Botched bathroom renovation led to Kluje, a platform for finding home contractors

Botched bathroom renovation led to Kluje, a platform for finding home contractors

November 14, 2013

by Terence Lee

Singapore expatriate Jamey Merkel felt like he was taken advantaged of after a bathroom refurbishment gone wrong. Following hours of searching for a contractor, he received wildly different quotations ranging between $5,000 to $15,000 for the exact same job. “A quote was given on the phone even without even a visit,” he said. And when a contractor was finally secured, it didn’t do its job properly — measuring some custom glass panels incorrectly. The mistake cost Jamey extra money to fix. That was when he felt a pressing need to start Kluje, a web platform for home contractors to bid for jobs. Jamey’s decision was backed up by numbers too: Complaints against home renovation contractors have been on the rise in Singapore, jumping to 1,532 in 2012. Kluje was launched to the public this month, and it has already registered over 9,000 contractors while listing another 4,000 contractors that did not sign up with the platform.The site has 16 categories of home fixers, including air-conditioning specialists, plumbers, and electricians. They have been vetted by the startup with authorities like ACRABCA, and Case Trust.

It offers a free 30-day trial for contractors, with a monthly membership fee starting from S$19.99 ($16) following thereafter. Contractors are also charged for every lead they get, starting from $1. They will get a profile page on the site, which can display ratings from Kluje users, qualifications, and photos of previous work.

Home owners, meanwhile, can use the site for free. For them, Kluje involves a three-step process: they first post ‘jobs to be done’ on the website free-of-charge. As many as three contractors can bid on them, after which the homeowner will pick the one they like.

The startup currently has an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Gilcrux Holdings, which is run by serial entrepreneur John Fearon, best known for launching DropmySite, a cloud backup service for websites that has expanded to email and soon will venture into mobile data.

Kluje’s major test in the coming months will be whether it can stand out from the existing platforms in Singapore featuring home renovation services.

InSing and operate business directories with customer ratings, while Qeeple takes a visual scrapbook approach with its website. Then there’s Home and Decor, which places a strong emphasis on interior design contractors.

Kluje will be focusing first on Singapore before taking on the region. Merkel says:

The home improvement market can only grow due to increasing populations, large expat communities, and increasing wealth not only in Singapore but in the region as well.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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