"Want to Hire a Kid Down the Street to do Yard Work? ToDoolie Can Help"

Xconomy

March 29th, 2018

By: Sarah Schmid Stevenson

It used to be fairly simple to hire neighborhood kids to help move heavy objects or perform other household chores for a small fee. I’m not sure if the Internet and video games are to blame, or a general degradation of American civil discourse is the reason, but it seems a lot harder to connect these days.

Or at least it was, until services like Detroit’s ToDoolie started popping up. The company, co-founded last year by Wayne State University students Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Romo-Puerta, and Armando Arteaga, is a “commission-free platform connecting students with homeowners,” Rodriguez says. “We’re a facilitator, not a provider.”

Rodriguez says ToDoolie differs from similar sites, such as TaskRabbit, by focusing on a younger group of students (ages 16 to 24 instead of TaskRabbit’s 21+) and by not automatically taking a cut of the fee paid to students by homeowners. Instead, Rodriguez says his company makes its money when homeowners opt to pay the students with a credit card via ToDoolie’s platform.

If the student wants the money that day, she pays ToDoolie a 25-cent transaction fee. (It’s free if the student chooses to wait a few days for the bank to process the transaction. ToDoolie can also mail checks to people without bank accounts for a small fee.) In Austin, TX, where ToDoolie has a soft launch planned in June, the company is testing a new model where customers will pay a $5 booking fee.

Rodriguez says ToDoolie vets students by requiring a school-affiliated email to sign up for the platform, and the company offers a more thorough background check if the student is willing to pay for it. “Most of the time, it’s kids from the homeowner’s neighborhood,” who that they’re already familiar with, he adds. ToDoolie also makes sure the homeowners aren’t listed on the sex offender registry.

Rodriguez says ToDoolie was born out of personal need. He and his family moved from Chile to Grosse Pointe, MI, when he was in middle school. “I noticed there was a big market [for students-for-hire] in Grosse Pointe. I learned students still knock on doors, but they also do it through technology and word of mouth.”

By the time Rodriguez was in college pursuing a biomedical engineering degree, he needed money to help pay his tuition. “School was very time consuming, so there was no time for a job,” he recalls. “I started knocking on doors in the neighborhood and offering to work. It was great, because I could set my own schedule and charge more than minimum wage.” He ended up graduating without any tuition debt.

“We want every student to graduate without debt. Everyone should have access to financial security,” he says, calling it a basic human right. With the U.S. student loan debt now pegged at $1.3 trillion,, he feels there are far too many of his fellow college graduates taking staff jobs they don’t like simply because they need the money.  “When you have to quickly find a job, it inhibits entrepreneurship. I want people to have more freedom.”

All three ToDoolie co-founders are pursuing graduate degrees at WSU while they continue to build their company, which they have self-funded so far. Although homeowners and students currently connect through ToDoolie’s website, an app is in the works. The company also plans to expand service to Canton and Northville, MI, later this year.

Link to article: https://www.xconomy.com/detroit-ann-arbor/2018/03/29/want-to-hire-a-kid-down-the-street-to-do-yard-work-todoolie-can-help/

"Student-Led Detroit Startup Makes Semifinals at Student Startup Madness"

Michipreneur

January 30th, 2018

By: Kavya Davuluri

Sergio Rodriguez and Jose Romo-Puerta, two friends from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, had similar experiences in doing odd jobs around their neighborhoods to pay their ways through college, with Rodriguez pursuing a masters in biomedical engineering and Romo-Puerta seeking a bachelors in business at Wayne State University. They had found numerous challenges in keeping track of their own work and decided to create an app that would enable casual workers, small businesses, and homeowners to create invoices, find local jobs/workers through mutual connections, access geolocation, and receive text updates. Of course, their idea did not begin with such clarity.

ToDoolie was first introduced to the world as ClockIt, a simple app that was meant to solely allow clocking in and invoice generation features at the pitch competition for the student entrepreneurship organization, OptimizeWayne in April of 2017. After receiving $2000, ToDoolie was registered as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) on May 16, 2017, beginning their official startup process.

After registering their company, the students also applied and received admission into the DTX Launch program housed at the Detroit nonprofit TechTown, along with Soheeb Wains, who joined the team as CFO. DTX Launch aims to help student entrepreneurs launch their tech companies, for which ToDoolie made a perfect candidate. While in the program, the co-founders began to conduct extensive customer discovery research, thereby understanding what they had to do to make themselves unique from their competition, which ranges from the local QuickHelp to the national Task Rabbit. In interviewing suburban homeowners, their target audience, the founders quickly realized that they needed to prototype their idea to see if it was suitable to their customers’ needs and own expectations for scalability.

During a pilot program, the three students booked 270 hours of high school student labor in the Grosse Pointe community by charging homeowners $15 per hour but taking a $3 commission, generating $4,000 in revenue and finding that 35% of their customers were using them on a weekly basis. This gave them the traction they needed to apply to the programs gBetaStartup Boost Detroit, and the Wayne State University STEAM Challenge. While waiting to hear about their acceptance statuses, the team proceeded to present their work at the DTX Showcase and the Pitch313 competition, which solidified their belief in their value proposition.

Thus, when rejected by gBeta and the STEAM Challenge, the cofounders were at a loss, wondering where the future of their company lied when they failed in spite of relative success over their summer pilot program, which they had completed at this time. However, as the homeowners they serviced continued to call in asking for more ToDooers for odd jobs and their inboxes dinged with an acceptance into Startup Boost, they renewed their confidence and persistence.

While in Startup Boost, the team found something that they’d never felt before: immense support within a network of mentors who used all their contacts to help these startups. In addition to learning market sizing, pitching, and understanding their position in the gig industry, the team faced their biggest challenges yet: the loss of their CFO, the pressures of time management, and the confusion of what their mission was. While in DTX, the team thought that they were going to solely be a student-oriented marketplace, but, after seeing their competition and their potential, the team realized that they could do something unique, but it would require abandoning their original idea. The team realized that if they could provide freemium services—that is, giving some services for free, like invoicing, and some at a low-cost, like geolocation and text updates—they’d be unique compared to their competition, especially because this would allow them to divert from their competitors in that they would no longer have to take a commission.

With this new idea in hand, the team pitched at Accelerate Michigan. And although they did not win any funding, Sergio and Jose had grown since their losses of gBeta and STEAM Challenge acceptances: they realized that even failures were successful learning experiences. So, they continued to persist, creating an online MVP with the help of a Startup Boost mentor’s contact, Darren Riley, that enabled them to continue their pilot program on a need by need basis.

Since the launch of their first MVP, the team also recruited their own CTO, Armando Arteaga, who has begun to code their second MVP with the intention of including more of the original features they’d envisioned. Before the second MVP launches in March of 2018, however, the team is preparing for their second pilot program, which will launch on February 1, 2018, utilizing their first MVP to optimize their original pilot model, which they determined to be successful but unscalable. In this Pilot 2.0, the group is aiming to determine how they can beat out their competitors by cracking the code to scale the business beyond a small community and the limited efficiency it currently exists within.

In addition to working hard for the launch of their second prototype, the team also has been celebrating their advancement to the semi-final 32 teams in the Student Startup Madness tournament, a national competition for digital startups from college students. Student Startup Madness has had over 192 teams vie to compete in the program in the last three years alone. The prestigiously selective program narrows the competition down from 64 teams to 32 before announcing the final “Entrepreneurial Eight” who will get to oppose each other in the finals at the South by Southwest Interactive in March in Austin, Texas. ToDoolie has successfully passed through to the semifinal round and the team is hopeful that they’ll proceed to the final round to get a shot at this astounding opportunity to pitch their company, network with individuals that can help their LLC thrive, and, of course, win the competition for ToDoolie.

ToDoolie has grown exponentially in the months that have passed since that first pitch for OptimizeWayne, but their goals for the next six months are just as grand. They aim to launch a Kickstarter campaign (including a launch party) for $20,000 before beginning their seed round where they anticipate they’ll seek up to $200,000. Afterwards, they intend to launch their ToDoolie beta, or their MVP 3.0 where they want to have over 1000 profiles. And finally, while awaiting their acceptance to the TechStars program in Texas, the team has the goal of launching their final application on both iOS and Android in July of 2018.

Although their success is not for certain, Rodriguez, Romo-Puerta, and Arteaga are eager to face the risks and continue to grow their company, being unique enough with their freemium model to beat out their other gig industry competitors like Task Rabbit as they work to provide their customers the tools to manage their own work.

Link to article: http://www.michipreneur.com/student-led-detroit-startup-makes-semifinals-at-student-startup-madness/

"Kicking It Up a Notch"

Grosse Pointe News

March 14, 2018

By: Jody McVeigh

ToDoolie, an online platform helping people get through their to-do lists by pairing them with student laborers, started as a summer pilot program.

The idea was to allow students a chance to earn money for college by helping neighbors with odd jobs. The pilot went well — during summer months, students performed 270 hours of yard work, cleaning, errands and other duties for $15 an hour, per student. A study showed 35 percent of customers used the service weekly.

However, profits weren’t what they’d hoped.

Now co-founders Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Romo-Puerta and Armando Arteaga have revamped the program by creating an app that enables casual workers, small businesses and homeowners to create invoices, find local workers through mutual connections, send text alerts and more.

ToDoolie gives community members easy time-tracking and invoicing tools, as well as gives homeowners and employers a self-curated labor pool to assist with everyday projects.

Money currently is being raised to fund the startup.

Meanwhile, the team has made it to the semi-final 32 teams in the Student Startup Madness tournament, a national competition for digital startups from college students.

A few days remain on its live Kickstarter page — kck.st/2IlTRd1 — where the team hopes to reach $20,000 to bring its new project to fruition.

“There are not a lot of startups out of Grosse Pointe,” said Rodriguez, who attended Pierce Middle School and Grosse Pointe South High School before heading to Wayne State University. “We’ve launched a business in Grosse Pointe with Grosse Pointe kids.”

— Jody McVeigh

Link to article: https://www.grossepointenews.com/articles/kicking-it-up-a-notch/

"Wayne State Grad Starts Michigan-Based Company"

The South End

Mar 29, 2018

By: Slone Terranella

Jose Romo-Puerta, a third-year student at Wayne State, did not expect a meeting with his friend, Sergio Rodrigues, to lead him to become the chief marketing officer of their own company.

But it did.

At 27 years-old, Romo-Puerta – a business administration major – is the Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of ToDoolie.

ToDoolie is an employment agency that aims to connect students with employers who need everyday tasks done around their house or community.

For example, if somebody needs their house cleaned or leaves raked, they can post an ad on ToDoolie and students can pick up the task. Students set their own desired hourly wage, making ToDoolie commission free. Student users can also design their own profiles to appeal to potential employers.

Romo-Puerta said he remembers the frustration and difficulty of looking for a job when he was younger, due to his lack of experience. He said ToDoolie helps solve this issue by directly connecting students with employers rather than acting as a middleman for employment.

 Employers can post a variety of jobs on ToDoolie, and can self-curate their desired labor, providing plenty of opportunities for students and allowing them the chance to build their resumes, said Romo-Puerta.

Currently, ToDoolie is in the prototype stage, which means giving the company a test run in Detroit and Grosse Pointe. Romo-Puerta said the co-founders of ToDoolie plan to expand their areas of service, but want to ensure their company will fit the market before fully launching.

Before ToDoolie was established, Romo-Puerta said he faced his own personal difficulties.

“I had no ambition or passion for anything. I was floating through school feeling empty with what I was doing with my life,” said Romo-Puerta.  

Romo-Puerta said Rodriguez told him about ToDoolie over lunch last May.

Rodriguez had won $2,000 from OptimizeWayne – a competition organized by WSU that helps students start up their business ideas – and was ready to get ToDoolie running.

When Rodriguez asked Romo-Puerta to be on the team, Romo-Puerta admits he was hesitant. He said he felt like he had nothing to offer because of his inexperience.

After telling Rodriguez he wouldn’t be the right fit for the position, Rodriguez insisted that he was and that he should join. Romo-Puerta said he felt inspired by Rodriguez's words and accepted the position of CMO and co-founder.   

Romo-Puerta said he is grateful to get the opportunity to become his own boss, as it is something he'd always wanted to achieve.

“I want to create. I want to have the freedom to do what I want,” said Romo-Puerta, as he sat in his TechTown office.“Being my own boss gives me the ability to work with my team and create a culture [of creating].”

Link to article: 

https://www.thesouthend.wayne.edu/features/article_f1370e86-32d5-11e8-a619-4bdcb1638fe5.html