The latest iteration of the on-demand app economy to pop up in Madison: an Uber for lawn care. The San Diego-based company Lawn Love, which already operates in 120 other markets around the U.S., connects lawn care professionals with property owners looking for someone to clean their gutters, mow their lawn, kill pests or aerate soil.
The company claims it helps consumers get lawn care in a speedy fashion, while also bringing computing and algorithmic optimization to a historically low-tech business.
“What we find is these folks (in the lawn care business) tend to be good about doing the work,” said the company CEO Jeremy Yamaguchi. “But they’re not characteristically great about marketing, or using software to figure out how to do their job efficiently.”
“It’s very low tech, it’s very manual,” he added. “You’re out hanging door hangers. You’re trying to run your business through your cellphone, out of your truck.”
The app launches in Madison this week, with about 40 businesses included in its marketplace.
To sign up for Lawn Love, users go online and fill out a form describing their location and what specific services they’re interested in. Within minutes, the site returns a price estimate — a feat made possible through machine learning algorithms, in tandem with satellite imaging technology that estimates lawn size.
The app then pairs the homeowner with a local lawn care service provider — a company that has already been pre-screened by the company to ensure that they “know their stuff,” according to Yamaguchi. The pairing takes into account whether the business specializes in the service needed, and whether they could conveniently fit in an appointment at the home, given the other customers on their route for a given day.
Yamaguchi said that Lawn Love offers an expansive toolkit to lawn care professionals — the software can handle payments, routing, scheduling, and even assist with taxes.
“We’re trying to democratize software that has been historically only been available to the big franchise players,” said Yamaguchi.
Those big franchise players include the national lawn care market leaders like TruGreen and BrightView. Yamaguchi said that while those companies are big, their market shares are fairly slim: The industry is still largely composed of smaller businesses that have an average of two employees, something that he said reflects the values of many lawn care business owners.
“These folks value their independence. They value their autonomy,” he said.
Yamaguchi said that’s why he has stuck with partnering with those lawn care experts as independent contractors — a business model that Uber and Lyft have often come under fire for using. He said that in the case of Lawn Love, yard care professionals wouldn’t want to work for him as employees even if he offered them the chance to.
Yamaguchi himself is a serial entrepreneur with a history of success with on-demand economy startups: His previous company, Golden Shine, connected homeowners with in-home service providers like maids and carpet cleaners. Yamaguchi said he sold that company in 2013.
He said he founded Lawn Love in 2014, after noticing similarities between in-home and lawn care services — specifically, the small size of the average service provider, and the lack of technological innovation in the industry.
He added that it was a time when smartphones had begun to seriously proliferate, enabling the possibility for things like geo-tracking lawn care companies as they make their way from appointment to appointment.
“Suddenly, we had pros working around with these super-computers in their pockets,” said Yamaguchi.
The company now has 120 employees, according to Yamaguchi, all based in San Diego.
Yamaguchi said that the company is now focused both on continuing to expand Lawn Love to new markets, but also to keep improving the technology itself. For example, he said that the team is currently working on “requoting” options for lawn care professionals.
“If they show up, and the grass is majorly overgrown, and the customer may have underestimated the job a little bit ... they’d easily be able to come up with a new price estimate,” he said.
The company is also venture capital-backed: So far, it has raised $1.9 million in funding.