App of the Week: Thumbtack

How Thumbtack Plans To Become The Amazon For Home Services

Thumbtack’s Instant Match makes finding a plumber, home cleaner, or landscaper on the service much faster.

By Emily Price of fastcompany.com

Thumbtack started eight years ago with one goal in mind: to become an Amazon of sorts for home services like plumbers, home inspectors, and house cleaners. Today it moves a little bit closer to that goal with the launch of Instant Match on the service, a new feature that instantly connects customers with service providers who are available to work.

“When you think about it, there are very few things at this point you have to work hard to buy. The internet has made them dramatically more accessible and more convenient and yet the entire local services category, not just plumbers, not just home services, remains an exception to that broad trend,” says Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta.

He thinks that hiring someone to perform a service in your home should be as easy as ordering a book online.

“Over the last eight years, we’ve made an immense amount of progress toward that dream. We’ve helped more than 25 million Americans find pros and have sent cumulatively billions of dollars to our pros from these customers,” he says.

While Zappacosta feels like the company has made great strides toward its goal of becoming an Amazon of home services, he notes that the company still has a bit further to go.

“The reality is if you sort of take me at my word and say we want to make hiring a plumber as easy as buying a book, we have not yet accomplished that,” he says. “But today we’re going to take a big step in that direction.”

The way things used to work on Thumbtack, you would make a request for a plumber, for instance, who would come and unclog your shower drain. That request would get sent to all the available plumbers in your zip code, who would then respond to your request with their price quotes. You’d look through all those bids, and then make your selection.

That made it dramatically easier than looking through a directory and calling all those plumbers one by one, but it also wasn’t perfect.

“The reality is you still had to wait to get options, and nobody wants to wait. We all want things instantly,” Zappacosta says.
With the company’s new Instant Match feature, your wait time is cut down from hours to seconds.

The process starts with the Thumbtack app as a brief 5- to 15-question interview. If you’re looking for a house cleaner, for instance, interview questions might entail asking you how big your home is, how many bedrooms need to be cleaned, and if you have pets.

Once you’re done answering questions, Thumbtack will instantly return a handful of automated quotes from professionals in your area it knows are available to do the job. You can look at all of them, read reviews, and decide which one best fits your needs.

When you find a pro you like, you can message them within the app to set up an appointment for the service.

“Really what Thumbtack is doing is interviewing and sort of replacing the conversation that you used to have to have with each and every individual pro to basically tell them ‘Hey, here’s what I need. Can you do it.? And if so how much are you going to charge,’” says Zappacosta.

The instant quote saves plenty of time–previously, a pro would have to look over the survey and decide how much to quote you.

Now, It’s instant due to some inputs that Pro has already put in. A housekeeper, for instance, can say they’re available to work 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, and charge $100 for a 1-bedroom apartment, $150 for a 2-bedroom apartment, and $300 for a 3-bedroom. When I put in my request for my two-bedroom apartment to be cleaned on Thursday, I’ll get their quote seconds later, saying it can be done for $150. If I want my cleaning on Friday, then that person won’t be part of my returned quotes since they’re not available.

It streamlines the whole process by eliminating the need to find out if someone is available or how much they’ll charge for your specific job.

It’s also good for professionals. When they set those rates, Thumbtack uses its database of historic prices that’s it’s collected over the past eight years to let them know the average cost for that service in that zip code. For instance, if most housekeepers charge $250 for a 2-bedroom, then the person who is charging $150 knows they can probably charge a little more. If the average cost is $75, then they can know they’re overcharging a bit based on the norm, and that’s probably why they’re not getting much business.

“We can get you quotes that are as intentful, as specific, as the pros doing it themselves but programmatically, Zappacosta says.

“This is admittedly straightforward. But this represents I think the biggest step that the service sector has taken in basically its entire existence. It’s about moving it from the 20th century to the 21st century.”

Going back to that Amazon example, he thinks that one of the biggest reasons Amazon is so successful is because you can go to the site and instantly see everything that is available, read reviews, and take action to buy the item you want.

The way they’re able to do that is because they have data on what’s in the warehouse ready to be shipped. In a way, having professionals fill out their availability and pricing within Thumbtack gives it the same power.

Asking for quotes from professionals is free for everyone involved. When you as a customer ask for more information or contact one of the professionals, then that professional is charged for the interaction, regardless of whether or not you ultimately choose them for the job.

It’s a process somewhat like Google AdWords. A plumber, for instance, can say he’s willing to spend $100 a week on getting new customers. The pricing for how much an interaction costs changes a bit depending on how expensive the service is and how many other professionals are on the platform doing the same thing. A house cleaner might pay $12 for a connection, but that might lead to a $200 job every single week.

That’s a bit of a difference from Thumbtack’s previous model, in which it charged professionals each time they gave a quote to a customer. Now the charge happens a little further down the pipeline, so they have a greater chance of success. It’s also a bit cheaper, something Zappacosta says Thumbtack has done because it thinks Instant Match is better, and it wants to incentivize pros to come over.

Currently, Thumbtack has a supply problem. There’s more demand for services on the platform than it’s able to fill. The hope is that Instant Match will help move the process along faster, and make it easier for professionals to find work, and customers to find them. It also makes it so that house cleaner, plumber, or landscaper can focus on what they do best, without having to figure out marketing in the process.

Thumbtack has been trying out Instant Match with roughly 7,600 of the professionals currently on its platform. Tuesday’s announcement opens that program up to all of the professionals using the service in 11 categories nationallly; 65 categories are available in at least certain markets, with more on their way.

“Phase one is all about the supply side, enabling this sort of instant match product by building out this whole inventory system, sort of like the equivalent of our fulfillment center,” Zappacosta says. He says that Phase two, which will likely be announced next year, will take things a step further and make them every more streamlined, allowing you to make that purchase even faster.

“There’s no magic in terms of what customers want. They want things instantly. They want to see prices, they want to see reviews, and they want to take action with confidence. We’re going to do that for the whole service sector.”

Download Thumbtack for iOS here.

Download Thumbtack for Android here.

What do you think of Thumbtack and Apps like it? Tell us in the comments below!

App of the Week: Acorns

 

By Investmentzen.com

Summary

If you have never heard of Acorns, that is about to change. To save you time from scouring the web for quality Acorns reviews, we went ahead and put together everything you need to know here.

Acorns uses the “micro investing” approach by allowing you to round to the nearest dollar for every purchase you make and investing the difference. All those pennies start to add up and compound over time, and best of all it happens automatically when you make purchases you would normally make anyways!

Account Minimum
$5
Fees
$1/month or 0.25% per year for accounts greater than $5000.

Expert Walkthrough

What is Acorns?
Saving money today can be difficult. That amount of people who are investing in their future is far lower than it should be. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. It doesn’t have to be this way!

It can be difficult to reach the goal of a comfortable emergency fund or even starting to save for retirement. It takes both time and attention. With how busy life gets, these two things are not always easy to find.

Now Acorns has entered the game and is helping people in this exact situation. This is a service that allows you to get your feet wet with investing with little to no knowledge required. With such an inventive idea, we’ve put together this Acorns review for you to see how they can help you start investing today.

Acorns is revolutionizing the way millennials invest. They are taking charge in a time when it is well known that most people are not saving nearly enough to guarantee a comfortable retirement. This is a problem! Retirement can be as long or longer than your working career, so you want to make sure you are planning for it.

This is why Acorns allows college students to pay absolutely no fees for four years. Once you provide a valid .edu email address, you won’t pay a dime to Acorns for the remainder of your four-year degree.

Acorns does an excellent job explaining the investing process to beginners. Throughout the experience of signing up and investing, key terms are defined in a digestible format. This way, you know the implications from every action you take within your investment portfolio.

 

 

How Does it Work?

Acorns enables you to round to the nearest dollar for every purchase you make and invests the difference automatically.

These pennies are invested in one of six asset allocations. Each portfolio is made up of different Exchange Traded Funds (ETF). These options allow you to decide how aggressive or conservative you want to be.

The portfolios that are available are:

Conservative
Moderately Conservative
Moderate
Moderately Aggressive

Each of these portfolios are balanced differently to aim for your desired level of risk.

It really is that easy.

In addition to “Rounding Up” you have the option of contributing lump sums on a weekly or even daily basis.

This method takes more effort because you have to go out of your way to send money initially, or regularly. While it is a great way to get in the habit of investing, Acorns mainly focuses on sending a few cents on each transaction you make. It is done in the background so you may even forget it is happening.

There is no cost to sign up, but a $5 deposit is required to begin investing.

It is easy to login and check your balances and performance of your investments. Acorns will automatically reallocate your funds to fit the asset class you have selected.

This way, if the small business cap stocks have a good month, you won’t have too much tied up in that sector after the rally. Your money will be redistributed to other asset classes, potentially limiting the risk of losing these gains.

Pros

Acorns has changed the game for millennial investors. Although those from all walks of life use the service, the younger generations are taking advantage of this micro investing approach more than others.

Acorns makes investing easy. With a “set it and forget it” methodology, in a way it forces you to begin investing by rolling in few cents for every purchase you make.

This is a great way for college students who may not have access to a 401k plan to build up a savings account. Acorn investments will grow just as if the funds were placed in an individual mutual fund with an investment bank.

They do all the work. When you sign up with Acorns, the hardest part of your job is initially deciding where you want your money and linking your cards (which is not difficult). After that, you are saving money.

Acorns also offers a mobile application for iOS and Android devices. Take a look at the Acorn app reviews in the app store to see what people are saying. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive. The app is helping so many people, there may be use of a full Acorns app review in a future article.

Acorns is very useful if you are just beginning to learn about investing. They make it very easy by doing virtually all of the work for you. Your everyday purchases contribute to your savings.

From the time you swipe your linked card, you will decide which asset allocation you want to invest in. Acorns puts your money in a well diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds.

 

 

Cons

Acorns isn’t perfect for everyone. This service is not a way to replace a 401k or Roth IRA. The lack of tax benefits may steer some away.

The fees to use the service can be rather high when combined with a low account balance.

If you take advantage of the Round-Up program that Acorns offers, the pennies you are contributing will add up over time. Depending on how much you spend, you could be hovering under $20 for quite some time.

A $1 fee on a $20 balance is a 5% fee. When compared to retirement accounts with other financial institutions, 5% would be extremely high.

You can of course lower the fee percentage by depositing a larger initial amount, which would dilute the $1 fee to a lower percentage of your total savings.

Limited investment options. Acorns does offer 6 different assets allocations that are well diversified. However, hundreds more options can be found by dealing with a commercial investment company like Wells Fargo or Fidelity.

 

 

Is Acorns Worth It?

Acorns is an amazing tool to get started with investing. If you do not have a company offered retirement account like a 401k, it allows you to put your money in the stock market with little barrier to entry.

It is not a way to replace a 401k or Roth IRA. Acorns does not provide a match like most companies, and the growth is not tax deferred or tax free.

The passive nature of using Acorns works well for investors who want a hands off approach. With reallocating and depositing done in the background, you have more time to focus on other things in your life.

If you would rather get a root canal than learn about investing, then Acorns could very well be the solution to your problem. Use this Acorn review and decide for yourself if this method of investing will be beneficial for you.

Download Acorns for iOS and Android

Do you have a favorite investment app? Tell us about it in the comments below?

App of the Week: Couch to 5K

The Good, The Bad, & How to Know if this Training Plan is Right for You.

By Heather Gannoe of Relentless Forward Commotion

If you’ve toyed with the idea of starting to run, or have a friend who has recently taken up running, chances are you’ve heard of the Couch to 5K program.   But if you haven’t: the Couch to 5k is a wildly popular training program that is designed to take a non-runner from a sedentary lifestyle to running a 5k distance race in just nine weeks. Designed by Josh Clark, and originally published on the training website Cool Running, the Couch to 5k program has claimed to help thousands of people become runners and has blossomed into a running movement of its own.  

The training plan consists of just three days of training sessions per week, for a total of nine weeks. Each session consists of running and walking intervals, measured by time or distance, progressing forward with the final goal of running either a 5k or 30 minutes, without walking. If you are thinking of using the Couch to 5k program to help get you started on your running journey, consider the following pros and cons to this plan.

The Good:

Does the thought of running for more than a minute terrify you?  Then this training program is perfect for you.  The Couch to 5k program starts off with short intervals of running combined with generous walking breaks, which is an ideal introduction to running both physically, and mentally  (for example, day # 1 includes the following:  “Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes”).  Josh Clark states in his training program: “Too many people have been turned off of running simply by trying to start off too fast. ” Having specific, short distance or time goals prevents the participant from doing too much, too soon, which in turn prevents mental burnout and injury.

There has always been a bit of a stigma behind walking vs. running, but don’t let it bother you.   Studies show that a combination of running and walking has been shown to help prevent injuries while building physical endurance and running distance, as well as helping to prevent muscular fatigue.   So you are not any less of a ‘badass” for taking walking breaks; quite the contrary, you are a smart runner!

Further, some amazing athletes are well known for their run/walk methods.  Ultra runners (we are talking the people who run 100 + miles at once!)  are notorious for it.  And most famously, this style of training has been made very popular by former Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, who uses the run/walk method to train participants of all levels to run distances up to a marathon and beyond. The Couch to 5k program is variable in the sense that participants may choose to follow the plan by either distance or time. Each training session lists running and walking intervals by time or by distance, depending on the participant’s goal. This is helpful for those who are unable to measure the distance they run, or who may have time constraints on their training sessions.

The Bad:

Though the creators of the Couch to 5k program claim that it is for almost everyone, it might not actually be for everyone. Depending on many factors, such as health conditions, or even previous fitness experience, many beginners may find the couch to 5k training program too aggressive. Many beginning runners may find certain weeks include an increase in running distance that proves to be too difficult, and that week may need to be repeated. For example, on training day number three of week five of the program, participants are suggested to run two miles straight without a walk break. This is a significant increase from the three quarter mile interval run, with  half mile walk breaks, the session before. The Couch to 5k program encourages runners to repeat a week if necessary. However, the claim of getting participants off of the couch and onto running a 5k in only nine weeks may become frustrating to some who find they need to repeat a week.

On the other hand, some beginning runners may find the Couch to 5k program not aggressive enough. The Couch to 5k program discourages participants from skipping ahead, which can also prove to be frustrating for those who feel they are capable of doing more.

Conclusion:

Overall, the Couch to 5k training program is a very basic training guide that can be utilized by almost anyone. Even if the full nine week training program is not ideal for all participants, the Couch to 5k program may prove to be a useful starting point for someone looking to start running. The training plan can be found free on the Cool Running website and through the Facebook support page.  In addition, Couch to 5k apps are available to download to your smart phone or tablet, to help you keep track of your training.

Couchto5K is available to download for $2.99 for iOS and Android.

Do you have a favorite running app? Tell us about it in the comments below!

App of the Week: FlightLogger

Real-Time Flight Tracking for Worry-Free Travels

By John Voorhees of Macstories

Air travel can be stressful. FlightLogger, which is available on iOS and Android,
reduces the stress of travel by making it simple to search and save your flights, get up-to-date notifications on any changes to gates and terminals, share your travel plans with friends and family, and much more.

Too many flight tracking apps are a cluttered mess. FlightLogger’s design reduces the number of taps and information you have to input. Combined with a clear, glanceable timeline of your itinerary, FlightLogger is the perfect companion for the modern traveler.

FlightLogger is packed with innovative features:

• Track the flights of over 1500 airlines and 30,000 airports worldwide for worry-free travel.
• Add flights in-app or by forwarding flight confirmation emails to FlightLogger.
• Track departure and arrival times, delays, cancellations, and gate and baggage claim information.
• Receive flight status notifications on your iOS devices and Apple Watch.
• Track flights on your Apple Watch and other iOS devices with iCloud sync.
• View the approximate location of aircraft during flights.
• Keep family and friends up-to-date by sharing your travel details.
• Organize flights by trips, so you only see the information you need, when you need it.

The spring and summer travel seasons are just around the corner. Make your life easier by heading over to FlightLogger’s website to learn more and download the app today.

Do you have a favorite travel app? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

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