours without your permission.

    Businesses Beware! Think about it. Do you really want anybody out there to misdirect your calls to themselves first (for any reason), harvest any information they can get from it, and then (theroretically) forward the call to you? Who needs some unknown greedy unethical corporate jerks screening and recording information regarding your incoming phone calls from your customers? They claim they are forwardingthe calls to the business. Are they really. So what if they are. They didn’t forward mine. I called the supposed phone number they attached to my business listing and it did not ring my phone. It dropped me into a programmed data collection program requesting to know what kind of service I was looking for, when I wanted the service performed etc. The program told me that my company was unavailable and then proceeded to get buying information from me. For what purpose? To sell it to somebody of course. The jerks just stole my customer usingmy name.

    The scenario I just described is outright fraud. It is a theft of my reputation, my name and my customer. It is a fraud upon the consumer who thinks they contacted my office looking for a service. They were lied to as we were open and our phones were functional. They had no way to know that the voice machine telling them that we were unavailable wasn’t us telling them that.

    Even if they say that they are forwarding the call to your business, how do you know? Even if they do it, as they say for “free”, how about next year? They call you up on your real phone number and try to sell you an “upgrade” to improve your position in their listings or whatever. The phone is your lifeline between your company and the public. Helphive is attempting to wedge themsemselves between the customer and the services you provide. Do we really need a for-profit company screening our incoming calls, harvesting our customer information and then doing as they wish with the customer all the while hiding our phone number from them?

    What happens when other online directories harvest information from their site? The possibility exists that that phoney number that everbody thinks is your phone number gets replicated in other websites and directories. When Google searches it matches your company name up with the phoney contact number and then what? How is anybody going to undo that damage to your company when your phone stops ringing because everbody is calling a phoney phone number that has your business name attached to it?

    We need a class action lawsuit now to recover damages that we can’t even estimate. If it isn’t illegal to place ads or listings to the public using our company’s name without permission and faking our phone numbers, we need a law now. This behavior is damaging to all businesses listed on their site. In my opinion the activity of Helphive.com is outright criminal in intent. If we can’t call the cops then we file a civil suit.

    Contact Helphive.com and demand that they stop using your company name and attaching a phoney telephone number while hiding your real telephone number.

    File complaints with the Attorney General, the BBB, and anybody else you can think of.

    File a civil suit to stop them from using your good company’s name for their profit without your permission.

    Join a class action suit if you can find one.

  7. Alvaro Alameda Says:

    2) “Conversation” is harder to track in a pure linear model. There is a WordPress plugin that will allow you to give readers the option of Threaded Comments, for those who track the flow better that way.

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