With temperatures slowly rising, the number of Koreans in long, padded jackets is dwindling.
Coming on March 21 this year, the official start of spring is a traditional time for cleaning.
And younger Koreans are going digital by opting for mobile apps to find veteran cleaners.
Victor Ching, CEO of Miso, noticed the potential of a mobile-based cleaning service here and launched a cleaning app of the same name in August 2015 with a dream to create an “Uber” in cleaning.
Victor Ching, CEO of Miso (Miso)
The Miso app, designed to seamlessly connect users with veteran cleaners, now ranks first in the mobile cleaning service category.
“Thanks to the large portion of Korea’s population using smartphones, I feel like Miso can create another digital trend in the cleaning services world,” Ching said during an interview with The Korea Herald.
Ching, 37, was born and raised in Hawaii by his Chinese father and Korean mother. He wondered what it would be like to live in his mother’s birth country, known for its rapid adoption of new technologies. He moved to Korea in 2005.
Currently living by himself for over 10 years now, Ching said he had his own share of difficulties finding an affordable cleaning service that he could trust.
In the past, only the “bourgeoisie” could afford live-in housemaids, who did a whole array of chores.
As a starting member of Korea’s food delivery platform Yogiyo, Ching wanted to offer a similar platform of affordable convenience in cleaning services.
Recognized for its business potential, Miso received early-startup funding worth 3.1 billion won ($2.85 million) from Y Combinator, the largest venture investment firm in Silicon Valley in 2015.
Miso is Ching’s fourth startup. He says the market for smartphones and mobile apps is at its “deep-end,” meaning there is room for growth.
A study by the Ministry of Science and ICT showed that between 2012 and 2017, the proportion of households that owned smartphones rose from 65 percent to 94.1 percent.
But it was a rocky beginning. “Korea was not an easy place to start at first. My friends thought I was crazy for jumping into a startup market where ventures come and go. But I do not regret challenging myself in Korea,” Ching said.
To older Koreans, cleaning was thought of as women’s duty, while the men brought home the paycheck. Cleaning can be burdensome and never-ending for present-day citizens, who are either “too busy to clean” or “lack the energy after work.”
Miso cleaners take part in mandatory training led by manager Donna Choy on Feb. 26 at Miso Training Center near Gasan Digital Complex Station in Seoul. (Catherine Chung/The Korea Herald)
According to Statistics Korea, more and more women are devoting their time to professional careers, giving them less free time and energy to clean. This shift in trend means a new business opportunity for cleaning service providers.
Ching said his company received over 100,000 cleaning job orders last year. There are about 50,000 customers using the Miso app, and nearly 4,000 registered Miso cleaners.
Ching also stressed the unique experience customers can get by using the mobile app. Based strictly on a merit-based system, the cleaners are given ratings. Those who do not satisfy customers cannot work with Miso for long.
Located near Gasan Digital Complex Station in Seoul, the company’s training center offers classes to its cleaners every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Classes are led by Donna Choy, a manager in charge of Miso’s training program. She began the class by instructing the newly employed cleaners how to use the app.
For cleaners, they also do not have to pay an annual fee to work with Miso. There is no fixed contract, which allows cleaners to work whenever and wherever. Lim Hee-sun, one of Miso’s best-rated cleaners, said she stays with the service because Miso values its cleaners. “Even though the company is still in its early stages, I am always happy to find that my customers are satisfied with my work,” Lim said.
By Catherine Chung (firstname.lastname@example.org