Business Rx: Urgent.ly looking for customers

November 6, 2011
The entrepreneur

When Ric Fleisher’s dishwasher broke last year and flooded one third of his home, he turned his home disaster into a business idea. Urgnt.ly is a Web site and mobile app that connects consumers with the providers who are available to them at the very moment they are needed. With this service, Fleisher is hoping that consumers can gain access to the services they need exactly when they need them, not days or weeks later.

The pitch

Fleisher

“Urgnt.ly connects people who have an urgent need with those who can fill the need immediately. It is a Web service and an iPhone application, and we are working on an app for the Droid as well as creating some functionality with Twitter.

“Most people when they want to find a service provider go onto the Web and get an address and a phone number of the business they want to reach out to, but nowhere on the Internet are they able to see if that service provider is available immediately. So, right now you have to make several calls to see who is available the soonest. Urgnt.ly changes that process by connecting consumers to the businesses with immediate availability. The service is based on proximity and time.

“If a consumer is in need of a service, they log in to the site and post what their urgent needs are. Then, providers will be notified by a text message, phone call or an e-mail. They are able to reach out to the consumer in need if they are available.

“Our long-term goal is to have the service function with Facebook. We plan on offering the service free to users and will charge providers a small fee only when they respond.

“Right now we are facing a chicken-and-egg problem. Do we gather our providers first or do we build our consumer base? We decided to focus more on the providers so the cupboard isn’t bare when people begin to use Urgnt.ly. Now we are trying to figure out what is the best and most cost efficient way to get consumers to use Urgnt.ly.”

The advice

Ed Barrientos, Angel in Residence, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“The chicken-and-the egg problem is one that challenges most startups. One of the great things about having a Web business, however, is that you can test just about everything quickly and cost effectively online — including customer acquisition strategies. You and your team will need to quickly benchmark the cost of acquiring a customer via Web advertising. It is one of the most important things to determine before talking with investors, so try to project the cost of customer acquisition using Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising. Both are successful ways of getting your customers in front of your product.

“You may have to pay $10, $20 or even $30 to get one person to sign up to use Urgnt.ly, and that’s a really important number to have when presenting to investors. Without that figure, it’s hard for investors to calculate the potential.

“There are other Web advertising mediums. But my guess is that when someone is looking for a plumber, they are going to Google it. I would highly suggest going with Google AdWords. Buy $100 worth of advertising and see how many people you get to sign up to your page.

“Having your customer acquisition cost and understanding the lifetime value of that customer will also help you figure out how much to charge the contractors for the business they receive because of Urgnt.ly. If the cost of the customer is high, then the cost to the contractor will be high.

“There is no question that the problem that you are addressing is gigantic. You seem to have built the technology and are on your way to creating the partnerships to match customers with contractors. Now, if you can show that you can generate leads via Web advertising at a reasonable cost, you are off to the races.”

The reaction

Fleisher

“Once we finish our Droid app, we will be releasing our beta version of Urgnt.ly. We’ll also start to train providers on how exactly to use the service. The feedback you gave was great and we will definitely take it into strong consideration when determining our customer acquisition strategy.”

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