Builderscrack owner Jeremy Wyn-Harris talks about how work dried up following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes and how his service can be likened to Uber.

Can you describe your business?
Builderscrack is an online marketplace that connects homeowners with the best tradespeople for their jobs. A homeowner posts a brief description of their job, we then present the job first to the tradespeople we know give great experiences, and if they are available they then show interest in the job. We then provide the right tools to both parties such as appointment schedulers and online quoting allowing them to communicate and get the job done.

We have between 5000 to 6000 jobs posted per month through our service, some are really small jobs, some major renovations and sometimes even new builds.

What was the motivation for starting this business?

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It actually wasn't my idea, it was my business partner Mark, his wife's idea. The idea came about over 10 years. Mark went to find a plumber, he began looking through the Yellow Pages and was unsuccessful because they were all busy. His wife Shona said: 'Wouldn't it be great if you could just post a job online and get a load of quotes'.

I hadn't met Mark and Shona at this point but within two days a mutual friend had introduced us and so we sat down and pushed forward with the idea.

You have a rigid review service in place, tell me about that?

We only accept reviews from parties that come through our system and who both choose to interact with each other. This ensures only genuine reviews can be submitted. For a homeowner or a tradesperson to review the other, a homeowner must post a job, the tradesperson must be selected to receive the job led by us and must request contact from the homeowner, and the homeowner must accept their contact request. If a homeowner wants to write a review, they can provide their feedback on workmanship, cost, schedule and professionalism.

How many users do you have?

Over 100,000 homeowners have registered with us, and together they have posted over 200,000 jobs. We have 10,000 tradespeople who actively use us each year.

What industry trends have you seen over the past 10 years?

We've seen some interesting things happen over time. People always think that immediately after the Christchurch earthquakes that we would have had a lot of business come our way but that wasn't the case.

At the time it all went through the insurance companies which disrupted normal market conditions, but once residential repairs dried up we saw a surge in people coming back to our site looking for work, and not many homeowners needing it.

How much competition are you facing?

We've got a very unique model so we don't have direct competition, but we do compete with anyone looking for a tradesperson or any other means; whether that is word of mouth, Yellow Pages or TradeMe services with a listing model.

How is Builderscrack performing?

Builderscrack is the sort of business that takes a long time to build up as we need to ensure we match supply with demand, along with growing a comprehensive review base to ensure the best possible user experiences. We are profitable and have been growing at 50 per cent per year over the past three years and we expect to continue to accelerate our growth over the next 12 months and beyond.

A tradesperson works on the roof of a property.
A tradesperson works on the roof of a property.

What region has the most volume of work?

Auckland has the most volume of work by far and that's driven by population and population density. Christchurch and Wellington account for a population very close behind. We work much better in the main centres, not in small towns.

How does your business model work?

We looked around the world to see what others are doing. We have a success model where we charge a small fee to the tradesperson when they secure the work. Our view is that we don't want to charge tradespeople an upfront fee, we only charge them once they have secured the job - between three to five per cent, and for larger jobs its capped so we don't charge them over a certain amount.

What's next for Builderscrack?

Payment solutions to allow homeowners to pay through us. We've also got some exciting changes to our revenue model that will improve user experience. We've been running some experiments in the background for the last two years that have provided us with some interesting data that we'll roll out in coming months.

What advice do you give to others thinking of starting a business?

Understand your market, and make sure that your business will generate more revenue than it will cost to build and market the service.

You need to make sure people will use your service and that you can afford to tell them about your service. Also, if you are building a technology business, then keep in mind that technology continually requires maintenance and upgrading, not to mention continual innovation to keep ahead of the pack.