He says the idea came about when his business partner, Nik Ellis, found his brother who was a builder was having an issue finding work in his down time, while another friend couldn’t find anyone to help him build a $60,000 deck at his home.
“No one would give him the time of day or was already booked, and we thought, ‘Here’s somebody who wants work and here’s someone who needs work,’” Vaz says.
And with New Zealand housing market currently experiencing a building boom and tens of thousands of properties under construction, it was an opportune time to launch a building-related app.
Vaz says there were digital options already out on the market to track down tradespeople, but they were more industry-facing and used tradie lingo.
“They weren’t built for the everyday home owner or tenant anyone taking care of a residential site, whereas our idea was to build it around the consumer and their intuition and logic.”
The idea Ellis and Vaz had in mind was to make an app that’s consumer focused and uses the sharing economy model, like Uber. They wanted to connect people easily with local tradespeople in their area who had a job that needed to be done, be it their lawns mowed, plumbing fixed or a deck built, via an app and website.
With a fledgling business concept established, the two bought the company name ‘Tradee’ and kicked off the start-up process by prototyping, designing the brand’s look and feel and pulling together a product to take to investors.
They also took the prototype to the people and asked hundreds of customers and tradespeople to test out the technology by asking them questions around what features would be intuitive to them.
Vaz says tradespeople were thrilled they could get sent a notification for a job to their phone the moment it came out, while customers loved the option to leave feedback through a rating and comment, as well as return to tradespeople they liked and build a rapport.
Tradee has since gone on to raise $500,000 from angel investors pre-launch, which isn’t a bad hustle for two young Aucklanders, Vaz and Ellis. The other staff they have on board – Omer Hazer and AJ Brown – are both under 25, making Tradee very much a millennial company.
“Our team is quite young and we understand social and technical so well, so we work well in this space,” Vaz says.
But as many know, the start-up grind isn’t for the lighthearted. Vaz says there’s been both entrepreneurial highs and lows, like the point where he was working so much overtime that his friends and family began to worry.
“I didn’t leave the office, none of us [the Tradee team] had any other priorities other than working, so I guess part of the learning experience has been finding that balance,” he says.
As well as this, at times there was also the added stress of not knowing what was around the corner for the business.
“It actually became quite stressful at times wondering, ‘Are all these people going to have a job next week?’” he says. “But on the other side of the coin, the highs have been great – being around other young people, doing this cool job and raising money has been the number one highlight of this journey so far."
The app has launched today, but has accrued a couple of thousand users previously due to beta testing. In terms of demographics, Vaz says customers using the app seem to be women aged between 35 to 45, whereas the tradespeople are aged between 22 and 32 and skew towards being men.
A common anecdote he hears from users is women who say, ‘I keep asking my husband to do this and he’s so proud he’ll say he’ll do it, but never does,’ and so they turn to the app.
The app is free to use for now, as the Tradee team is trying to get word and get users submitting testimonials. With the app’s next upgrade, Tradee will begin taking a small percentage from tradespeople payment's through the app.
If a job's percentage goes over $3000, it will be capped, Vaz says, as they don’t think it’s fair to take a percentage of jobs that could end up totaling $30,000 or more.
The hope is that Tradee will become the leading platform for Kiwis to find a local tradesperson, while also helping disrupt the contractor market which is held tightly by larger companies and opening the doors to a freelancer community.
“Every time someone calls up a company and the say they’re too busy, they probably had a neighbour that could help and needed their work, so we’re hoping to disrupt contractors who are locked up by these companies,” Vaz says.
“They can work at an individual level now as the jobs come to your phone and categorised by location and field, like plumbing or electrical.”
Tradee is free to download on iOS and Android now.
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