Internet News: Online Ventures Continue To Expand
ServiceMaster has joined forces with a venture capital firm to form an Internet company to deliver home services, products and information online. The new company, WeServeHomes.com, will be launched regionally in the first half of the year, offering online capabilities for ordering, scheduling and paying for ServiceMaster's PHC, lawn care and pest control divisions, among others.
A ServiceMaster executive told PM that the company would spend some $28 million promoting WeServeHomes.com. Its home services information and national provider locator will be available nationally.
Initially, ServiceMaster will own 84 percent of the start-up, and venture capital partners Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers - previous investors in such internet companies as AOL and Amazon.com - will own the other 16 percent. ServiceMaster stated that the corporate structure of WeServeHomes.com provides the opportunity for it to become a separate public company in the future.
The services of Mr. Rooter, Mr. Electric, Mr. Appliance and other Dwyer Group franchises will now be accessible online as well. The Dwyer Group has announced a multi-year agreement with OurHouse.Com, an Internet site specializing in referrals for home improvement and services.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. has also staked out territory in cyberspace. Sears Home Services, after its second straight quarter of declining sales, has become part of iCastle.com's home improvement network. Sears Home Services will be accessible through its subsidiaries and licensees in several categories, including heating, air conditioning, siding, and cabinet refacing.
Sears also announced that it is working with Sun Microsystems toward the development of the Internet-connected home. Sears' vision is to sell, install and service innovative appliances that work together with all components of the home through the use of Sun's JavaT and JiniT technologies. Additional partners in the venture include GTE, Motorola, Sony and others.
The complex, fragmented construction industry has proved fertile ground for recent online ventures. BuildPoint.com will deploy information on the Web regarding construction materials through an alliance with Actuate Corp., a pioneer in online business reporting.
The site will provide a secure e-commerce environment for building owners, manufacturers, distributors and contracting firms, allowing real-time access to bidding and procurement data for estimations. BuildPoint.com has also incorporated current construction news, weather data, and customized maps and directions into its site.
Commerce One has teamed up with Cephren Inc. to provide e-commerce services to streamline procurement in the construction industry. Cephren, a new company formed by the merger of Blueline Online Inc. and e.Bricks.com Inc., will collaborate in a business-to-business network facilitating the buying and selling of construction products, equipment and services. Cephren's online procurement network will run in conjunction with Commerce One's MarketSite and will also be linked to the Commerce One Global Trading WebT.
In other Internet news, GEKit.com has hired a celebrity spokesman to popularize its office and home improvement Web site. Richard Karn, a fictional handyman on TV's "Home Improvement," will help the company jump-start its site, which assists consumers in finding qualified contractors. GEKit.com will initially launch in New York, and hopes to spread to the top 20 U.S. markets over the next two years.