Four years ago, Ben Johnson’s dream of becoming the dog walker kingmaker of his apartment complex died — he couldn’t get the building’s residents to agree on a single service. Out of the ashes of that aim sprouted Spruce, an on-demand apartment cleaning and homecare darling. On Wednesday, the Austin company announced it cleaned up a fresh funding round of its own.
Spruce raked in $8 million, which it plans to invest in growing its headcount and developing its tech. Ultimately, Johnson said he believes the proptech startup could be used to create efficiencies of scale in all sorts of residential microeconomies.
“We’re changing how people live in their homes,” Johnson told Built In. “What starts in apartments eventually will be used to service all dense groups of residential areas.”
Founded in 2016, Spruce offers on-demand housekeeping, pet care, laundry and other services for apartment dwellers. Johnson came up with the idea for Spruce while working as a busy banker in his 20s, a time when he outsourced many of his residential responsibilities, like dog walking and dry cleaning. When choosing the proper caregiver for his pooch, he couldn’t help but notice that 15 different dog walkers entered his building every day.
“To me, that didn’t make sense,” Johnson said. “I was like, this is highly inefficient.”
By assigning a single dog walking service to a single building, Johnson figured he could save management companies time verifying individuals’ identities, reduce the cost of the service for customers and offer the dog walkers more time to walk more puppies per day. The same could be true for similarly outsourced services. He then launched Spruce, which now counts more than 50 national apartment management companies as customers.
By operating under the Spruce brand, Johnson said the local businesses the startup works with also receive technological and business support in the form of workforce management software and customer service.
“The value proposition that we bring is we help them turn every single minute of a workers day into revenue-generating time,” Johnson said.
The startup plans to invest the Series A round in improving its logistics software, in a move to give customers more insight into the arrival time for their service. The company also plans to refine its machine learning system for predicting how long certain tasks take, as a way to maximize workers’ labor.
The 35-person company plans to hire 10 people over the next six months, with open positions for engineers, product managers, analysts and more. The Series A round brings total investment in Spruce to $14 million. Mercury Fund led the round, with participation from Sweat Equity Partners.