How Jiffy on Demand is Uber-izing locksmiths, plumbers and more

The Toronto-based startup connects property owners with a range of home services using one smartphone app

Jiffy on Demand screenshot

(Jiffy on Demand)

It’s pretty cliché for a startup to be described as the Uber of a particular service, but that doesn’t mean the appellation isn’t appropriate.

Toronto-based Jiffy on Demand is right there, and the company isn’t just looking to be the Uber of one specific area. It wants to be the Uber of everything from plumbing and snow removal to electrical work and even barbecue cleaning.

The startup offers 24 home services, having just added locksmiths, in the Greater Toronto Area, with plans to launch in an additional two to four more cities this year. Jiffy has about 140 service companies on-board, representing about 550 tradespeople who are ready to answer job requests through its web and mobile app, either on an instant or scheduled basis.

Need someone to fix your washing machine? Or someone to mow your lawn? Jiffy promises to hook customers up with a skilled pro in a few minutes, just like Uber connects riders with drivers. And like Uber, Jiffy on Demand takes a cut from the service provider’s side—15% in this case—and guarantees the work.

The company sets individual service rates based on the average within a market. An electrician, for example, costs $90 per hour with a two-hour minimum, while a home inspector goes for $400 per house. Users can also rate service providers out of five stars—those who fail to maintain four or more get kicked off.

The idea for Jiffy on Demand came to Jaimie Grossman and his brother-in-law Paul Arlin almost two years ago. Arlin, who had started and sold student trips company Campus Vacations, had just bought a house and he needed to install some light fixtures. He didn’t know how to do it himself and wasn’t sure what to do.

“He figured somewhere in his neighbourhood there was an electrician who had a gap in his schedule, but he had no way of finding this person,” Grossman says.

Grossman, for his part, was also coming off a startup exit. He had started online advertising agency Uptrend Media in 2004 and sold it to Yellow Pages in 2010. He left the company a year later and had been raising his three kids while thinking of his next move. Jiffy on Demand seemed like an obvious hit.

“I thought to myself, ‘This business is going to exist,’” he says. “I see the need, I will have the need myself. This one immediately made sense to me.”

The duo brought on a third co-founder, Ryan Shupak, a former investment banking associate at TD Securities, and the trio got to work in April last year. They built the service and began recruiting tradespeople, with the web app launching in May.

The mobile app followed in August, along with a healthy $500,000 chunk of seed funding from Jordan Banks, Facebook’s global head of vertical strategy, and other investors in September. The company is now up to seven employees, with more expected to come with the expansion plan.

Grossman doesn’t like the chances of other single-service-focused apps, such as the spate of Ubers-of-snow-removal that are popping up. Unlike Uber, which always has customer demand, such services are going to have trouble maintaining a steady and predictable source of revenue.

“There’s not enough business there to build off,” he says.

On potential flaw in the models of both types of services is the tendency of trades workers to cut side deals. A plumber could, for example, use Jiffy on Demand to gain new customers, then offer those customers lower prices if they call him or her directly in the future.

Grossman says customers should be wary of going around Jiffy on Demand in such a way because future jobs done in such manner won’t get the company’s guarantee. Trades workers who use Jiffy on Demand are also warned that they could get kicked off the service if they are found to be going around it.

“Is it worth a plumber picking up one or two jobs and risk losing access to all the other jobs we send them? I don’t think so and we certainly aren’t seeing that.”