The winner of this year’s TechCrunch50 Best-in-Show Award is Redbeacon, a Web site aimed at matching consumers with small business service providers such as plumbers, landscapers, lawyers or hair stylists.

Sounds like classified advertising, doesn’t it?

Redbeacon, as described at TechCrunch.com, is a cross between restaurant-reservation site OpenTable and Yelp.com

Winning the best-in-show award has already boosted the start-up’s cache, co-founder Ethan Anderson said. “We’ve been flooded with investment inquiries, partnership offers, and even potential employees who have just dropped by our office unannounced!” he wrote in an e-mail.

Visitors to Redbeacon can identify their need by typing “plumber” or “someone to fix my toilet” into a search field. Then the consumer identifies how soon they need help — immediately (which activates the red beacon), any time, or at a scheduled time. Users can enter a location and detailed description of the service they need, and can even attach photos (of a deck that needs to be repaired, for example). 

Once all the information is submitted, it is sent to qualified businesses in the local area. Providers who are interested in doing the work will send price quotes and information about their schedules. Then Redbeacon shows the consumer information about the service provider and their proposed rates and allows the consumer to schedule an appointment. The business profiles will include user reviews, basic information like phone number and hours and even reviews from Yelp.com.

For service providers, Redbeacon is free to create skill profiles and receive job leads. Service providers only pay a small commission when they win a job, which minimizes the risk of wasted marketing dollars. Redbeacon is also useful for service providers who wish to offer long-tail services or services at irregular times, such as nights and weekends.

Anderson said the company decided to launch during TechCrunch50 because of the added exposure of the show and TechCrunch’s credibility as news source about tech start-ups.

“But the most important thing (in addition to the cash prize and advertising credits) will be the credibility Redbeacon will have down the road … This is a great first step and we’re honored by the recognition but we need to live up to the great expectations being set,” Anderson said.

The site is launching first in the San Francisco area, but the founders have national ambitions, Anderson said. After learning how consumers and service providers use Redbeacon and which marketing tactics work best, “we’ll want to quickly scale across platforms (e.g., mobile, social networks), geographies, and service types,” Anderson said.

Redbeacon, based in San Mateo, Calif., was founded by Anderson, Yaron Binur, and Aaron Lee, who are former Google product managers and engineers.

TechCrunch is a network of Web sites that follow developments in technology and new media. It sponsors TechCrunch50 as a place for start-ups to introduce themselves and launch. Fifty companies are selected to give short pitches about their new products. The best-in-show award winner receives $50,000 along with TechCrunch glory.

The 2008 winner, Yammer, is an enterprise micro-blogging service that fosters communication among company employees. Yammer this week announced the release of the Yammer for Outlook plug-in and Yammer for Windows Mobile application.

The award was important to Yammer. “Winning TechCrunch50 provided Yammer with a tremendous head start. In the first week after launch, over 10,000 company Yammer networks were created by over 50,000 employees,” said Yammer founder and CEO David O. Sacks. The award “has undoubtedly been a major contributor to our strong positioning today as the market leader,” he said.

The 2007 winner, Mint.com, is a financial services site that has since been recognized as one of the best personal finance services available. This week, Mint.com announced it has reached an agreement to be purchased by Intuit for $170 million. Intuit makes Quicken personal finance software.

The article was revised at 9:40 a.m. ET Sept. 17, 2009, to add comments from David O. Sacks.

 

 

 

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