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French find-a-tradesman site on track

A French online company which links artisans and other professionals with clients is holding its own against internet giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook.

StarOfService now employs around 100 people from its base near Paris after launching with €10million in start-up funding in 2013. It says it is on track to make a profit this year.

Its founders came up with the idea after being unable to find a tree surgeon to deal with a tree which was brushing against an electric wire, causing interference to their television service.

When they eventually found one locally, he was expensive and cut the electric wire along with the tree.

Lucas Lambertini (pictured left), who is now the CEO of the company, said: “We thought there must be a better way of finding professionals and so developed the idea.

“We realised that companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook were also moving into the area, but also that we had the means and ability to compete with them.”

The company insists artisans or professionals, such as wedding photographers, provide full estimates (a devis) online in response to requests if they want the work. In France, these are legally binding after being signed by both parties.

Service providers pay between €2 and €25 to the company once estimates are signed.

To encourage providers, the first two or three jobs found through the site are free.

Controlling providers relies on them filling out a form when they register, with weight in on-site search results given to factors such as years of experience, revenue, qualifications and if they are registered with authorities. “But it is only after the first work has been done and the customer has replied with a rating and, we hope, a review, that we know we have a good professional,” said Mr Lambertini. “There are many who have registered and looked good on paper but have not got good ratings.”

The model has proved a success in France, with 190,000 professionals registered and one million accounts opened by people looking for services.

Requests to result in estimates in 80% of cases, and around 60% to 70% of the estimates result in work for the professionals, with the average job costing €500.

As well as its French sites, the company has expanded to Germany, Spain and Italy, where it has opened small offices and centres serviced by technicians who fly in from Paris.

All these countries have a similar legally-binding estimate system to France.

It is also looking to expand into the UK, which has a different legal system, and has launched an international platform, which is gaining traction in Asia.

Asked why StarOfService has grown to the point of being profitable when many French companies fall by the wayside, Mr Lambertini said the company realised from the start that it had to be more reactive and smarter than the much larger companies in the market.

“We were able to get funding to begin with due to the idea and our business strategy, but it was the third part, execution, that has made a difference,” he said.

“By focusing on building a good team who have worked very hard to make the seemingly simple idea as easy and efficient to use for both providers and demanders, we have carved out a place, in spite of the huge teams and financial backing of our competitors.”

“When I look around at other high-technology start-ups, I think it is this focus on execution which has made the difference.”

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