Urban Company - servicing like never before
We met Urban Company first in November 2014 over a cup of coffee at Hotel Grand, Vasant Kunj. The UC team had just launched their web MVP a day before.
The business was then called UrbanClap, and Abhiraj Bhal, Varun Khaitan and Raghav Chandra had chosen to attack the ubiquitous local services problem - finding and hiring trusted service professionals was a deeply broken experience for customers, yet there had been limited success in the market.
The start-up formation in the space had accelerated (we remember meeting 55-60 start-ups in a very short span), but it had been hard to build conviction on any of the teams or models - till now.
“When we looked at the local services space, it felt immensely broken..
..something that should be inevitably solved a few years out, whether we took a crack at it or not. Yet, across the world, all internet models in the space were essentially lead-generation models, and no one had fundamentally reimagined what user experience could look like. We were convinced that a combination of tech and smart operations could create a dent in the market, for both customers and service professionals.”
Abhiraj Bhal, co-founder & CEO, Urban Company
The MVP platform hadn’t made any transactions yet.
But seeing promise based on our first conversation, we spent the next 3 weeks engaging deeply with the team, and a lot of our time was spent at UC’s 100 sq. ft. office in Bhikaji Cama Place. Every interaction increased our excitement.
First of all, the founding team felt complete. Abhiraj and Varun had known each other since their undergrad days and their deep desire to start-up had been brewing for some time. Raghav complimented the team with his tech skills and was already running a start-up after his stint at Twitter. Between the three of them, we saw a great combination of strategic thinking, attention to detail, problem-solving skills and strong technology orientation.
Challenging, yet Rewarding
"Local services have always been a large opportunity with mediocre customer experience and therefore in dire need of a platform such as UC. Globally, a lot of value had been captured by classifieds players and new-age services platforms were still evolving and iterating on their operating models. We were, therefore, cognizant that multiple elements of UC’s operating model could change with time - however, the team’s early approach and rooting of key decisions to customer and provider insights right from the start convinced us that they were best suited to attack this extremely challenging (yet rewarding) market."
Mridul Arora, Partner, Elevation Capital
The team’s initial thesis was to focus on higher involvement categories (beauty, nutritionists, yoga, events) and go beyond a classifieds platform to solve for discovery and matchmaking. The product was oriented towards ensuring discovery happens by means of rich profiles, curated content and supplier reviews. We felt this was a differentiated approach as compared to classifieds or ‘on-rolls’ supply approaches, and the right one to build brand, trust and platform stickiness.
Across our conversations, the team’s obsession with delivering a high-quality experience was evident – they were handpicking supply, personally matching customer requests and conducting deep research to really get to the heart of the problem (over 450 conversations in the first few weeks with customers and service providers). Our own conversations with supply professionals indicated appreciation for curated content, regular communication on the platform and willingness to pay if demand is steady.
In summary, we were convinced about the opportunity and the strength of the UC team, and felt privileged to partner with them.
Elevation invested $750K in December 2014
At the time we signed a term sheet with UC in December 2014, the team’s MVP was under 30 days old:
including photography, make up, catering
listed on UC
Operating model split
into standardized and customized services
UC expands from Delhi NCR to Bengaluru and launches payments on the platform
$10M raised from Elevation, Accel
UC starts full-stack experiments for salon at home in Delhi NCR
UC starts monetizing initial categories
$25M raised from Bessemer, Elevation, Accel
Salon at home
Salon at Home identified as UC's anchor category
1M customer requests
By June 2016, UC had serviced 1M cumulative customer requests and was at an $1M annualized revenue run-rate
$21M raised from Vy Capital, Elevation, Bessemer, Accel
Product Sales Launched
Subscription Plans Launched
$10M annualized revenue run-rate
UC expands to UAE
$50M raised from Steadview, Vy Capital, SAB Holdings, ABG Capital
$75M raised from Tiger, Steadview, Vy Capital, ABG Capital
>$30M Annualized Revenue Run-Rate
UC expands to Australia
UC expands to Singapore
>$45M Annualized Revenue Run-Rate
Urban Company Today
Over the last 6 years, UC has demonstrated strong execution to become the market leader. This has been driven by constant iterations, data-driven decision making and superlative hiring throughout the organization. The team keeps on consistently expanding its own TAM every year.
Today, Urban Company is one of the best-known consumer tech brands in India.
on the UC platform
serviced by UC
India, UAE, Australia, Singapore
Over the last six years, the team has delivered on their mission of helping customers get easy access to trusted, high-quality household services. They’ve worked to improve user experience and business robustness: adding categories, condensing others, and adapting the business model towards a single-minded focus.
At the same time, the team recognized that solving for service professionals was equally, if not more important, and has worked to deeply ingrain the platform in their professionals’ lives:
More importantly, the team has created thousands of micro-entrepreneurs with a manifold improvement in their standard of living. UC’s mission continues to be to empower and create millions of services micro-entrepreneurs across India and globally.
As UC has scaled, we have seen the team’s passion, depth of vision and execution to turn Urban Company into a world-class services company reiterated multiple times. We’re excited to continue our pact with them, as the team builds further towards their vision of enabling millions of service professionals across the world to deliver services at home like never seen before.
“Elevation Capital has been associated with Urban Company since the early days, when we were working from a 110 sq. ft. office. They are true partners in the company building journey. The Elevation team is my sounding board for strategic decisions and go to help for key operational aspects of the business like senior hiring. They are also genuinely nice people who have a founders-first philosophy.”
Abhiraj Bhal, co-founder & CEO, Urban Company
“All of us at Elevation feel extremely proud to have been partners with Urban Company since early days. Creating impact at scale is never easy and UC team has worked extremely hard to reach this market leadership. UC is perhaps the most unique local services platform globally today, going deep and full stack into large categories and enabling service professionals across multiple dimensions. We look forward to our continued partnership, the best is yet to come.”