Justin Kan rose to Silicon Valley fame five years ago as star of the one-man, always-on Webcast Justin.tv. He then spun that out into two companies with millions of users: TwitchTV, an online community for gamers, and SocialCam, which lets smartphone owners create and share videos.
The serial entrepreneur's latest creation is decidedly less glamorous: Finding people to clean other people's toilets. But he's convinced that Exec can be something big.
As part of the new "sharing" movement that's creating marketplaces for short-term contract workers, the company "lets anyone go and do whatever they're good at," the Yale physics graduate said.
Exec began last year as a glorified errand service akin to TaskRabbit, which lets people post miscellaneous jobs that temp workers can bid to perform. But, Kan said, a significant chunk of customers' requests centered on housecleaning, so he dedicated an entire page of the company's website for those services.
"If you go through the experience of booking a cleaner, there's a lot of picking up the phone, seeing who's available when," said Kan. "Our goal is to take away that pain."
Users of Exec's mobile app or website punch in their addresses and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms to be cleaned. They then see a slate of potential dates and an estimated cost for the job. Exec's two-person crews bring their own "green" cleaning supplies to the user's home or office.
Others in the mobile-maids-on-demand business include Getmaid and Pathjoy, the latter of which touts cleaning services as low as $20 an hour.
Perhaps befitting its name, Exec's services are pricier -- Kan quotes $130 for a two-bedroom home, which he said typically takes two hours to clean. "It's a little cheaper than some of the guys like Molly Maid or Merry Maids, but it's in the upper tier," he said.
Still, after three months, the cleaning service already accounts for about a quarter of Exec's customers, though Kan won't say just how many that is. And while help with odd jobs and errands is available only in San Francisco, the cleaning crews also cover Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose.
Paul Graham, co-founder of tech incubator Y Combinator, calls Kan "a seasoned veteran" of the valley's startup scene -- a seasoning process that began when, at age 23, Justin.tv suddenly garnered Kan attention from the likes of CNN and USA Today. Graham added that while Exec might seem like a departure for Kan, it has a lot in common with his previous startups.
"You probably think of it as a service business, whereas Justin & Co. are trying to make it as much of a software company as they can," Graham said. "Like Amazon: Amazon is not a retailer, it's a software company that sells people things."
Like many other "sharing economy" startups, Exec checks the criminal backgrounds of its contractors to boost customer confidence. Kan's temps -- called "Execs" -- earn $15 to $20 an hour, depending on experience, with no health insurance or other benefits.
But Julio Artiga, who started landing jobs through the company in early 2012, said he has no complaints.
"Working for Exec is actually really exciting, because you get to make other people's lives easier," said the 32-year-old Daly City resident.
Artiga signed up with Kan's outfit after a stint in nonprofits and a short-lived startup of his own. Through Exec, he's run errands, helped people assemble their Ikea furniture and cleaned dozens of homes.
"We cater to a lot of people who work in the tech industry, somebody who's chained behind the desk," he said. "They want to come home to a house that's clean."
Exec's customers also tend to skew on the young side, company officials say.
"A lot of people in this day and age look for ways to optimize their time so they can do the things they love," said Daniel Gross, 21, the CEO of a s schedule-planning startup called Cue. He's hired Execs to clean his San Francisco apartment and fetch occasional grocery items.
Gross calls Exec "an arbitrage market for time," noting that people can buy and sell what, especially in the go-go Bay Area, is an increasingly valuable commodity.
As for Exec's 300-plus contractors, Kan said, "We can aggregate enough work to make it flexible, so you can work as much or as little as you want." Exec's mobile app shows workers what jobs are available when; dibs are awarded based on skill level.
Artiga said the typical Exec pulls 20 to 25 jobs a week. Compared with his old nonprofit gig, he said, "I'm making more money, and I'm enjoying what I do a lot more."
But do people look down on him for cleaning houses?
"It's kind of the opposite," Artiga said. "You go around the city and people notice the Exec jackets -- and the jackets are pretty sweet."
Contact Peter Delevett at 408-271-3638. Follow him at Twitter.com/mercwiretap.
For more information on Exec's services, go to http://iamexec.com.