Remember the Yellow Pages ad campaign that used to exhort us to let our “fingers do the walking”?
Well, Jeremy Levitt, Oliver Pennington and Daniel Sabados thought the time had well and truly come for businesses to maybe start doing the hard yards rather than the other way around.
Friends since kindergarten, Levitt and Pennington struck upon the basic idea for ServiceSeeking.com.au over a few beers one evening in their Darlinghurst share house.
The pair hooked up with programmer Daniel Sabados, got some help from angel investors, and started the quotes and comparison website in October 2007. It only took three months for them to pass the magic million-dollar revenue mark.
“Websites like Elance existed overseas, but there was no marketplace for service businesses in Australia,” 32-year-old Levitt tells StartupSmart.
“We wanted to put the Yellow Pages on notice that directories were a thing of the past and that consumers wanted an interactive experience where the ‘ring around’ was flipped upside down.
“Businesses should chase you to win your work, not the other way around.”
The figures since have certainly supported the start-up’s cheeky affront to the once institutional Yellow Pages as well other service directories.
According to Levitt, ServiceSeeking.com.au is now Australia’s largest online services marketplace, generating 25,000 jobs a month, with businesses submitting more than 60,000 quotes a month.
Since its launch, former lawyer Levitt estimates more than $350 million worth of quotes have been submitted.
“We’ve partnered with TrueLocal to power their ‘Get Quotes’ service, and share our unique pricing data with Realestate.com.au, Ninemsn, Yahoo7 and other portals to expand our reach.”
Of course, progress has not always been smooth, with the GFC providing a testing time for the fledgling company.
“Raising capital during the Global Financial Crisis while we were still losing money was extremely challenging,” Levitt recalls.
“That was our ‘make or break’ and, depending on the outcome, we might not have survived.
“But we came through that period strongly, raising enough money from our current chairman, Anthony Klok – who was previously the CEO of Betfair – to grow the business, develop our revenue model and ultimately achieve cashflow break even.”
The tough times only hardened the team’s resolve and sharpened their focus to provide a website that was about more than just “clicks and eyeballs”.
“We are a website that delivers real work opportunities to businesses and, likewise, customers can find and book services with interested businesses without ringing around.”