Plumber John Burdin (above, left) built a successful plumbing business in Oklahoma City over 12 years, with 11 trucks and $1.3 million in annual sales. But a consistent problem was downtime.
November 19, 2014
Plumber Trades Plunger for an App
The second of five profiles of the most recent graduates of The Startup Factory accelerator in Durham.
When customers weren’t calling for service, his workers and trucks sat idle, costing the company money. And no amount of online advertising or SEO seemed to do the trick. Most customers needed plumbing help in real-time. And though Google and the Yellow Pages served up dozens of options, it still took five or 10 phone calls to find a company with a free plumber. And there was no way for customers to know if they were getting the best price.
Burdin set out to solve this problem in 2009, first launching ServiceChicken.com, an online directory that ranked service providers by their speed of response. But it wasn’t until The Startup Factory founders and mentors suggested a real-time mobile app that he found a model that made sense. His journey became a mission to build the Uber of contracting. So when a person had an emergency at home, he or she could open an app, request a service, get a price quote and quickly be matched with an available contractor.
“It’s real-time supply and demand of services,” he told me during week one of The Startup Factory’s accelerator in Durham.
Burdin has since graduated from the program with a company called IMNEXT. You can view his Nov. 12 pitch before investors below. He and co-founder Kyle Askew (above, right) have an early prototype of the app and 10 companies signed up to become early testers. By launch at the end of January 2015, they expect to have 30 companies on the app and to be pairing 15 contractors with work weekly.
The Startup Factory founders were intrigued when they learned Burdin’s story. He’s solving a real problem in his industry, and through numerous Startup Weekends, trips to San Francisco and three months in Durham away from his wife and dogs, has learned an entirely new one to solve it.
“We just loved the fact that he has lived the contractor life,” says accelerator co-founder Chris Heivly. “What we exposed him to are all of the customer acquisition and product development pieces. And we got him to alpha.”
Last week, Burdin rattled off statistics to prove that new knowledge. For example, he once signed a contract to spend $8,000 per month on AdWords to get to the top of search results. Yet, he had no idea how many customers he gained or how much revenue he earned. And he learned that the typical contractor spends $1,000 to get listed on YellowPages.com and is often expected to spend $500 or more per month to get referred on Yelp or Angie’s List. Margins are too slim to make those expenditures worth it.
On IMNEXT, “Contractors only use it when they need it and only pay when they get business from the site,” Burdin said.
He also found that customers really only care about good quality and price, and fast service.
So what’s the big idea? HIs technology could be applied to many service industries, from plumbing, HVAC and electrical contractors to exterminators, locksmiths, tow trucks and roadside assistance.
More on IMNEXT in the pitch below: