How this on-demand home cleaning startup is using tech to create opportunities for domestic workers

Domestly co-founder and COO, Thatoyaona Marumo on the challenges and success of running a tech startup in SA


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Find-a-cleaner app Domestly is using technology to create business opportunities for individuals employed in the very traditional home cleaning industry. 

Thatoyaona Marumo, who co-founded Domestly with Berno Potgieter, says their online marketplace for domestic workers hopes to serve the interests of two markets: domestic workers by offering employment and customers who get on-demand convenience.

Based in Cape Town, the startup has positioned itself amongst a growing number of tech startups in what is fast becoming the continental hub of innovation with initiatives such as the Silicon Cape Foundation.

App for cleaners and homeowners

The Domestly app connects cleaning professionals directly to homeowners. It allows customers to choose a professional home cleaner online or via a free downloadable app available for iPhone and Android. The service also enables cleaners to set their own prices, confirm job requests and track and manage their work schedules easily. Users are charged a transaction fee per booking.

Domestly, an app that connects cleaning
professionals directly to homeowners.

 Domestly supplies cleaners with a smartphone which is already preloaded with the app, data and airtime to allow them to access their profiles, accept bookings and manage their duty schedules.

Using tech to disrupt an industry

great advantage of tech is that it has allowed startups such as Domestly to add a whole new level of efficiency, ease and innovation to what they do.

"And that’s where the disruption happens," he says, "It has allowed us to bring in a better way of doing things, a quicker way of doing things and a more convenient way of getting things done." 

Marumo says the use of tech can also be a strong catalyst for innovation in a startup.

In their case, Marumo says the use of technology allowed them to develop the platform at a quicker pace. 

"The reality of the situation is when it comes to tech startups, the barriers to entry to develop something and take it to market really quickly is the big thing, it becomes really attractive for entrepreneurs," he says.

Marumo, adds that tech can also often be central in terms of a business' agility in being able to react and respond to the markets.

Execution > Idea

Entrepreneurs looking to be successful in the South African market need to be sure they are solving a real problem, says Marumo. "The problem has got to be clear and your solution has got to be commercially viable," he adds.

Execution, Marumo says, is another factor that entrepreneurs cannot afford to overlook. "There are a lot of not-so-good ideas that have made it, that have caught on and have gone viral because of the execution. There are also a lot of really great ideas that have just stumbled along because of the execution."

Entrepreneurs must also consider the team and their complementary level of skills that are involved, says Marumo.

"Are you getting into bed with someone who is as brilliant as you, who has a strong type of focus? The co-founders and the core team - the initial team that gets on board - that is critical. That can make or break your business," he warns.

Finding the right team to work with, in their case, also meant finding the right angel investors who shared the same vision, says Marumo.

"It was a case of identifying key players, particularly those who had value to add to the solution we’re getting into and then targeting them in a sense of profiling them as being suitable investors and then networking, trying to get into that space, meeting up with them. We went the angel investor route which was a more of a personal route," he says.

Domestly's list of investors includes Ernst Hertzog, founder of Action Hero Ventures, a privately held angel fund that invests in innovative startups, Hannes van Rensburg, founder of Fundamo, a specialist mobile financial services provider which was acquired by Visa in 2011 for $110 million as well as Adriaan Tromp and Hein Carse.

Manage your own expectations to succeed

Marumo says tech entrepreneurs must always be aware that gaining traction as a startup takes time.

"The one thing that you’ve got to understand and appreciate is that there are a lot of influences involved. You know it going in but you don’t really understand it until it’s in your face. There’s no instant gratification with starting a business. Manage your own expectations or the market will manage it for you."

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