Marcela

Marcela Sapone

CEO & Co-founder at HelloAlfred

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON May 03, 2016

Discussion

Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
Hi - I'm Marcela Sapone, Co-Founder & CEO of Hello Alfred. Since winning TechCrunch Disrupt SF we've been on a rollercoaster building a company that is pioneering the next wave of the sharing economy. We make help accessible and automate your life. I'm a first-time entrepreneur and will probably be too honest about what that experience is like. I'm honored to be here -- ask me anything!
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
How would you prevent your employees and customers from entering into direct employment arrangements and thereby cutting out the 'middleman' Hello Alfred?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@tomstocklein Great question. We were worried about this in the beginning too. Service platforms like Handy, HomeJoy, Care.com and Taskrabbit experience this challenge. However, what we've found is that we are more like Uber in this regard. When is the last time you asked for a driver's personal number to get a pickup off the platform? Probably never right? Why? Probably because Uber insures the ride, offers customer service when things go wrong and is your advocate. The same is true for the driver - they access benefits that only the scale of Uber can provide vs. individual customers can give. This is true for Hello Alfred as well.
How did you grow Alfreds costumer base in the first few months?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@sgfrid In the first few months we grew our customer base with dozens of experiments: offline postcards under people's doors, talking to people in Starbucks, reaching out to people on Craigslist and Facebook. Anything that would teach us something about the need people had and the things that got them to make the very considered purchase of asking for help.
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@sgfrid Over time, your product is your best marketing. Your execution is your best sales channel. Word of mouth is how great products and services grow.
Tino Salmuth
Tino Salmuth@tino_salmuth · student, LMU
What were your first marketing activities? How did you make your first costumers "aware" of your service?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What lessons, if any, have you and your team learned from the collapse of HomeJoy?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@tomstocklein Thanks for the question Thomas. Many things - and I commend the HomeJoy team for putting a big idea out there. They were pioneers. It's not fun to "fail" - but you and everyone can learn from it. The entire on demand and sharing economy got a wake up call. I've seen so many great developments focusing on labor and quality and caring about the people that power the platform.
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@tomstocklein In the beginning, Hello Alfred had some trouble because people used to compare us to HomeJoy and didn't understand why we opted for W2 labor instead of 1099 contractors. They didn't understand why we were growing deliberately with unit economics that were positive instead of taking the 20,000 people who signed up off our waitlist and making the economics work later. I'm glad we took our tack. I believe you cannot scale things that are powered by people, without putting people at the center of your business. Reach is less important than quality. Great things grow slowly and then all at once. Take the time to do it right.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What's the strangest thing a customer has asked for on Hello Alfred?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@ems_hodge We have a lot of fun requests. Many of them include crazy fun wedding proposals. Hundreds of orchids, balloons, moving large objects. That or pets. We've been asked to find the blackest koi fish in NY and to take puppies up and down Manhattan ;)
Thomas Germond
Thomas Germond@thomasgermond
When HA is coming to France ?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@thomasgermond I went to high school in France, I would love to go back with Alfred. We have some cities to hit before we make it to the city of light. Let us know if you want to be involved ;)
Thomas Germond
Thomas Germond@thomasgermond
@mssapone Definitely. I'm bluff by the ambition of HA. I'll make a great GM in France ;-)
Zachariah Reiner
Zachariah Reiner@zsr5 · Product @Oculus
Who would you consider your core demographic and what are the biggest challenges coming up this year for Alfred?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@zsr5 our best customers are people who are busy - balancing a demanding career, being a parent, running their own business - and a little help goes a long way; another important factor we see in our happiest customers is there are two people who are managing life together and trying to make making work fair. Household Equality.
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@zsr5 Our biggest challenge this year will be deciding which highway to get on that supports our mission to have you Come Home Happy. We have some really exciting opportunities on the table.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Hello Alfred is currently available in NY, LA, SF and Boston. What are your expansion plans for additional cities in the US and other countries?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Based on your entrepreneurial journey so far, what's the best advice you have for other tech entrepreneurs looking to start up a company?
Your Alfreds use their own cars right? How do you handle parking and bad traffic within your system?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@sgfrid in certain neighborhoods yes. We've built predictive planning into our software. Each week our system is getting smarter. We also employ a lot of common sense ;) Don't drive on Marathon Monday in Boston! If it's raining take the local roads. More left turns than right (an old UPS trick)...
Asem Alsaadi
Asem Alsaadi@asemalsaadi_ · CEO, instaMek
@mssapone @sgfrid If Alferds use their own vehicle, does this not effect their employee status? Are they re-reimbursed for fuel, vehicle expenses, etc.. ?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@asemalsaadi_ @sgfrid They are employees!
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What have been the biggest challenges to setting up Hello Alfred? How did you overcome these?
How do you determine the length of an Alfred visit?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@sgfrid However long it takes to get things things done right. Some weeks it might be hours others it will be much less. It averages out across time and users though.
David Senra
David Senra@readbydavid
What are some books you have read that influenced your thinking?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@readbydavid I go on book binges and then have long periods of cutting out any reading I don't proactively seek out. I love this push vs pull concept from Tim Ferriss
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@readbydavid here are a few books that are important to how I think about the world: The Nature of Design, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for the why/aesthetics, Lunch with the FT to hear how great people think, Seven Strategy Questions & Management by Peter Drucker, The Power of Many by Meg Whitman, and EVERYTHING that Richard Feynman wrote or had written about him.
Hello Marcela, What is the best thing of helping people (With Hello Alfred)?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Marcela! What advice would you give to your 20 yr old self? personally? professionally?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@eriktorenberg Read as much, do as much, experience as much as possible. It's your job to do things that make you uncomfortable. That is how you gain wisdom. It is your job to use everything you do as a learning opportunity and to see how things are connected. That is how you build creativity. It is your job to learn and to study as much about the world as possible - life only gets busier and you always default to your most basic level of training. Professional & Personal.
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@eriktorenberg Seek out opportunities that expire both professionally and personally. Life is a second.
Snah Desai
Snah Desai@s_haverford · Operations Analyst, ServiceTitan
What was the toughest decision you had to make when first launching HelloAlfred
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@s_haverford the first hard choice we had to make about @HelloAlfred was where to do it. NY or SF?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@s_haverford After launching the business, the hardest decisions often come down to people. Who to hire and also letting people go when it doesn't work out. You need a very special team to achieve liftoff.
Paul P
Paul P@pavlos1944
Hi. How much effort did it take to take-off ? Did you have to get users one by one at the beginning ?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@pavlos1944 It's very easy to get your first customers; it's much harder to get the right customers.
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@pavlos1944 In the beginning you will have early adopters who like to trial new things. It takes a while before you start to crack the "right customer code". So yes you almost have to go 1 by 1 and get to know their names and what makes them tick in the very early days. Logan Green from Lyft used to say "we had to fight for every inch of growth in the beginning"
Isidoros
Isidoros@isiyfa · Status: Busy
I've noticed the website's design and the overall process is very nicely done! Smooth colors, nice graphics, well-done CSS, everything is so beautiful and attractive! Was it like that from day-1 or it was something that evolved with time? Did you find that customers increased when you paid more attention to the design part of the business or it's just something complementary to the whole brand/biz?
Marcela
Marcela@mssapone
@isiyfa We've always tried to have beautiful design that conveys a level of trust and attention to detail. It's important to me. That said, I made the first website, and the second, and the third. It took getting some funding before we could afford to really execute our vision for the brand with really talented people. And there is so much more to do!
Genevieve Jones
Genevieve Jones@genevievecjones
@mssapone Does HelloAlfred experience any payments challenges?
Is there one thing you have not imagined Hello Alfred to do?