At the forefront of innovative entrepreneurs, Mark Bernberg saw a niche in the market of home service apps and created something we were all subconsciously wishing for: an app that allows you to organise an affordable cleaner to your door in less than three hours. Gone are the days of dreading the season of spring cleaning and chore days, WHIZZ has changed the market of home cleaning.
What gave you the idea or inspiration to launch your company? How did it begin?
It all began when my cleaner had to suddenly return to Manila, as there had been a death in the family. This left me cleaner-less for 6 weeks and I had to find another cleaner. I went onto Facebook and asked if anyone knew of a good cleaner. I got one or two recommendations however; those cleaners could not come at the times that suited me.
I then went onto Google and typed in “Sydney Residential Cleaning” This produced two problems. The first being that it took at least 3 days to get quotes from the companies, and secondly (and more frustratingly) the price variations were enormous (from $75 to $225 for a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home). There had to be a better way and WHIZZ was born.
You have launched an innovative technology, how did the idea come to you and was it hard to take it from idea to product?
I live by the mantra “ideas are great – execution is immense!” I knew the idea was a winner because I had done the market research and intelligence gathering, now all I had to do was execute. At the time I was in the throes of helping list our company – SkyFii – therefore I had good experience with building technology and access to a vast array of both technologists and developers. Finding, hiring and then inducting the cleaners was the hardest part, but with a lot of elbow grease and hustle we went live to public in February 2015.
What makes your business unique?
We are the only home services app in Australia that offers, “on-demand” home cleaning. Need a cleaner, same day, on demand. We can have a qualified and trusted cleaner to your door in less than 3 hours. No one else is able to offer this service.
What qualities or aspects of your own philosophies do you infuse into your work?
Always lead from the front. If you want your staff to storm the Normandy beaches and take bullets, they have to believe in you and what you are trying to achieve. I also strongly believe in the quote by Henry Ford, “it doesn’t matter whether you think you can or think you can’t – either way you’re right!” I have an “I can” attitude to everything I do in the business. This attitude infects other team members and with an “all in” culture we achieve great things.
What kind of people do you choose to surround yourself with in business?
Motivated and hungry hustlers! People that care more about the customer than they do about anything else. People that thrive in environments of high growth and development. People that are ambitious, passionate, innovative and authentic. People that don’t just take yes for an answer – they are always looking to achieve more.
When you're having a bad day where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in the rest of the staff. I look at them, listen to them and feed off the energy in the office. I ask myself how they would feel if they knew I was down, unmotivated or depressed and the answer is the same every time…don’t! I then make an effort to go for a walk, get some fresh air and plug out for 30 minutes or so. Regroup and then power on!
What has been the biggest challenge of launching your own company and becoming an entrepreneur?
Believing in myself. Every entrepreneur has self-doubt. If they don’t – they’re lying! It is the #1 stress creator and business buster. You have to back yourself, believe in your abilities, have the guts to take the risk and go for it.
Social media is a significant part of your advertising – how important is maintaining social media profiles and what is your best tip for great content?
Nowadays social media is one of the most powerful forms of connecting to your actual and potential customer base. We place a huge amount of emphasis on social media because our business is very much referral based. If customers get referred, we are 80% more likely to close the sale. It is also a great platform to allow our happy customers to interact with the brand and have their say.
Content should be both strategic and relevant. You need to have a reason WHY you are posting content and more importantly HOW it is going to enrich the life of your users, followers and customers.
What is your biggest success within your company so far?
Reid Hoffman (the Founder of LinkedIn) famously said “if you are not embarrassed about your first product to market - you launched too late!” It was with this in mind that we launched our first (web only) platform to the market in February of this year.
We had over 1000 bookings in our first 2 weeks of operation and could simply not cope with the demand. We shut down marketing and delayed the launch of our app to try and slow it down. It slowed…but just briefly and then started to take off again. We smashed our projected budgets for the first 2 months and decided to see if there was any interest from VC’s and private equity investors.
The more meetings, the more refined our pitch deck and spiel became and we started getting approaches from some of Australia's most respected and successful VC’s and equity investors. During pitch month we smashed our monthly budget again and this really put fuel on the fire. We decided to only raise $2m and by the time we were done [we] were 3x oversubscribed!
We had raised $2m in under 6 months at the most incredible valuation! Simon Rothery (CEO of Goldman Sachs), Alex Waislitz (CEO of Thorney Investments) and Tom Krulis (CEO of Godfreys)
This is the rush and ride associated with the life of an entrepreneur!
You’ve found a way to connect people directly with a service through the use of an app. What has been your biggest challenge with launching a tech startup?
The biggest challenge is always being able to rapidly adapt and adjust to customer feedback regarding features, bugs and suggested usage. The faster and more nimble you are, the better customer experience and interface you are able to offer. Funnily enough – the biggest challenge in launching our tech start-up was not the tech, but rather the delivery of a quality service/product to back up the tech. It’s no good having an awesome app if the product you sell is crap. So we had to be a tech company “in cleaner’s clothing” at the beginning and this was the hardest challenge of them all.
Did you receive investor funding to launch or have you built it off your own capital?
Initially funded in house, with a Series A round in January 2015 and a Series B round in June 2015.
Are you a tech savvy coder or have you had to employee those services and how did you find that process?
I cannot code to save my life. I leave this to the smarter people in the business. I set out to find the best. It started with finding the right CTO and then leveraging off his knowledge and network to slowly but surely get the right team in place!
What has been the public reaction to your innovative technology?
All I can go on is social acknowledgement and feedback and usage. We have over 100 five-star reviews on Facebook and usage is growing nearly 40% month on month. Feedback is good and customers are returning – I would like to say that those facts point to a great reaction!
Is it hard leading the way with a new the product? Have you found it hard to get customers to trust your brand?
We were not first to market, in fact quite the opposite. We were late to the market but saw this as an incredible advantage in two ways. The first is that we were able to carefully study our competitors and understand what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong. No point in inventing the wheel is there? And secondly, we adopted the second mouse gets the cheese strategy. The first mouse gets stuck in the trap; the second mouse gets the cheese. We let our competitors spend hundreds of thousands of dollars educating the market and we then rode that wave.
What do you do to take a break from your business and maintain a healthy life balance? (Travel, exercise etc.)
I exercise 4-5 times per week before work and try my very best to take two holidays per year. I also love to read and find it puts me to sleep nicely at night and allows my brain to wind down!
What is the best part of working for yourself?
The freedom of knowing that I am in charge of my own destiny, I cut the path, I don’t follow it.
What does the future of Whizz look like for you?
To be the number 1 supplier of all home services to the Australian market!
Many people might have innovative that they don’t realise can be turned into a successful business or app– what is your top 3 tips for them?
1. Start with doing your research. Is there a need for your product? Will people actually gain from your product or is it simply a nice to have? Do not “create a market” make sure you have one to sell to!
2. Be lean. Be agile. Be responsive. Listen to your market. Adapt quickly and do not get hung up in long-term business plans and strategies. Be nimble. As a start-up your biggest USP is that you can move faster than the established players. Use this to your advantage.
3. Believe in yourself! Only YOU have the ability to tell yourself you can’t. Do not listen to the haters and the doubters. Most of the time they don’t have the guts to try it and feel better about themselves trying to convince you not to do it. And stick with it! The successful entrepreneur is normally the person still holding on while all others have let go!