What began as an idea by three former Wayne State students to help homeowners complete their to-do lists has recently earned them $425,000 in pre-seed funding as they begin three months with Techstars Chicago, a competitive accelerator program.
Developed and led by WSU alumni Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Romo-Puerta and Armando Arteaga, their startup company ToDoolie seeks to create a commission-based marketplace where homeowners can hire local students for hourly tasks such as yard work, household maintenance or more skilled tasks like web development. This not only helps homeowners but also gives students extra income and flexible job opportunities.
This new injection of funding, Rodriguez said, along with other local and national venture capital and angel investors, means the company is closer to finishing development of a mobile app and will eventually go live in a yet-to-be-determined market. He said the recently closed $425,000 round included funding from the newly formed Bamboo Angel Group, Invest Detroit Ventures and others. He anticipates further capital injections in the coming weeks, too. Rodriguez said he also has a deep appreciation and respect for all founders who have been through the fundraising journey and/or are actively on it now.
“I can't say it was a surprise that we received this funding, but what did surprise me is how much work it generally takes to close a round,” said TooDoolie’s CEO, Rodriguez, who graduated from WSU in 2017 with bachelor’s in biomedical physics is currently pursuing an MBA in the Mike Ilitch School of Business. “In order to secure funding, I had to be actively fundraising for a few months. I had to be very intentional about which narrative I presented to investors, and also who I met on my fundraising trail.”
In 2018, the company first reached out to the public for support to develop a mobile app via Kickstarter. The campaign wasn’t able to reach its goal, but Rodriguez notes that failing is part of the road to being successful. Since then, Rodriguez said ToDoolie generated about $50,000 in revenue last year and hopes to grow that to around $500,000 this year.
“We are preparing to launch in a new market with a profile similar to metro Detroit. We also plan to double-up on our technology and client acquisition tactics,” Rodriguez said. “We feel 2020 should be a year of respectable growth for us in many areas of our business. Most — most importantly, revenue generating.”
Rodriguez said the company plans to use the additional capital to finish the development of its mobile app and launch its services in the new market outside of Michigan. “The Techstars program is a resource for us to tap into high caliber mentors, investors and other entrepreneurs,” Rodriguez said.
Once developed, the ToDoolie app will create a searchable database so homeowners and students alike can identify opportunities that meet their desired location, price and skill level. Students and homeowners will be able to track hours, communicate and exchange payment via the app as well.
Beyond connecting homeowners with students who can help them with everyday tasks, ToDoolie provides a stepping stone for future employment opportunities and instills users with a strong understanding of accountability, time management and responsibility. ToDoolie’s founders envision it as a first bullet point on many resumes.
Rodriguez said the idea was born from personal need. As an undergraduate student, he began working in his community to earn tuition money. From early on, the idea resonated with many others — ToDoolie was named the second-place winner of Optimize Wayne’s first social innovation challenge in May 2017, finished fourth in the 2019 WSU STEAM Challenge and has also been fostered by TechTown’s DTX Launch Detroit program and the global tech startup accelerator Startup Boost Detroit.
“I think anyone who’s been a student can attest to having to make the decision between avoiding debt and earning good grades. There really aren’t enough hours in the day to do both,” Rodriguez said. “Having the flexibility to set my own rates and schedule allowed me the extra leverage necessary to earn some money and still have time to maintain good grades and be involved on campus.”