3rd Place: spendLO

‘Name your price’ platform for services poised for rapid growth

 

ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A year ago, the spendLO team was putting the finishing touches on its website for its soft launch last summer designed to test the service. Now the team is ramping up for version 2.0, with mobile apps, more vendors, a rewards program and revenue-sharing partnerships.

SpendLO’s service-request platform enables consumers to name their price on any service. “We’re Priceline meets Angie’s list,” said Corey Leff, founder and CEO of spendLO, which won third place in the Business Plan Challenge’s Community Track.

Leff, of Delray Beach, was inspired to create spendLO after trying to hire a mover for another of his businesses, Document Nation. The process of searching for a service provider and collecting bids — numerous calls and emails and answering the same questions over and over — was overwhelming enough, but when the bids came in, it was hard to know who was reliable.

On spendLO, a customer can post a project, such as a move, house cleaning, painting or landscaping. Pre-qualified vendors from spendLO’s network can then submit bids within the consumer’s budget. If the consumer chooses a bid, the first 10 percent of the cost of the job is paid to spendLO. The service is available in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

To launch spendLO, Leff brought on Managing Partner Kristin Delaney, a former MetLife sales executive who also worked with him at Document Nation. For the past 10 months, the spendLO partners have been running the service, while also testing their model and building up a database of more than 500 vendors, Leff said.

The goal for Phase 2 of the site, which is expected to launch June 10, is rapid growth. And the key to getting there is through partnerships, Leff said.

Leff said he is in final negotiations with its first media partner, a television station in South Florida that’s part of a media conglomerate. Through that revenue-sharing partnership, spendLO could get significant exposure and reach through banner and digital video ads on its websites and apps, TV ads and email marketing.

SpendLO is also negotiating with a large Realtor group, whose management team estimates 90 to 95 percent of the homes it sells need some type of service. It is partnering with a local chamber, which would provide booth space to spendLO and other benefits.

“That’s our spendLO business model — to partner up and take advertising or space in exchange for a piece of the pie in terms of revenue. At the end of the day, we see that as building the value of our company,” Leff said.

SpendLO plans to be mobile-ready by June 10. With new spendLO apps for Apple and Android phones, service providers — who are out all day on jobs — can view new postings, ask for information and make bids on the go, Delaney said..

The website will be more social and offer a rewards program, in which points for commenting, “likes” and tweets can be redeemed for gift cards. “We are hoping our customers will help us do this grassroots marketing along with us. ...and we want to thank them properly for that,” said Delaney.

The longer term goal is to scale spendLO nationally but for now, “our team is 100 percent focused on making sure every user who comes to our site gets the best experience possible,” said Leff. You’ll often find spendLO in the community at green markets, FAU events and chamber functions.

Leff and Delaney also have been active in the burgeoning tech scene. “We’ve had tremendous mentorship and support from the community,” said Leff.

One of those mentors has been David LeVine, a serial entrepreneur who moved here from Silicon Valley. Over the past six months, he has helped the team with business planning, structuring partnerships and raising capital. SpendLO asked him to be a member of its board, along with Ari Steinberg, an early Facebook software engineer, and Alex Enchin, co-founder of the Canadian daily deal site Wag Jag.

“Corey and Kristin are both phenomenal, and I love the model,” said LeVine. “I’m looking for this company to be one of South Florida’s big successes.”

So far, Leff has self-funded spendLO and is now raising a $500,000 seed round.

The team of four, which includes Petra Person and Elise Hahn, recently moved into the Delray Beach Public Library on Atlantic Avenue. Startup Delray, an organization that promotes entrepreneurship, is converting the library’s second floor into a space for startups to collaborate, co-work and incubate.

Read more Business Plan Challenge stories from the Miami Herald

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