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Pittsburgh App Making It Easier For Contractors To Access Clients

Jennifer Szweda Jordan
90.5 FM WESA

A locally made app called Seekahoo connects electrical, plumbing and other contractors with customers. The concept may sound like the well-known site Angie’s List, but Seekahoo's creators said they designed their platform with contractors in mind.

“To be advertised on Angie’s List and to show up high in the search results and to really make an impact, it can cost, you know, hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars a month,” said electrician and Seekahoo co-founder Zach Parme. “They’ll send the same lead to five or six contractors, and then they charge each of those contractors, so you’re paying for that lead whether you get the job or not.”

Instead of charging contractors per lead, Seekahoo sets a flat fee of $99 a month, or less if contractors sign up for longer periods.

The platform grew out of conversations at family gatherings where Parme and his brother-in-law Raj Gopal, a tech manager, talked about the problems with existing technological solutions for contractors to connect with customers. Those conversations eventually led to them creating Seekahoo.

“What we’re doing now is delivering value to contractors whether we have a whole lot of consumers using our product right now or not,” Parme said. “And what’s important to us is helping the business build their reputation and then showcase that reputation in multiple areas.”

Seekahoo helps less tech-savvy contractors do more online marketing right from a smartphone. The app offers simple prompts to request immediate reviews from customers via text. Those reviews are then shared across several social media platforms, Google searches and the contractors' websites. 

“So now my business is being seen by more people and their networks of friends and family," Parme said. 

Scott Township artist and homeowner Melissa Loizes said she's been dreaming of adding a concrete driveway to her house, which is how she came across Seekahoo. 

Though she said she didn't love that the search engine asks for the zip code she already shared when creating her account, Loizes said she enjoyed one feature that's not available on Angie's List. 

“It’s telling me I can look for an estimate or it’s giving me an option to click if I need an urgent repair or a consultation," she said while using the app. 

This kind of triage helps a contractor know how serious a customer is, the creators said, and whether they just need a phone call or a more time-consuming estimate.

Parme and Gopal have set up Seekahoo’s offices in the evolving tech center Nova Place. But they’re on the road a lot, trying to raise $300,000 in their first round of funding and then about $3 million to scale the platform nationally.

In this week's Tech Headlines:

  • It might be almost impossible for us to detect how much energy a single transistor in our phone or other electronic device is using, but if they were a bit more energy efficient and if that savings was multiplied by the number of them in use around the globe it would really start to add up. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have received a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to study two-dimensional semiconductors with the goal of demonstrating a switch that requires less power than conventional silicon-based transistors. 
  • Pittsburgh-based polymer materials company Covestro is taking a larger role in the Energy Innovation Center. The repurposed technical high school building in the Hill District is part education center, part sustainability proving ground. Under the partnership, Covestro products will be showcased in the building. Covestro has been a partner with the EIC since it spun out of Bayer Corporation.