Startups #nofilter sits down with Daniel Miller, Founder & CEO of Shovler – The world’s first snow removal app. Miller talks about the origin of the idea, why he’s starting with New York City, and how he plans to connect snow shovelers with people who need them.
1. Where did the idea for the app come from?
I basically thought of the idea when I had a car in New York City a few years ago. I just remember thinking that shoveling snow is worse than having a root canal and I wish I could find someone to do it for me. The idea for the app is pretty basic though. We are simply industrializing the underground economy of snow shoveling.
2. Is there an inherent safety issue with strangers handling cash with each other? Are you able to ensure the safeness of each transaction? What if a shoveler breaks his arm while shoveling, or scratches a car?
There is already a well-established industry of hiring snow shovelers. Most people just hire the first person that knocks on their door. Shoveling snow is basically a commodity business that most healthy people can do without any issues. There is always the risk that someone can end up scratching a car, but that is the same risk you would take if you had hired someone that knocked on your door. Shovler doesn’t take any responsibility for damage to property as we are more of a platform like Craigslist than an Uber.
3. How many snow shovlers do you currently have registered on the app?
We currently have 2500 snow shovelers registered with the vast majority in the New York City area, as well as an increasing national presence. We have already completed orders in 7 states with many more on the way!
4. How does the pricing work?
We offer 3 types of jobs:
Each job price is set daily and is based on the amount of snowfall accumulation in the area.
We really tried to simplify the pricing to make it as easy as possible to hire a snow shoveler.
Each job pricing is set on a one size fits all. As long as your home has a driveway that is smaller than a 2 car garage that fits 3 cars in length and an average walkway and sidewalk you can use the fixed price that is offered on the app. All cars have the same price for snow removal and businesses are based on square footage.
5. Snow shoveling is a very seasonal business. Any plans to branch out into lawn care or other services?
We believe people like to have designated apps for specific services and that to do something well you have to have a laser focus. Shovler is focused exclusively on snow removal and has no plans to expand into other domains.
6. What are you most excited about right now with Shovler?
Just launching this winter is super exciting! The vision is to have Shovler be the go-to app for hiring snow shovelers in North America, but right now we are focused on having a good launch in New York City. It is definitely exciting to see the amount of users downloading and registering for the app increase every day.
7. There are other competitors on the app store that offer plows on demand. Why are you focused on snow shovelers?
Great question! There are several apps out that offer “on-demand” snow plows, but really most of these plows come several hours later. The problem is that there just aren’t enough plows available in areas that don’t get that much snow. Plows are definitely quicker than people shoveling snow but there are many more available people around that can arrive really on-demand. I think if you compare the times for how long it takes for a snow plow to clear out a home job versus a snow shoveler that the snow shoveler will almost always win unless you happen to get lucky and there is a snow plow down the block.
Snow shovelers also offer lots of other benefits relative to plows for example the ability to remove snow from your car parked on a city street. Many plow services also don’t remove snow from your sidewalk or walkway and if you have a car parked in your driveway they won’t do past that area.
Plows also offer a much greater risk of damaging your driveway.
8. Do you plan to target apartment buildings in Manhattan? Surely each building has a super or doorman who will handle the snow shoveling.
I don’t think those are going to be our prime users. Shovler is definitely great for property owners that have vacant properties that they risked receiving fines for if they don’t shovel. We do think that small businesses such as coffee shops and clothing stores could benefit from using the app.
9. What about suburban areas. How do you plan to reach housewives and others who might normally wait for local kids to knock on their doors to shovel? How will they hear about Shovler?
That is definitely where the challenge lies. Hopefully enough of them read Startup #nofilter?
Seriously though, we are trying to focus on New York City this season and then build from there. There are lots of areas throughout New York City such as in Brooklyn and Queens that have driveways and sidewalks that they need shoveled. We are going to have a large social media campaign as we get more snow and rely on word of mouth and press to share their excitement about the app once they realize what a game changer it is.
10. You recently released an animated video explaining what Shovler does? Why did you choose to go with animals versus people?
We originally started the project assuming we would use animated people like every other startup video does, but we decided that it would be a little more interesting if we tried using cartoon animals instead. We also opted for an animaton style that is a little cruder just so that we could look a little more different than every other boring startup explainer video out there.
11. For fun: What website do you go to when your internet isn’t working?
I can’t access websites when my internet isn’t working…
12. For fun: Any advice for Startup #nofilter?
Keep on doing what you’re doing. I really enjoy reading the interviews you have on the site.
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