Can Thumbtack evolve service listings?

Winning the people's choice at the Juice Pitcher, Thumbtack got treated to its own live Vator Box

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
October 7, 2009
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Last night, 10 seed and early stage founders met in the heart of Silicon Valley for Juice Pitcher, an event hosted by The Funded and for founders to pitch their startups to an audience of other founders, press, and investors.

Once the 10 founders - who were chosen mainly based on peer voting among 130-plus companies - had their say, the night ended with Juice Box, a live version of Vator Box. Regular hosts of Vator Box, Bambi Francisco, CEO and founder of, and Ezra Roizen, digital media investment banker, sat alongside The Funded founding member Adeo Ressi to critique the gold-winning early stage startup, Thumbtack, in a special Vator Box episode, called Juice Box.

Thumbtack is basically building an online marketplace for local services. According to CEO Marco Zappacosta, "right now you can go online and buy any product you can think of, but not any service." With Thumbtack, service providers can use the site to list their services, collect new clients, and manage multiple jobs. Zappacosta says the site's revenue model is transactional so that they are "facilitating the buying and selling of services."

Here are some highlights:

--Remarkably, even though Zappacosta was given 90 seconds for his pitch, he kept it just under a minute. Despite that, the pitch was clear, comprehensive, and interesting.

--All three judges agreed that Thumbtack has an excellent user interface. Adeo joked that he was so distracted by the sleek UI that he forgot that Zappacosta was speaking.

--Though Adeo didn't think Zappacosta had the best pitch, he noted that Thumbtack still won first place by filling a very real demand in today's market.

--Bambi, having tested out the system and successfully found a piano teacher, thinks that Thumbtack has a pretty good shot at being the next stage in the evolution from Citysearch to Yelp. Citysearch introduced listings, Yelp popularized user-based reviews, and now Thumbtack is "trying to get to the end of that transaction" so that users can actually book the service. This last step is crucial to what makes Thumbtack's service unique and, in the long run, is the fundamental idea the company's business model rests on.

--One recommendation offered by Ezra was for the company to highlight one particular area in which to focus the company's energy and to prove that their service really works and works well. Bambi concurred, adding that one of Thumbtack's biggest challenges will be to attain a "critical mass" of local service providers in one particular region so that clients start flocking to the service. (Zappacosta added at the end that Thumbtack indeed has its primary sights set on San Francisco, though the service is available nationwide.)

Be sure to watch the video, which goes up this Monday, for the full episode.

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