This is an uncertain time, but one thing is clear: America’s small businesses are hurting.
Due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, tens of millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in recent weeks. In fact, more than 75% of independent contractors, a third of the American workforce, report that COVID-19 has lost them work. The Punch List team has repeatedly heard that professionals across many industries are unable to meet their loyal customers face-to-face due to shelter-in-place orders and/or the general anxiety of getting sick.
A little more than three weeks ago, Andy Vella (Punch List Co-founder & CTO), Rishi Garg (Punch List investor from Mayfield Capital), and I (Punch List Co-founder & CEO) began brainstorming about how to help those affected. A few minutes into the discussion, a collective question formed - if experts are losing revenue because they can't physically meet customers in person, could the Punch List team build a simple app that enables scheduling, video calls, and digital payments? We knew the answer, because we wanted to help.
Today, we are excited to introduce Specialist: Video Calls with Experts. Specialist is the easiest way for professionals and their customers to connect over video chat from their home or office. The app combines contact sharing and appointment scheduling, point-and-record video calls, and automatic digital payments to empower small businesses to safely, simply, and transparently connect with customers face-to-face. To use Specialist, an expert creates an account and sets their billing rate (by the minute or the session), shares their profile link with their contacts, conducts a video call to earn money, and watches those funds deposit into their bank account automatically. Specialists make cash to support their families, and clients get the help they need without worrying about contracting COVID-19.
Here’s how it works:
Getting Started: Once downloaded from the App Store or Google Play, a specialist enters their business information on the Specialist Contact Card. The card communicates essential information needed for their call, including a photo or logo, username, brief description of their business, and billing rate (charged by the minute or by the session). Experts can then use email, text message, and social media to send their Specialist profile to their loyal customers.
Doing the Work: Using Specialist’s integrated video calling, specialists and their customers can communicate face-to-face in order to solve problems, answer questions, teach lessons, empower change, etc. During each call, customers always can see exactly how much they are being charged and are never responsible for calls less than 1 minute.
Getting Paid: All specialists receive their funds directly to their bank account using Stripe in as soon as two business days. With the app’s convenient automatic deposits, there are never any awkward payment requests, overlooked invoices, or IOUs from long-time, trusted customers.
Specialist can be used by anyone with an Apple or Android phone, a skillset or expertise, and loyal customers in need. Contractors can provide critical repair services, personal trainers can inspire clients, artists can teach their craft, chefs can impart culinary knowledge, hairdressers can guide clients through a trim - the opportunities are endless.
I can’t say thank you enough to my Co-founder, Andy Vella. He pulled double duty to take Specialist from concept to launch in only 3 weeks, all while his wife was due to give birth to Baby Vella #2 at any moment. I also want to thank the Punch List team, who endured long nights and weekends, and kept us on track as Andy welcomed his new son last Monday, a week before launch. Without Rishi Garg from Mayfield Capital, we would have never fully formed the idea for Specialist. And finally, to our investors at Bling Capital, Bedrock Capital, and Ludlow Ventures, who allowed the team to embark on this mission-based effort, while ensuring the core Punch List app was alive and well.
We are just getting started. Specialist works for all types of business owners and independent contractors today, but we recognize that the Specialist app isn’t perfect just yet - it may have minor bugs, small design imperfections, or may be missing important features for specific verticals. We welcome all feedback on how to improve it.
To ensure specialists earn as much revenue as possible during these difficult times, we are committed to not profiting from the Specialist app during the pandemic. Punch List only collects fees to cover the costs from the app’s partners (payment processor, video, and hosting partners). Our hearts go out to the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, and the tens of millions more facing financial hardship. We can’t stop the pandemic, but we hope we’ve helped in our own small way.