Revolution leads $30M investment in home services company Handybook


From right to left, Donn Davis, Steve Case and Ted Leonsis of Revolution in the investment firm’s Washington office in January 2012 . (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN)

Revolution, the District-based investment firm helmed by former AOL executive Steve Case, has led a $30 million investment in a company that gives homeowners access via their smartphone to housekeepers and others who help around the home.

Consumers fire up the Handybook app or Web site to search for people in their city who have already been vetted with background checks. They then plug in the date and time they want the service and wait for the doorbell to ring.

“We want to turn your phone into a remote control for managing your home,” said chief executive Oisin Hanrahan.

The investment will allow Handybook to continue adding other home service providers, such as painters, plumbers and electricians, as well as hire a fleet of customer service representatives to handle questions and complaints. Handybook counts 130 employees, Hanrahan said, most of whom are based in New York.

Hanrahan and his co-founder, Umang Dua, left Harvard Business School after one year to start the venture. Two years later, Handybook has raised a combined $42 million from investors and operates in 28 cities across the United States and Canada. The company debuted in the District last spring.

Nearly half of those markets were added in just the past two months, a testament to Handybook’s recent growth spurt. Hanrahan said the company now processes thousands of transactions each day.

Handybook is among a new class of companies that use mobile apps to deliver goods and services to consumers in a fast and simple fashion. Car service Uber is perhaps the field’s biggest success to date, giving consumers a way to summon a chauffeur with the swipe of a finger.

But many other on-demand services have cropped up as well. Washio collects, washes and returns consumers’ laundry at their convenience. Instacart takes a similar approach to grocery delivery. Need something else brought to your home or office ASAP? Postmates covers that.

“I don’t think we can dismiss transactions on Web and on mobile as a fad,” Hanrahan said. “Whether it’s Airbnb or Hotel Tonight or Uber or Handybook, you’re seeing real businesses built. . . . Those are real businesses that have longevity.”

Revolution co-founder Donn Davis said on-demand services such as Handybook represent the newest incarnation of the sharing economy, a concept by which consumers use communal resources, such as cars, rather than having their own.

Revolution kicked in half of Handybook’s $30 million funding round, with previous investors Highland Capital Partners and General Catalyst contributing the balance.

“We invest in companies that offer consumers a better way, and Handybook clearly offers consumers a better way. That’s what ties together all of our investments,” Davis said. “Is there a new product or service that is harnessing technology to do things for consumers that is fundamentally different and better?”

Revolution has also backed a bevy of local companies, including LivingSocial, Sweetgreen, Optoro, CustomInk and Personal.

“Much like Amazon made e-commerce super simple and therefore you did more of it, Handybook makes it super simple to take care of all the things you need to in your apartment or house,” Davis said.

Capital Business is The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community. For more Washington business news, go to www.capbiz.biz.

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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