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Online home-cleaning service Homejoy expands rapidly, hits 31 cities

The Y Combinator startup that connects cleaners to clients has been spreading to new cities quickly, and marks a milestone with simultaneous launches in Saint Louis and Orlando, Fla.

Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

If you want to work at Homejoy, a rapidly growing tech startup that connects independent home cleaners to customers, you're going to have to roll up your sleeves and get dirty. The company has every employee -- from customer service reps to engineers -- in its San Francisco headquarters clean a house at least once as part of their training. This includes the CEO and co-founder Adora Cheung, who cleaned houses alongside cleaners for the first few months after she and her brother Aaron started Homejoy in 2012.

Before that, she spent a month cleaning for a national cleaning chain so she could better understand the needs of cleaners as well as customers.

"We didn't know how cleaners work so we figured out that the best way to learn was to become cleaners ourselves," Cheung said.

Homejoy CEO Adora Cheung. Homejoy

The Cheung siblings, graduates of startup accelerator Y Combinator, raised $1.7 million from Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, Resolute.VC, and Max Levchin to start Homejoy in the San Francisco area. The service has grown quickly, launching in 30 more cities within the last eight months. Its simultaneous launches in Saint Louis and Orlando, Fla., on Friday mark its latest milestone.

All this because Cheung's brother wanted to hire someone to clean his apartment but couldn't find a convenient and safe way to connect with an affordable cleaner online. Homejoy's cleaners work for a set price of $20 an hour. One of Homejoy's selling points is that it says independent cleaners -- who are operating outside of a chain -- can earn more than they typically would, and customers pay less than they would for a chain but get a cleaner who's been prescreened and tested by Homejoy.

Customers use Homejoy's desktop and mobile site to order a cleaner, choosing which rooms they want cleaned, and can pay extra for certain tasks like laundry, windows, or an oven cleaning. Then they choose a time and pay by credit card, and the cleaners come with profiles and ratings. Cleaners then receive their assignments via an application from Homejoy.

The company isn't disclosing any metrics such as the number of users or revenue, but when it celebrated its one-year birthday in July, it said it had more than 500 cleaners in its system. That number is now in the "thousands," according to Marlo Struve, the company's director of communications.

That may seem a small figure considering they need cleaners to serve 31 markets now, but Cheung said it's about growing cautiously.

"When we roll out in a city, our focus is on quality, so we don't onboard tons and tons of cleaners at once. We're pretty slow on ramping up -- we're fast overall, but we don't want to be so fast we neglect quality," she said.