A Q&A with Sooqini co-founder and CEO Raj Singh. The London-based startup, which is a task marketplace for the UK based on a reverse marketplace model where buyers post tasks and receive offers from service providers, closed a $500,000 Seed funding round at the start of this month from investors Lars Toft Larsen and Paolo Rubatto. It was founded in 2011.
SUB: Please describe Sooqini and your primary innovation.
Singh: Sooqini is a task marketplace for London—we’ve created something which helps people get stuff done: whether it’s getting a cleaner, a gardener, someone to sort out your admin, or something a bit quirkier. To date we’ve also had people borrow canoes on the Thames, find sites to go metal detecting and prepare one-pagers about a play someone was off to see.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Singh: Our target market are Londoners which we break down into two categories. The first categories are those who want to save time, the second those who want to make money. We call these our Buyers and our Sellers.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Sooqini from the competition?
Singh: Sooqini is frequently compared to U.S.-based TaskRabbit because of our local job marketplace systems. But whereas TaskRabbit is about simply having the task done by an anonymous Rabbit, we at Sooqini are all about reconnecting local communities. What Sooqini does is no different to what our grandparents did, walking down the road, knocking on a door to ask: “Can I borrow a drill and while you’re here can you hold the ladder?” We’ve just changed how you knock on the door.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Singh: We founded the company in 2011. Tiago Mateus, our co-founder, came across a pain-point without a solution, and he and I set about solving it.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Sooqini? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Singh: So the story goes that Tiago was working from home one day and couldn’t find a place to play tennis—or a partner to play with—right there and then. Sooqini was the solution to the problem of getting something done with both place and time as variables. It’s moved on a bit since finding a tennis partner. We’re now not only a solution to an economic problem—unemployment—but we’re also at the forefront of a culture shift as Gen-Y and Millennials focus on a good life, flexible working, and the gig economy.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Singh: ‘Souq’ is an Arab marketplace, and ‘ini’ is ‘small’ or ‘local’—making us your local marketplace.
SUB: You recently closed a $500,000 Seed funding round. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Singh: Closing this Seed round just over a year after trading was important for us to push on and reach critical mass in London. The past year of operating has shown that Londoners get the service, understand it, and have a need for it. With our funding we can now reach a wider audience, making people’s experience of Sooqini even better, and we’ve already launched a redesign of the site.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Singh: We will be looking at raising additional funds depending on the performance of Sooqini over the next six months. If we were looking for funding we’d have to seriously listen to other cities in Europe who have expressed a wish for Sooqini in their city.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Singh: Building a company always comes with its own challenges. Building a marketplace in particular you have to zigzag between acquiring your supply and demand sides. It’s an exciting time to be part of a collaborative consumption movement which is truly disrupting how we work and live in the UK.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Singh: Initially we generated our revenue by taking a small transaction fee. Now, we’ve recently launched our ‘Silver Service’ feature, which allows a user to have their own team of personal assistants ready to get stuff done for them on a subscription basis too.
SUB: What are your goals for Sooqini over the next year or so?
Singh: Over the next year we’d like to have created over £1 million worth of work for the London economy. We’ve currently created £300,000 worth of jobs, not forgetting the time saved for all those who requested the tasks to be done. And with a marketing push ready to go, we hope to be a household name across the London boroughs, making the Sooqini name synonymous with getting stuff done.
Sooqini – www.sooqini.com