Montreal-based collaborative consumption platform Kutoto has released an iPhone app connecting Canadians short on time and in need of quick services with a network of pre-approved individuals.
The startup has dubbed themselves “Canada’s first personalized assistance platform and marketplace,” targeting Toronto and Montreal as their initial communities.
The collaborative consumption space, or the “sharing economy,” is a large one with sites like Airbnb, TaskRabbit and Zaarly having gained success. People are either too busy or they cannot complete a task and with a few taps someone in their community can do it for a fair price.
“Errands, house hold chores, personal training and anything in between, be it walk my dog or fix my plumbing problem, any problem you have can be outsourced to your community through our mobile product,” cofounder Anton Yushin told Techvibes. He calls Kutoto the “Siri, but for real life.”
Yushin and cofounder Julien Cassis met at McGill University while they were both enrolled in computer engineering. For their thesis project the pair developed a platform for the distributed human computing problem, outsourcing any type of computer-related problem that a computer couldn’t quickly solve (such as image recognition). While the potential was huge, Yushin said there was no commercial value for day-to-day users.
“We saw there was this huge void of not solving computer problems so much, but solving literally day-to-day problems,” said Yushin. “Solving and outsourcing a problem like that became a clear and apparent way for us to commercialize a similar idea that we built at school, except now at a much more people-to-people level.”
The company was bootstrapped for most of 2012 until October when they closed a private equity round worth $350,000. Over 2,500 people have downloaded the app over the past few weeks but Yushin, Cassis and a third cofounder, Abdullah Al- Sweidi want 100,000 registered users by the end of 2013.
Max Rogan said that based on the growth of the collaborative consumption space there is real moneymaking potential. The partner at McCarthy Tétrault law firm has worked with Yushin for years and commented that everyone at the firm was excited to use the app. Kutoto needs to be quick though.
“I think you need to have a certain amount of scale and that’s why it’s important to be the first mover,” said Rogan. “Its unlikely that there’s going to be ten of these companies in Toronto and Montreal, so getting a lot of people signed up early is important.”
User engagement is the biggest issue on their minds lately and Yushin thinks they can hit their goals based on differentiating factors.
Privacy and security are core in the marketplace and Kutoto uses a three-step process, reviewing its service providers to ensure a user experience that is safe and reliable. “Building a startup is difficult let alone building a marketplace startup, so the most important thing for us is trust, reliability and security,” said Yushin. “In our model every single provider that we bring on board is actually a verified provider.”
Once a job is completed, users have the ability to instantly rate the service provider. Feedback from customers directly affects the service provider’s Trust Rating, creating an incentive for consistent service. As well, in-app payments are directly integrated in the platform so users can easily pay for services.
To actually test the service and authentically feel what it’s like as a user is important and Yushin’s favourite memory attests to this. The platform’s first task came from an elderly woman in Montreal who needed snow removal following a snowstorm. Yushin and Cassis answered the call and made a cool $35 in ten minutes.
“We were very happy with the fact that such a wide, broad demographic could use our product,” he said. “It was very satisfying in seeing that actually getting completed that way.”