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Startup Red Fish wants to connect property owners with reliable contractors

The platform is using the power of customer reviews to make home improvements projects a breeze


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When Theunis Hanekom moved into his new house, he set out looking for a reliable electric fence company to do work on his property.

Being unfamiliar with the area, his first step was to search through a local Facebook group. He found someone who claimed they could do job, he soon learnt the hard way that this was not the case.  

"Expensive lesson. It dawned on me there must be a better way," says Hanekom.  

Together with co-founders Philipp HartmannJoost GielenGenevieve Delrymple, Hanekom launched Red Fish in 2013, which he describes as a TripAdvisor for services. 

Red Fish connects property owners with construction and home improvement projects with vetted and rated tradesmen in their area for - in other words - tradesmen other users are willing to vouch for.

Property owners post their construction projects on the website. Interested tradesmen are able to respond with quote. The property owner is then able to compare quotes and choose a team to take the job.

"We wish we had known when we first got started how long it would take to get to critical mass"

Like TripAdvisor, the travel-review site, what sets the platform apart is its ability to tap into the power of user experience. On completion of the job, property owners rate and review the tradesman. "This provides information about the tradesman for future customers, while providing online marketing for the tradesman", Red Fish write on their website. 

Red Fish founders share their thoughts on their reviewed rated tradesmen system and the biggest surprise about being an entrepreneur in SA. 

On the Red Fish platform

We want to be the number one platform of choice for all property owners to use when in need of a contractor.

We don't have true competitors right now in SA, but the differentiator would be our reviewed rated tradesmen system, the geolocation of the distance between property owner and tradesmen, the vetting procedure and the ease of use.  

"Where have you been all my life" - this is comments from customers (property owners) that have used Red Fish, and then they come back and use us over and over again. As a technology business/website it can be tough because you need to stand above the rest on search engines. 

Initially was tough to get tradesmen to register, but as tradesmen see the benefit when they deliver great work and see their profile improve every time they do a job, their average rating improve.

Working in this industry has been a huge learning curve. At the same time the positive impact we have made with our property owners and our tradesmen.

On funding

The biggest hurdle we have faced is access to finance. 

We are self funded, and are looking for funding. 

"Be humble, share your ideas with everyone and don't rush it"

On being an entrepreneur in South Africa

South Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem still lacks the understanding of business, how investors can help, not just through financing, but also with contacts and network. The misconception is that it is easy. 

The biggest surprise about being a startup founder has been how much you learn about yourself and your strengths, your team, and the industry.

We wish we had known when we first got started how long it would take to get to critical mass.

On startup lessons learnt

We attribute our success to putting in the time, being patient, down to earth and offering great customer service.

Do your research, be humble, share your ideas with everyone and don't rush it.

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