For years, Angus Gastle dreamed on being involved in a fast growing start-up. Now, as the CEO of CleanNow, that dream has come true. CleanNow is an Edmonton-based company that uses an app to help people book cleaning for their homes.
The process is quite simple; people who are looking for house-cleaning just download the CleanNow app and create an account. Then, they must answer a few questions about their house, such as square footage, number of bedrooms, type of cleaning they’re looking for, etc. Once the project is booked and paid for, CleanNow sends the customer's data to its database of bonded cleaners; the first one to reply gets the job and heads over to the house. It's very efficient, and has been likened to Uber for house cleaning.
Although he has no personal experience with the cleaning industry himself, Gastle comes from the tech side of things, and he did see there was a demand for such services. “I know many people in my personal life who have cleaners. I've heard stories of ‘I lost somebody’ or 'I'm trying to find somebody,' or 'I had this girl who was great and she rarely had the time for me.’ All those sorts of problems,” he says. “People also had issues with cleaners not showing up, not knowing how much to pay them and a fear that if they look all over the house, things would be broken. It just seemed like there had to be a better way.”
So, Gastle teamed up with Scandinavian Building Services, an Edmonton based commercial cleaning and maintenance company, to create a database of bonded and experienced cleaners to help launch the app.
“This is where we get into feeling like we have a real advantage since we have this network of cleaners,” he says. “So we're not a typical two-sided marketplace where you're trying to recruit, recruit, recruit on the supply side and then you're trying to build demand on the customer side. We're really only focused on the customer side; we have 5,000 cleaners on the platform.”
CleanNow is just one of many Uber-style companies that have been created in Alberta and across the country. In fact, no matter where you live there is probably a plethora of new companies offering app-based services, such as dog walking, lawn maintenance, repair services, snow shoveling, babysitting, RV and equipment rental, clothing purchase and delivery, and more. Even after only a few months of operation, Edmonton’s CleanNow has been getting requests from its clients to expand its network of services from hanging pictures and TVs to setting up computers and offering household repair services.
“For our customers that are in the seniors demographic that's really attractive to them. Once we're in the house, people start asking questions and getting creative, “ says Gastle. “So we're going to take the lead from our customers on that.”
This Uberization, also know as the expansion of the app-based or sharing/gig economy, is taking the world by storm. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop. With the ubiquity of smart homes and the use of apps, the proliferation of this sharing economy was, in hindsight, easy to see coming, says William Mitchell, Anthony S. Fell Chair in New Technologies & Commercialization and a professor of strategic management at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
“This type of economy offers an easy entry for people looking for work with a flexibility in hours and choice of clients, especially when there is a lack of other options,” he says.
And while Mitchell says the sharing economy was, in retrospect, easy to see coming, forecasting where it will go next and what industries it will expand into is difficult.
Some of these new developments will have no issues with regard to regulation, while others, like Uber, could face barriers in some jurisdictions. What those barriers will be depends on how governments of any level approach this, Mitchell says.
“There is an ongoing debate with regulatory/civic authorities about what is appropriate. Sometimes the debate and process is driven by authorities who are trying to protect entrenched actors, such as taxi companies, restaurants and hotels. This can be an attempt to return to the past, with all its inefficiencies,” he says “Sometimes the debate is driven by authorities who are looking out for the interests of employees and customers. This is positive because it helps smooth out the problems that can arise from the gig economy.”
While the gig economy does offer flexibility for employees, it also means limited job stability, few or no benefits, and no pension. He also adds that some businesses need to be shaken up by the shared economy “particularly industries such as taxis and others with historical rigidities that lead to poor or expensive service.”
For Angus Gastle of CleanNow, his foray into the shared economy has been positive and successful. After launching in November of 2018, the company cleaned 250 house in the first month and has seen an increase of 30-40 clients every month. Expansion into other cities like Calgary, Vancouver and Quebec, and even smaller centres like Grande Prairie and Red Deer, is being seriously considered.
“Being in a high-growth company is exciting, regardless of what industry it is. I didn't necessarily expect that it was going to be cleaning but being the CEO of a high-growth start-up is definitely on my bucket list,” he says. “Or, it was on my bucket list.”