Engineering alumnus brings neighbors together with ‘on demand’ services app
By David Staudacher
How well do you know your neighbors? Would you hire them for a job if you needed help? To help people get to know their neighbors and the skills they may be able to offer, UIC alumnus Nishant Tomar launched an app called kNEEBU (pronounced knee-boo).
The app is an online community that connects people who are looking for on-demand household services with skilled individuals from their neighborhood or community. There are two versions of the app. There is kNEEBU for consumers seeking services and kNEEBU Provider for service providers who want to earn extra money in their spare time. There are more than 40 different service categories available and more categories can be added based on demand.
“It’s focused around building stronger communities,” said Tomar, a Crystal Lake resident who graduated from UIC in 2002 with a degree in computer engineering and launched the app in 2018. “It could be considered a social-networking site, but kNEEBU focuses on connecting people in real life by leveraging people’s skills and expertise. It’s like 10 different apps you can use which can all be replaced by one app.”
If someone is hosting a birthday party and wants to hire a photographer, he or she might hire a person and never see that photographer again after the job is complete. The kNEEBU app allows customers to find and hire a neighbor who is a photographer. That person may be a professional photographer, or he or she may do it as a hobby. Apart from earning extra money, it provides both people with a chance to connect and get to know each other.
For consumers, it’s free to sign up and order services. The only cost is the hourly or fixed rate they agree to pay the service provider. For service providers, it’s free to sign up, too. The service provider keeps 90 percent of the profits, and kNEEBU gets 10 percent.
To ensure safety, all service providers have to go through a background check. If they come back with no alerts and everything is clear, they will get listed. If there is the slightest alert, they are not listed, and Tomar said he personally reviews the background check with the company to see why there was an alert.
“You’re letting someone in your house, and you want to make sure their background is clear and there is a level of confidence. That’s why we decided on day one that everyone has to go through a background screening,” Tomar said.
Along with background checks, the app gives the customer and the provider the opportunity to rate each other when the job is completed. The app uses a five-star rating system and offers an option to submit a description.
The app is available in the northern suburbs of Illinois and Chicago’s North Side, and it’s spreading throughout Chicago.
“The goal is to be established across the Chicagoland area by the end of the year, and then we can roll it out across other major cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco,” Tomar said. “Once we are national, we will roll it out internationally.”
Apart from bringing people together, the company is giving back to society and the community, Tomar said.
“We are fundraising with schools, and we can actually give money back to the schools,” he said. “By doing that, we are also raising awareness among the parents and teachers. Any parent or teacher that belongs to a specific school and signs up as a service provider, either half or all of the money goes back to that school.”
Tomar’s success with developing the app and building the company is rooted in the computer engineering degree he earned at UIC.
“It helps me when I’m talking to my team because I am not writing the code myself. I’ve hired a team to do the design, security and focus on payments,” he said. “It really helped me when I was selecting the team. I interviewed a lot of people before I settled with the team I have now. To understand their technical background, you need a technical background yourself to be able to say, ‘This person knows what he or she is talking about.’ On a day-to-day basis, it could be a security perspective and being able to have that technical conversation with the team is helpful.”