The ‘Uber-effect’ is just getting started: UrbanOutsource capitalises on a nation of early adopters

Now the sharing economy is evolving into something new. Ubiquitous communications, freelance work forces and low transaction costs are giving rise to the on-demand company, which aims to apply the principles of Uber or Airbnb to a much broader range of markets. (Irving Wladawsky-Berger, The Wall Street Journal)

From food delivery, ad hoc tasks to car parking, we’ve heard so much about emerging on-demand service providers that some us might already be thinking; any more, and we’ll surely have a saturated market. In fact, any such suggestion couldn’t be further from reality. According to research, the total available market for on-demand service providers in 2015, if fully engaged, was estimated to be worth $465bn. And that was in the US alone. But actual market penetration by on-demand companies was estimated to be a mere 3.9 percent of the total addressable market. This is why UrbanOutsource co-Founders, Elke Keeley and Noga Edelstein, were less concerned about competition and more focused on the untapped opportunities in what they describe as a “nation of early adopters” – Australia.

“Australia has always been a nation of early-adopters. You hear that all the time but it’s true,” said Elke.

‘It was a never-ending juggling act of responsibilities’

Once colleagues at Yahoo!7, Elke and Noga were on the same page when it came to the perils of home, family and work commitments. Symptomatic of modern life, it was a never-ending juggling act of responsibilities, and one which often left them feeling overwhelmed. Both equally frustrated by the time and effort it took to find reputable home service providers for their own needs, they conceived the idea for UrbanOutsource, an online platform for on-demand cleaning, gardening and handyman services.

Elke said: “What we needed was a reliable service to take the hassle out of our household chores. And so out of our dissatisfaction with the then current state of the home-services market, UrbanOutsource was born.”

‘A maturing of the on-demand sector’

Since the platform launched in April 2014, the business has gone from strength to strength. From a bootstrapped start-up in the throes of learning and development, UrbanOutsource has since increased its revenue by 47 per cent each quarter for the last 12 months, secured $500,000 funding in October 2015 from investment firm Grand Prix Capital, and has grown its team by 300 per cent. A track record that could certainly spell ‘boom time’ for the on-demand service sector.

“We believe that this is primarily down to the quality of the service we provide, but also partly because of a maturing of the on-demand sector,” said Elke.

Commenting on their forward strategy, Elke says market expansion into metro cities is planned for the year ahead but there are no reasons why the business couldn’t or wouldn’t expand overseas in future.

‘The ‘Uber effect’ is very much an active phenomenon’

And to what do we owe this gift of opportunity that companies like UrbanOutsource are seizing with both hands?

Yes – the introduction of Uber is yesterday’s news, but apparently, the ‘Uber effect’ is very much an active phenomenon and not something that has ‘happened’. According to Elke “the Uber-effect has played a role in educating Australians about the on-demand space.

“Brands such as Uber are changing the way people buy services,” Elke comments.

“And consumers are embracing the convenience and cost savings that can be garnered as part of this global phenomenon.”

Some are even anticipating that the business model will continue to grow exponentially over the next 5 to 10 years.

‘We’re seeing the sector take flight’

It’s not a case of ‘jumping on a bandwagon’ for new entrants to the on-demand service market – far from it. It’s just getting started. One-by-one, rapidly growing businesses such as UrbanOutsource are awakening the addressable [consumer] market, not just for themselves, but for many more to come.

“In the short term you will see continued growth from disruptive brands and technologies. From taxis, food delivery and household chores, we’re seeing the sector take flight,” Elke said.

“Longer term, you may see the best of these on-demand service providers consolidate, which would be like having a ‘life personal assistant’ in your pocket. That’s an exciting prospect.”

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