A couple of years ago, EFynch CEO Teris Pantazes realized he needed help. But not much help, and not for long.
"I was hanging a TV in my own house," said Pantazes, who used to run his own construction company. "I needed help for, like, 10 minutes."
Pantazes considered something he'd observed from working around construction his entire life—that sometimes, professional crews have days where they have nothing to do and could end up being furloughed—and a new idea took hold: a freelance-style platform to connect homeowners who have repair needs with contractors who can help.
That's the basic idea behind EFynch, which allows homeowners to privately advertise work they need done around the house and allows contractors to bid on each job. But part of what sets EFynch apart from similar platforms is competitive bidding, Pantazes said.
Instead of users receiving several independent sales quotes, EFynch allows contractors to see the highest, lowest and average bid that's been offered for a job so they can tailor their offers accordingly. For example, a plumber who is preparing for a vacation may not charge an "emergency fee" if he sees an opportunity to fill down-time by cutting his normal rate for a guaranteed job, Pantazes said.
Users also have the tools to organize each project as if they were their own professional project managers with industry connections. Homeowners list their needs by the work that must be done, rather than the type of person they think they need to hire; this saves users time and money, and shows them all available options for completing a project.
"You can compare the availability and resumes of skill of a general handyman to a tradesperson. What if the plumber is new to the business but a handyman has completed a dozen similar jobs? The owner can find out if the options are available," Pantazes said. "Sometimes, customers aren't sure if they need a [licensed] plumber or handyman. We take the guess work out and simply present the solutions," he said.
Homeowners must post some pictures about the work that needs to be done and give their general area in which they live, but aren't required to share more if they don't want to. Contractors are only rated on the specific transactions in which they are involved, so a person's ratings can't be padded with recommendations from friends or other sources, Pantazes said.
EFynch charges a small fee for an Escrow and Payment system they offer—as low as 3 percent—to the contractors for using the platform, which provides security and safety to both parties. The company says this rate is much lower than the cut taken by other platforms, and there is no fee to homeowners for using EFynch.
The platform can also serve as a resource for realtors, who should feel safe recommending the app to their clients because EFynch has verified the licensing of certain contractors (known as "Fynchnest Members"). Over a dozen local realtors are currently testing this feature, Pantazes said.
As he developed the EFynch concept and researched what he needed to do to launch the app, Pantazes talked to as many people as possible about their home repair needs—particularly friends who had just bought houses. In early 2016, Charles Paul, an old friend who attended Washington College in Chestertown with Pantazes, came on board as a co-founder.
EFynch's website and app launched in October 2016, and the platform now has a community of about 3,000 members and has connected contractors to 1,300 jobs. The company is located at City Garage and is a member of the Betamore startup community.
Currently, the company is focusing on expanding its services by providing more information and resources for homebuyers as well as improving its algorithm that provides recommendations; one goal is to take into account how one contractor might be rated by different homeowners with different budgets or specialized requirements.
Pantazes believes every homeowner or buyer can use EFynch to fully understand who they are hiring and make an educated decision—rather than choosing the first person to come along or picking at random from a list of "recommended' pros.
"You should get a sense of how someone fits into your price range and the level of service and skill that person provides. This helps you hire the best person within your budget or, for some, find a lower price if the work is something simple," Pantazes said.