All Oisin Hanrahan and his roommate Umang Dua wanted was a pulled-together apartment: Furniture assembled and in place, art on the walls, dust bunnies shooed out of the corners, that kind of thing. But no one seemed to want to take their money. After spending hours on posting sites looking for qualified workers who could help them get their place in order, they were exhausted with the process and still hadn’t yet found someone they could trust. So, like any entrepreneurs worth their weight in VC cash, they created a solution that could benefit folks outside the confines of their flat.
“We started Handybook because we experienced pain points that people face with home services every day. I got involved in real estate in college and found it increasingly difficult to find responsible and reliable handymen and cleaners to fix up apartments,” says Hanrahan, the 31-year-old CEO. “This continued when I moved to Boston and met Umang. We were attending Harvard Business School and struggled to find people to clean our typical college-style messy apartment. We started to think about how we could solve the problem of finding trusted home professionals.”
In a startup world where pitches increasingly begin with “It’s Uber, for ______,” Handybook is the rare on-demand service that fulfills the analogy. The site (and app, natch) makes it easy to book skilled workers (no random folks looking for side gigs, a la TaskRabbit) to do everything in your home, from fixing the garbage disposal to replacing light fixtures to changing your locks. It’s like having a background-checked handyman on call, except he accepts your jobs within 90 seconds, can be on site the next day, and always sets a specific appointment time, even on Sundays–no six-hour windows here. Plus, the site holds your payment until after the job is done, just in case she’s late or does a shoddy job.
Handybook is just the latest–albeit most successful–venture for Hanrahan, who falls firmly in the serial entrepreneur camp. “As an entrepreneur, each day brings a new challenge with new obstacles that motivate me and provide new opportunities for innovation,” he explains of his affinity for starting new companies. While studying economics and business at Trinity College in his native Dublin, Ireland, he launched real estate development company Clearwater Group. Five years later, in 2008, he started The Undergraduate Awards, dubbed the world’s largest pan-discipline awards program (it’s backed by Google and Microsoft, and the president of Ireland hands over the top award each year). The 2009 European Elections saw him creating MiCandidate, which aggregated politician info and distributed it to news sites across the continent.
Despite his early success, Hanrahan thought it was important to move to the U.S. a couple years later to attend Harvard Business School, but he dropped out after the first year. “I wanted to devote all of my resources to Handybook,” he says. “There are very few moments in time when all the things to build an amazing company come together; the opportunity to try and build a multi-billion dollar business was too good to pass up.”
He and Dua officially launched the service in Boston and New York in fall 2012, and it has expanded rapidly, moving its headquarters from Cambridge to Manhattan. These days, Handybook has nearly 100 employees, and thousands of workers booking tens of thousands of jobs each week in 25 cities across the country. That rapid expansion is thanks in large part to a $10 million cash infusion led by Highland Capital Partners and General Catalyst Partners last fall. “It’s been a huge accomplishment to be able to expand our offering across the U.S. and into Canada, and we’re really excited to keep growing,” Hanrahan says. “We want to be a one-stop shop for all of your household needs, allowing you to turn your mobile phone into a remote control for getting things done around the home.”