Their mission is connecting people by their simple needs, this way bringing affinity to the city. And they seem well on the way to doing that with their app, at least in their launching ground, Amsterdam. Co-founder Toni Lufi shares some experiences on this ride, and what is it that makes them different anders maakt.
Getting help with any daily task from reliable people nearby
A gap in the market, and personal annoyances with things that need to be done coming your way, and you lacking easy ways or friends around to handle them, seem to have been main drivers in pushing the team to build a platform for this.
Lufi reflects upon it: ‘Myself I lived most of my adult life in large cities, and in each of them I felt people were quite disconnected. Especially in the beginnings when I knew few people, I struggled whenever I needed something simple done. Sometimes it was carrying a new piece of furniture up the stairs, other times getting groceries while not feeling well.
My co-founder Yvonne used to be till recently a student with side jobs here in the Netherlands, and the options lacked flexibility and the creation of social connections, plus the majority working in supermarkets and restaurants found their work not very exciting or meaningful. So we felt there’s real economic and social value in bringing people together through a platform for help with tasks.
From slow beginnings to fast growth
So after having done their research, planning and secured funding, in January last year NearOnes launched in the App Stores. But then it was pretty quiet. “Before the launch we had created this waiting list group - people that left their details with us, as a confirmation that they wanted to be part of the platform, and they shared all sorts of things and insights about their problems, and what they would use the platform for. And that helped guide us in our beginnings with shaping the product, understanding different potential consumer groups, and of course in providing confirmation for the whole thing. But this is quite a different thing from having real users. Next, marketplaces are quite hard to get up and running. In our case, you need tasks posted from people on the demand side, which need people on the supply side to do those tasks, but then how do you manage to get and keep one side, when the other one is missing, and vice versa.”
Lufi credits moving beyond this to a combination of factors, including constant shipping of new features on the product, on the basis of consumer insights and usage, building up on effective marketing channels to bring users in, and general pure perseverance. “As mentioned in the early days, the number of users was way below optimal, and when the numbers are low, you cannot also make any scientific conclusive statements based on data, on which types of users like what, or which parts of your product are working, and which aren’t. But then if you have even a few very users which are into what you do, and really keen on sharing, and you pay very close attention to what they say (and don’t say), and you are a user yourself, then you are set on constantly developing better intuition, with increasing results on you building something that people want.
Our product is currently really non-comparable to what we had months ago when launched, and we are keen on keeping developing it at a fast pace. On marketing it is also similarly a mix of strategizing, testing and iterating. As for perseverance, it is maybe what makes or breaks companies the most. When we had really little traction in the beginning, we could have said this does not work, and that’s a shame, but we’ll have to let it go - and that would have maybe sounded normal to quite some people. But we aren’t of the type. There’s more of a sort of ‘whatever it takes’ attitude. There is this one example that many others find interest in, which is the part that we have had times when we finally had more tasks posted on the platform, but then the supply was limited, so then we would go and do the tasks ourselves as founders: cleaning, cooking, doing the groceries, carrying furniture - often at times skipping meetings for this. And we still do that, though fortunately it’s a lot less now”
The numbers also reflect that. NearOnes has been growing 50% in turnover month on month since April, and now has over 5,500 registered users in Amsterdam. Lufi says “We have to be happy with the growth, but it’s not like we have cracked things down. It’s always about moving to the next phase, and that comes with both old and new challenges.”
At NearOnes users get help with any daily task they can stumble across, from very random things like playing princess Elsa at a children’s party, to more common and burdensome tasks such as getting their apartment cleaned.
As Lufi explains: “In the Netherlands there are already platforms which focus on certain verticals, such as babysitting or pet care - but tasks often tend to come in more random forms, for example help cleaning out an apartment you are moving out from, and move some furniture to the new one.
Besides serving tasks for which there is no other solution, NearOnes is also highly competitive in those tasks where there are specialised apps, by its ability to get tasks done within the same day, and at affordable rates. This is achieved by bringing in people at scale and cutting down on the fees that specialised platforms and agencies charge. So then you can achieve very great things, like delivering groceries during the Corona crisis, in as little as one hour. Supply-side synergies contribute to this too, as a cleaner is very often capable and willing to do groceries, iron, and so on”.
Making money by helping others
There is something that feels inherently good in providing help to others, even if that is paid, and that seems to provide an extra motivation for many young people (and not only) to join NearOnes.
“We really think of NearOnes as a social platform. Sometimes you will get a comment from others, saying ‘But why is this social, isn’t this about just getting your task done?’ But the feeling is very different when you read reviews of people, who after a task have put time aside to have a meal together, or who gratefully express how relieved they were because they knew no one around to ask for help. And this is what makes it valuable for many beyond the money earned. Being useful to someone else and getting to know new people in your surroundings, are things likely to make you feel more fulfilled and connected.”
NearOnes hopes to have this impact extend to the elderly in the future, connecting them with young people driven to support them. Lufi concludes on it: “We definitely want to go there. We know that they can benefit from NearOnes and that there are large numbers of people willing to help them even voluntarily. As this takes a lot of responsibility, we will concentrate our efforts to this segment in the future, when we have the right teams, systems and processes in place and everything is running smoothly, to be able to provide the outmost competent and secure service”