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Standing ankle-deep in a kitchen flood isn’t the ideal time to start wading (pun intended) through Yelp reviews of Denver plumbers. That’s where Zaarly comes in.
The San Francisco-based startup and Silicon Valley darling, which is launching in the Mile High City this week, is a free online referral network for homeowners searching for high-quality local service providers. “We’re here to introduce you to the best,” says Zaarly co-founder and CEO Bo Fishback.
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Here’s how it works: Customers sign up at zaarly.com and browse a curated list of local service companies and individuals. But that’s where the similarities to Yelp end. From housecleaners and landscapers to electricians, plumbers, painters, roofers, and even exterminators, Zaarly personally checks out everyone on the list. “It’s unfair to expect homeowners to be experts in plumbing and to be able to identify high-quality professionals,” Fishback says. “We’ve done that for you.”
The multistep vetting process begins with word-of-mouth referrals from local experts such as realtors (and, in the case of Denver, a massive network of friends and family). From there, the company interviews service providers, who are required to hand over their entire client lists. Background checks are made, insurance is verified, and client interviews are conducted.
Only providers who make it through that wringer get Zaarly listings, which include photos, bios, service descriptions, and price estimates. Users request appointments directly through the site, and once the job is complete, payment is handled online. (Zaarly is a free service for homeowners; service providers pay Zaarly a 10 percent fee for each booking.) Zaarly puts every payment in escrow for 24 hours, while the client confirms he or she is happy with the job, and promises a $10,000 satisfaction guarantee for its experts.
Perhaps the best part, in the age of “anyone can say anything on the Internet”: No one can pay to be on the list, there’s no advertising, and Zaarly can—and will—jettison bad apples from its network. Only those who’ve made verified purchases are able to leave reviews (read: no more fake competitor rants or overly glowing, jargon-packed ratings from the companies themselves).
Backed with $30 million in funding from the likes of VC giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Ashton Kutcher (yes, the actor), Denver is only Zaarly’s third city. “We are so excited to be launching here,” says Fishback, who found that Mile High City homeowners are desperate for reputable roofers and companies that can handle their spider problems. He’s especially excited about a Denver-based exterminator Zaarly discovered.
“This guy is a world-renowned guy, in a league of his own,” Fishback says. “He’s a national bed-bug expert. That kind of guy is what we’re all about; we’re always looking for the people we can get nerdy about.” We hope we don’t ever have to use him—but we’ll know where to look if we do.