Hello Alfred announced the close of a B round of funding yesterday that brought in investment from professional investment houses like Divco West, Invesco and Spark Capital. Google discribes the company as an “American maid service company” for luxury properties but the bigtime investors in their cap table is a giveaway that there is a lot more than meets the eye.
Hello Alfred co-founder Marcela Sapone spoke at our Los Angeles multifamily event last year and she talked about how changing cultural preferences are putting a premium on authentic experiences. She explained that, “modern renters want to feel like the place they live is unique, that it is connected to the local neighborhood. While I do recommend a coffee shop, I might not get a popular brand like Starbucks, I would get a local purveyor that feels very exclusive and cool.”
The problem is that uniqueness is hard to scale. It takes real thought, a personal touch and, of course, great data about the target market. It is that data that will likely turn Hello Alfred into a conduit for personal, localized services that very soon might not resemble the laundry and chore service company that it gets pegged as. While I was not able to find the link through their website this WSJ article says that the company has recently released a line of products that it can offer as options for its clients, all of which were curated using feedback from the needs of the residents that they serve.
Rather than compete with the cold efficiency of big tech companies that are automating humans out of the retail process, Hello Alfred has put a premium on having happy employees be the glue that binds the user experience. They made headlines last year while Uber was getting a lot of negative sentiment for their reliance on using part-time, 1099ed workers, opting instead to hire their army of assistants as W-2ed employees.
As our priorities change, so do our spending patterns. We have already seen more and more shoppers place a premium on sustainable food, socially responsible brands and locally sourced products. That same shift might also take place in our perception of our service providers (and with the recent paradigm shift in the property industry, most would say that space falls squarely in the service category now). If we start to see people willing to spend their money on curated services that help create a community and supports the workers that provide it, then Hello Alfred might soon become a lot more than what we see today.