Companies from Angie’s List to Yelp to HomeAdvisor have tried over the past decade to crack the U.S. market for plumbing, gardening, and other local services by developing an online database for homeowners looking for reliable referrals. There have been limited successes but no breakout leader, partly because many of the nation’s tens of millions of local small business owners spend relatively little time on the Web and run their businesses the old-fashioned way, with a pen and pocket calendar.
Now there’s a new entrant in this crowded field, Thumbtack. The San Francisco startup has operated quietly for four years, building a database of more than 250,000 service professionals who can pay the company fees for referrals. They include home maintenance workers and a wider range of occupations, from wedding officiants to yoga instructors. Thumbtack planned to announce on June 13 that it has raised $12.5 million from a group of investors, led by Sequoia Capital, that are chasing the chance to build the next great online e-commerce hub. “The long-term vision is to build the Amazon for services,” says Marco Zappacosta, Thumbtack’s 27-year-old chief executive officer. “We want to build the kind of brand that the Yellow Pages had for decades.”