SME Tech

Local start-up ProperHands gets a hand with $250k funding

Launched last December, ProperHands matches freelance cleaners with customers

Local start-up ProperHands, which specialises in matching freelance cleaners with people who want to engage their services, has raised $250,000 in seed funding.

The funding, which was announced last month, comes from Singapore-based angel investment firm Crystal Horse Investments and home-grown investment firm Tri5 Ventures.

Crystal Horse has backed companies such as travel website Tripzilla and home renovation website Kluje, while Tri5 (pronounced "thrive") has invested in flash deals search engine Loco and short-term recruitment platform Jobstoday.

Launched last December by co-founders Wayne Soh and Benjamin Koe, ProperHands provides cleaning services such as dusting, mopping and ironing for a flat rate of $18 an hour.

Customers are currently matched with cleaners based on location, availability and skillset. Mr Soh and his team hope to expand this soon, to match customers and workers based on other factors such as language spoken, age and gender.

Competing services in Singapore include Kaodim, Sendhelper and Spickify. Spickify was bought over earlier this year by Berlin-based company Helpling, which is also an online marketplace for finding home cleaners.

Such home cleaning firms have risen in popularity as professional cleaning companies are expensive to hire, and are better suited for specialised services such as deep cleaning of carpets and curtains.

Co-founder Mr Soh, 30, explained: "They (professional companies) are in the premium tier, and it's overkill for folks who want a simple clean on a weekly basis."

Another option for home owners who want cleaners is to search for them on listing platforms such as Gumtree and ST Jobs.

But there are risks such as having workers who turn up late, or not at all, or having to hire foreign domestic workers who moonlight as part- time cleaners. Foreign domestic workers are allowed to work only for the employer stated in their permit.

All the cleaners in ProperHands' database are either Singaporeans or permanent residents.

The company has established a team of more than 200 cleaners, aged from 18 to over 70. Between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of them are women.

To ensure a high level of cleaning quality, all workers are interviewed and tested on practical skills such as ironing and the types of detergent used.

"We've had cleaners who say that they can iron, but actually don't know how to. We have also had experienced cleaners with bad attitudes, who go to a customer's house and complain that their house is too far or too dirty," said Mr Soh.

If a cleaner provides such sub-par service, ProperHands replaces the cleaner for free and will not use him or her for future jobs.

ProperHands also hopes to break into other markets such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, although there is no set timeline for the expansion yet.

One satisfied ProperHands customer is Ms Chin Su Yuen, the owner of a tech start-up.

The 29-year-old has been using the service twice a month for about six months.

"It's very fast. I can even book a cleaner when I am working, just by filling in a simple form and making payment," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'Start-up gets a hand with $250k funding SMETech'. Print Edition | Subscribe