Marcus Lim

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Oneflare secures $1 million investment to fund UK expansion

10:52AM | Friday, 24 October

Local services marketplace Oneflare has secured an additional $1 million in funding as the service begins preparations for international expansion.   It comes after a group of three principal investors, Les Szekely of Equity Venture Partners, Garry Visontay of the Sydney Seed Fund and Dr Jeffrey Tobias of The Strategy Group, invested $500,000 into the online marketplace in May of last year.   Founder Marcus Lim told Private Media that since then, Oneflare has seen rapid growth as consumers looking for local services increasingly turn away from traditional print classifieds.   “We’ve grown 300% over the past 12 months, as people leave print classifieds behind as they become obsolete. We add a lot of value for customers and unlike print classifieds we provide a clear return on investment for businesses,” Lim says.   “We’re a marketplace for local services, such as cleaners, electricians, plumbers, removalists, painters, accountants and gardeners. A consumer visits our site with a job that needs to be done, and then we package that info up and send it to local service providers.   “The consumer gets several quotes and chooses the most suitable provider for them. Then when the job’s done, the consumer can provide feedback which we pass on to the service provider.   Since launching in 2011, the service has grown to 50,000 businesses registered in over 200 categories with almost 500,000 visitors per month.   Seeing the rapid rate of growth, Lim says Oneflare’s three principal investors have poured an additional $1 million into the business, bringing the total amount raised to $1.5 million.   “The three main things we’re looking at funding is international expansion, hiring more staff and scaling our sales and marketing team,” he says.   In terms of international expansion, Lim expects Oneflare to launch in the UK within the next 12 months.   “We’ve identified the UK as the biggest opportunity for us at the moment. It has a market three times the size of Australia’s, and it’s also similar in terms of language and how trades and services are handled,” he says.   “For the past three-and-a-half years, we’ve refined our user acquisition offering. Past of what we’re looking at is that we can scale across countries. So we’ve set seven KPIs for our UK expansion, and once we’ve hit those, we’ll look at other overseas markets.”   “The US is crowded marketplace and many of our counterparts are secure in their positions. New Zealand is geographically the closest market to Australia, but online, that’s not really a relevant consideration.   “The UK has two times the market size of Canada, so the highest yield in terms of reward for effort.”   Aside from its international plans, it also wants to grow its share of the local market.   “We had a very lean operation and have been ramping up recently. We’ve had five hires in the past month,” he says.   “We want to become the most trusted source for high quality local services in Australia.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Revealed: the 50 top performing industries for home-based businesses this quarter

10:47AM | Tuesday, 29 October

Removalists, handyman services and builders are among the fastest growing home-based businesses this year, with newly released data showing micro and small businesses in these sectors surging ahead in the third quarter of 2013.   The report was compiled from over 35,000 job requests made through online home-based business marketplace Oneflare.   The fastest growing industry was the building trade, with requests for builders, concreters, plasterers and glaziers, booming by 360%.   Removalist companies took out the top spot for most job requests, with 40% growth since quarter two.   Requests also increased for carpet cleaners (44.9%), plumbers (21.65%), handymen (102.78%) and gardeners (42.51%).   One of the biggest demand drops was for financial services, such as accountants and bookkeepers, which saw a drop of 175% after the end of the financial year rush. Demand also dropped for cleaners by 27.5%, but it’s still the second most sought after industry.   Oneflare co-founder and chief executive Marcus Lim told StartupSmart the major challenge for home-based businesses was following up leads and closing sales.   “The particular challenge for home-based micro businesses is how they actually sell themselves. Many are excellent at what they do, but they may not be the best sales people and that’s where they can fall short,” Lim says.   A start-up themselves, Oneflare sends leads to small businesses, who then bid for the jobs.   Lim says the key to competing in a field of similar businesses with a minimal marketing budget is to focus on building trust.   “Communication is really key. Focus on setting and meeting their expectations, especially around price, when and how the job will get done,” Lim says, adding businesses with a strong online presence stand out.   “Building an online reputation with reviews and testimonials so potential customers can check you out easily is important.”

Oneflare secures funding in readiness for next local services evolution

7:06AM | Thursday, 4 July

Online marketplace for home and local services oneflare has received $500,000 from angel investors in Sydney to continue to develop its online platform for local small businesses.   Oneflare allows customers to search for local services such as tradespeople, fitness professionals and lifestyle appointments and converts these into leads which are shared with registered businesses.   More than 130,000 people visit the site each month looking for services. More than $16 million worth of jobs have been requested through the service since it launched in 2011.   Founder Marcus Lim told StartupSmart the funding will be used to develop its platform and service to the next stage.   “We’re seeing a complete evolution of the local services industry. It used to be about who advertised the best in the Yellow Pages, but now it’s where we currently are, in online networks that generate leads for businesses, but the customers still go through the idea of the marketplace,” Lim says.   He says the funding will enable them to launch their rebranded iPhone app and update the website even further.   “We want to make it to the evolution where customers can book services online, just like they book flights, by the end of this year,” Lim says.   He says the business is ready to push forwards now it has achieved critical mass of over 30,000 businesses in 250 service categories and customers Australia-wide.   “It was a bit of the chicken and egg problem. Getting the businesses on board first was the easiest part. We weren’t charging or providing them anything other than a listing and potential leads so that made convincing them easier.”   The service now works on a subscription model paid by businesses.   Lim says he employed vigorous SEM and SEO strategy to acquire customers. This also included a significant rebranding in early 2012, to re-craft the “Pick a Quote” brand to allow them to scale.   “When we started, the company was very focused on trades and services but what we realised was that limits our potential to feature local services in Australia. Quotes aren’t really synonymous with industries like pet grooming or health and fitness industry, so if we wanted to expand, we needed to change it,” Lim says.   Lim says the rebrand and raising capital have been the biggest issues for the company, now 12-people strong, to navigate.   “Friends and family have limited resources but getting investors and angels on board is really hard when you’re just building traction. I found it was make-or-break for us, and it’s great to have these new funds to develop further,” Lim says.

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