Somers startup SnoHub brings Uber model to snow removal

By Ryan Deffenbaugh

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A Somers entrepreneur’s new app wants to simplify snow removal: no phone calls and especially no shoveling.

SnoHub, launched in December by James Albis, is looking to bring the Uber model to snow removal. Open the app, press a few buttons and you can track a snowplow crew as it makes its way to your driveway.

The app, which is now offered both for iPhone and Android, connects homeowners with snowplowing businesses for on-demand plowing. It provides a flat-fee pricing structure, either $69, $79 or $89, based on the size of the driveway. Payments are handled inside the app, with SnoHub collecting a transaction fee.

Albis, who described himself as a serial entrepreneur, most recently co-founded the app YardHub, a similar model for yard work. He said the $14 billion snow removal industry is fragmented and inefficient, which is where the app can help.

Here’s how Albis sees it: for customers, SnoHub provides a digital tool to quickly find a plow, and transparency on when that plow will arrive. For snow plowers, it can mean extra business that doesn’t require marketing or collecting payments.

“If I can make life easier for two sides of the market, then my technology and my value proposition will catch on,” said Albis, who has taught as an adjunct business professor at Westchester Community College.

The snowplow crew takes a picture of the customer’s driveway before it is plowed, then again after to mark the job’s completion. After that, the homeowner’s credit card is charged, taxes and the transaction fee are processed through the app and the money is sent to the plower. Customers also have the option of booking a plow ahead of time, say before a big storm.

SnoHub has about 20 providers working through the app now, with access to more than 100 trucks, Albis said. He’s working with landscapers and other plowing providers to try to drive more to use the app. He said his main sell to plow companies is that customers today want access to services through their phone.

“People will gravitate toward something that is simpler, easier and more convenient to them,” Albis said.

But not all of the plows on the service have to come from already established landscaping and removal companies. Similar to how services such as Uber and Airbnb allow users to become drivers or hotel managers in their free time, Albis said plowing gigs through SnoHub are open to anyone with insurance, a driver’s license and the proper equipment. Albis added that the company does vet applicants through a background check process.

“Our whole mantra is, you got a pickup, you got a Jeep and you got a plow?” Albis said. “You can do that.”

Albis serves as CEO of the company, and he said he draws on a staff of about 20 remote employees around the country for development help, marketing and advising.

As far as competition, an app launched in 2013 called Plowz and Mowz has similarly pitched itself as the Uber of snow removal, as well as lawn mowing and leaf removal. Plowz and Mowz has a head start; it’s operating in 28 cities in the country.

But Plowz and Mowz are not in the New York metropolitan region, which is where SnoHub is focused. So far, the app covers Westchester and Fairfield counties. Albis mentioned Long Island and New Jersey as likely targets. He also said the platform could expand to include snow removal from cars in urban markets such as New York City.

While the metro area is hardly known for snowfall the way upstate cities such as Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse are, Albis said he’s confident there will be enough powder to get the business launched.

“What we really want to make sure is that the tech is done right,” he said. “Obviously everyone’s concerned about, ‘Are we gonna have enough snow?’ But if we prove out the model here in New York, we will pivot up to Buffalo, we’ll go to Rochester, we’ll go to Boston, Denver, Seattle. All people have to do is download the app. That’s a great thing about this technology.”

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About the author

Ryan Deffenbaugh covers energy, education, food and beverage and the Sound Shore for the Westchester County Business Journal. He previously worked for Westchester Magazine and The Citizen daily newspaper (Auburn, N.Y.). He started with the Westchester County Business Journal in March 2016.

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