Lawn Buddy will debut its on-demand lawn service in North Texas this week, joining an already competitive market of app-based companies.
Startups such as Lawn Buddy and Plowz & Mowz are working to sign up lawn providers and get customers while also staying ahead of the big boys — Amazon Home Services, Angie’s List, and HomeAdvisor.
Here’s a look at a few on-demand lawn service startups operating in the area and their approaches to the market:
CEO and founder Steven Werner launched the Lawn Buddy app in Wichita, Kansas in March, but it’s quickly spreading to new markets. The app is expected to go live in North Texas by Thursday or Friday, Werner said.
Customers enter their address and then satellite maps estimate the cost to mow the lawn. Then, customers request a lawn provider either on demand or scheduled for a future date.
The lawn company does the work and gets paid through the app within 24 hours.
One of the biggest challenges in this space is undercutting.
Lawn Buddy takes a percentage for each job completed. The problem comes when the lawn providers use the app for customer acquisition and then start communicating directly with the homeowner to avoid paying the fees for future jobs.
Werner said it’s important to add value for the lawn provider with high-quality back-end services that get them paid quickly, optimize routes, and make daily schedules. Homeowners can check the weather and send messages to the lawn company through the app without having to give out their phone number or email address.
For the lawncare companies, it’s like having their own app.
“Providers are very loyal to us to the point that if the homeowner tries to undercut us, they say no.”
“Providers are very loyal to us to the point that if the homeowner tries to undercut us, they say no,” Werner said. “We haven’t had an issue of providers undercutting us since our launch. We’re just going to try to offer the best value that we possibly can. All they have to do is wake up in the morning and start mowing.”
The app allows homeowners to select the same provider if they like the work they do and schedule it consistently for the whole season.
Lawn Buddy is also available in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois, and will be launching soon in Washington, Alaska, and New York.
Dallas-based Robin offers a similar scheduling platform for lawn services. In 2015, founders Justin Crandall and Bart Lomont created the startup in partnership with Dallas-based Dialexa Labs incubator.
They wanted to develop a seamless, hassle-free way for people to get quotes, schedule, and pay for their lawn care services. Recently, it’s also been betting on robots for the future of landscaping.
Customers wanting to forgo the traditional lawn crew can sign up for its robotic mowing services. Robin purchases the mowers from manufacturers and leases them to customers starting at $99 per a month.
“We started off thinking we could be the first and pioneer this,” Crandall, Robin CEO and co-founder, told The Dallas Morning News in March. “We realized these things already exist — we just have to bring them to the U.S.”
In addition to the Dallas- Fort Worth area, Robin serves Austin, Houston, and Miami, Florida.
PLOWZ & MOWZ
Snow was the biggest problem where Plowz & Mowz got its start in Syracuse, New York. The founder wanted to create an app so homeowners could get snow removed on demand. It started at the end of 2013 and quickly evolved to include lawn care in the spring and summer months, Manager Dan Lopez said.
Word spread and the company started offering its services in new markets, including launching in North Texas in 2014.
The technology itself has to be so good that lawn providers won’t leave, Lopez said.
“The idea is, if you want to take that work, we’ll pay you for it.”
“We’re spending a good amount of money on marketing, payroll, direct deposits to these guys so they get paid within 24 hours,” Lopez said. “The technology is awesome. When people work with us, they get treated like an employee. Some of these guys are just one-offs, they have to do everything themselves.”
Visit a lawn care forum or Facebook group and one of the biggest gripes is not getting paid fast enough, Lopez said.
Plowz & Mowz monitors the lawn providers’ online activity so they’ll know if they are undercutting them. If they do find someone doing that, they can freeze their account.
“We can see who is looking at jobs, [setting] up service with us,” Lopez said. “If they don’t take a single job, it goes into hibernation mode. Most of the providers don’t do that because they enjoy the experience.”
Plowz & Mowz founders wanted to offer an alternative to websites such as Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor, which require lawn providers bid on jobs, forcing them to pay out money whether they get the job or not.
“The idea is, if you want to take that work, we’ll pay you for it,” Lopez said.
The homeowners can also rate the lawn work, helping good providers rise to the top.
CEO Mike Fingado has taken a totally different approach to a historically fragmented industry.
He founded Mowdo with the intent becoming a dominant force in the app-based lawn care sector. But he quickly found markets like Dallas were too competitive and pulled out.
Instead, he sells customer leads to HomeAdvisors so it can connect them with customers.
He doesn’t believe repeat services like lawn care are ideally suited for an app because the the customer ends up paying more and the contractor gets less.
“The customer could save money when the provider could be making more money,” Fingado said. “They’d rather pay money to get a lead than use an app.”
Plus, it’s hard to get the same customer back next season when it’s scheduled through an app, he said.
“It’s all doable, but it’s more of an uphill battle than most people think,” he said.
“Our goal is to take over all the services: Lawn care, plumbing, electrical, handyman.”
Mowdo is on the cutting edge of on-demand lawncare, renting out a fleet of autonomous lawnmowers that mow lawns like a Roomba cleans floors.
Fingado’s goal now is actually to sell Mowdo to another large on-demand lawn company.
His new full-time job is working for Amazon Home Services where he connects contractors for a plethora of home improvement jobs with Amazon Prime members.
“Our goal is to take over all the services: lawn care, plumbing, electrical, handyman,” Fingado said.
While the apps do provide convenient payment options, there are other ways to make quick and convenient payments, such as Vimeo, Fingado said.