Possibly more than anyone in Boston, Chris Barry is really hoping for snow.
The founder and programmer behind Yeti has been quietly tapping away at the code behind the app, which aims to connect snow-shovelers with city-dwellers who would rather not have to shovel out their cars – and is probably the most anticipated smartphone-driven service of the season.
Originally shooting for a launch date at the end of January, Barry told Metro on Sunday he hopes to launch Yeti in mid-February.
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“Which is later than I intended, but as it turns out this winter has been pretty mild,” he said.
It’s a simple idea – Barry said he got the idea at the height of Snowmageddon in 2015 when he spotted his car parked in Southie buried under 3 feet of snow – but there are lots of particulars to work out before launch, he said.
For one, he’ll likely need to recruit a small army of freelance workers to wield shovels and hit the streets. He didn’t say how many he anticipates signing up for the service, but speculated he’d need hundreds if demand is as strong as he’s anticipating.
His business will be weather-dependent (the snowier it is out, the better for him) and the window for successful response after a storm is small, the bulk of it involving quickly digging out commuters’ vehicles before rush hour.
In the past few days, Barry said, he brought a marketing expert to help lead the coming push to recruit workers and to stoke interest in the product. He hopes to finish up the legal prep-work for bringing on so many contractors so quickly by the end of this week, he said.
But before now, much of the marketing for Yeti has been through the media. In a town collectively frustrated after a hellish winter, it seems his idea caught on based on concept alone and word spread fast.
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At this point, his reputation precedes him, he said. A friend-of-a-friend he met at Saturday night’s Patriots game, he said, already knew all about his company.
“I was a little caught of guard,” he said. “This started out as a side project, but everyone was really interested in talking about it.”
Going live so late in the season means he will have just a few weeks to prove the concept and collect data, answering a few of the questions behind making Yeti work the way it’s intended: How many cars can one person shovel per storm? How long does it take to clear out a car after 6 inches of snow? How about 18? Will college students make up a good chunk of the shoveling team? Might that reduce wait times near student enclaves?
As for pricing, Barry still won’t say how much the service will cost. He did, however, say he plans on adjusting the price for the amount of snowfall for each storm. He said at least for this season, Yeti wouldn’t institute “surge” pricing – jacking up rates when demand is especially high, the way Uber does when usage spikes on busy weekend nights, during holidays or when it rains.
Then the last step is making the app available on the App Store (for now, it will only be available on iOS, he said, and service will be limited to Boston).
There are other services that hook up laborers with those willing to pay for help. Barry himself pointed to companies Plowz & Mowz and TaskRabbit as examples. But none that he knows of have tackled specifically the problem of car de-snowing the way he plans to, or with all the features he’s cooked up (shovelers will take “before” and “after” photos of cars, sent to their owners in real time).
In the meantime, Barry, a first-time developer who works by day in tech consulting, said he is “totally confident” he and his small team can bring Yeti to market by the time real snow finally comes to Boston.
The final ingredient, then? Snow. Barry said he starts each day checking up on the long-term forecast, and hopes the city sees two or three big storms between launch and season’s end.
“I’ve got to be the only person in Boston praying for snow just about every day,” he said.