A condom salesman, a homeless CFO and a computer nerd walk into a room – and then create a startup aiming to cut the middle man out of everything. And, despite how it might sound, this is not the beginning of a bad joke.
That startup, Denver-based Utivity, operates an online platform connecting vetted professionals directly to their customers. While that may not sound revolutionary, done correctly, the concept has the potential to make the marketplace for services much more efficient and thus much cheaper for the consumer. If you want to do something that involves a skilled professional, you can get on their website and connect with one instantly.
“Our goal is to create an open marketplace where supply and demand meet,” Utivity CEO Matthew Shifrin said. “Naturally, in an open marketplace, where supply and demand meet, prices come down. It’s Economics 101.”
Think about it like this. Under the current system, a large portion of the money you pay for services goes to a middle party — be it a photography studio, a language school, or a gym. Utivity cuts all that out, and connects the photographer, the language teacher or the personal trainer directly to the consumer.
If you want to put on some ugly sweaters and have holiday portraits taken of your family, it’ll cost you upwards of $375 at a studio. While some of that money goes to the photographer, a surprisingly high portion goes to the studio. Get on Utivity, however, and you can connect directly with a photographer who will come to your house and take pictures of your family’s horrible sweaters for a fraction of the price.
Of course, where the company really shines is in offering experiential services. Through their site you can find people to teach you to fence, rock climb, play craps, brew beer or even to grow your own cannabis.
“We all have things on our bucket list we want to cross off,” Shifrin said. “And, we want to give people the means to do that at a reasonable price.”
Utivity’s founders really are as interesting as they sound. Before founding the company, Shifrin was the General Manager at Billy Boy Condoms. He helped launch the brand in the United States, and managed to turn it into the fourth largest condom brand in North America. Their CFO is currently living out of his car in San Francisco. Apparently, sleeping in the back seat and showering at a local gym allows the company to turn his salary into a more robust sales team. Their CTO, perhaps less surprisingly, really is a self-proclaimed and proud computer nerd.
Utivity launched earlier this year, and since completing a seed round of $1.5 million, they’ve been focusing their efforts on establishing the service in Colorado. The company plans on beginning a new funding round later this year, and continuing to expand.