What’s wrong with Angie’s list? They only show you one side of the picture. Reviews are good but when you’re looking for contractors you need the whole picture. That’s why Matt Lenahan created HireWheel.
Matt sat down with us to talk about what HireWheel is and his experience as in entrepreneur in #StartupCincy.
CF: What is HireWheel?
ML: Better than reviews, homeowners use HireWheel’s verified work history to hire the best home improvement pros. Just as any employers asks for resumes, HireWheel displays the most resume-worthy information on local contractors.
CF: How does HireWheel work?
ML: HireWheel is super simple to use because all you need to know is your address and we take care of the rest. In a nutshell, we match your type of home with successful contractors who have done similar jobs in your neighborhood. For example, a plumber who specializes in historic townhouses has different skills than one who works mostly on new construction condos.
CF: What is the “big vision” that drives HireWheel?
ML: Our “big vision” is to be that go-to resource for all homeowners nationwide and facilitate those transactions seamlessly between property owner and contractor. Sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and YellowPages are getting it wrong by only tracking reviews. The data on our site is very forward thinking with an incredible amount of data processing going on behind the scenes.
CF: How did you get the idea for HireWheel?
ML: I used to work for the largest real estate firm in NYC with thousands of real estate agents. While there my colleagues would constantly be sending out emails asking which contractors were best for certain neighborhoods and property types. I decided to track 1,125 agents over nine months and found that 68% didn’t know who to recommend to their clients. I was shocked and realized that if two-thirds of the country’s top agents don’t know who to hire, how are we as average homeowners supposed to know?
[pullquote]I was shocked and realized that if two-thirds of the country’s top agents don’t know who to hire, how are we as average homeowners supposed to know?[/pullquote]
CF: How has HireWheel evolved since its inception?
ML: Our site has definitely evolved over the last year with the help of Cintrifuse and The Brandery, but at our core we’ve stayed true to our mission of helping homeowners discover the best of the best. Our design and target users have changed, but our mission hasn’t.
CF: What does your ideal customer look like?
ML: Our ideal customer is the average homeowner. We see the most repeat usage coming from first and second time homeowners or those new to the area since they don’t have established “go-to” contractors just yet. The other group using our site a lot are those who had awful experiences with contractors before. We helped a lot of people since launching last September.
CF: What were some of your biggest challenges?
ML: Sites like Angie’s List, Porch, and HomeAdvisor spend millions of dollars on advertising each year yet provide homeowners with poor recommendations. Our challenge is educating homeowners on what criteria they should review before spending thousands of dollars on a service.
Think about the last time you applied for a job. Would your employer have hired you only based on how your references reviewed you? Probably not. Would they hire you solely on your work experience? That’s much more likely and that’s exactly what we’re bringing to the home improvement industry.
[pullquote] I never planned to be an entrepreneur but saw a massive problem that no one was fixing.[/pullquote]
CF: What was your first job and where there any lessons you learned from it that helped you start HireWheel?
ML: My first job was answering phone calls for sports catalog company called Eastbay. It was there that I learned how important communication was. Even today I prefer in-person meetings and phone calls to texts or emails because emotion sounds much better than it reads.
CF: What drew you to become an entrepreneur?
ML: I never planned to be an entrepreneur but saw a massive problem that no one was fixing. HireWheel is a product of the frustration I felt while working in real estate over the last decade. I’m proud of what we’re building and to be considered an entrepreneur by my peers.
CF: How do you see entrepreneurship benefiting Cincinnati?
ML: Entrepreneurship is key to innovation and Cincinnati is doing an excellent job of it. We often hear about great things happening on the coasts like NYC where I moved from but the truth is that Cincy is doing many things better than they are. I’ve never lived in a community where the expression “pay it forward” is being lived by so many of its residents as it is here in Cincinnati.
[pullquote]I’ve never lived in a community where the expression “pay it forward” is being lived by so many of its residents as it is here in Cincinnati.[/pullquote]
That kind of mentality can be felt by all residents whether they’re involved in tech or not and I feel lucky to be part of that movement. Organizations like Cintrifuse, The Brandery, and CincyTech are leading this way of forward thinking that I’ve been inspired by.
CF: What’s next for HireWheel?
ML: HireWheel is committed to staying in Cincinnati and we’re excited to be in the process of doubling the size of our team. Our site is currently available in Cincinnati and Chicago and we expect to be in dozens more cities by the end of the year serving millions of homeowners. This is a really exciting moment in time for us and we’re glad to be part of such a supportive community.