The only thing more soul-crushing than walking out of your house into last winter’s veritable prison of snow was getting to where you parked your car and not being able to find it. Once you figured out which snowbank your wheels were under, you’d shovel it out only to have a plow go by and cover it with snow again.
Chris Barry wants to ensure that this winter, you won’t have to touch a shovel if you don’t want to. He’s built an app called Yeti, a service he describes as “the Uber of snow shoveling.’’ Lazy Bostonians can post the location of their buried car, and a “yeti’’ (as he refers to the shovelers) will come do the heavy lifting for a set price.
Barry says the idea was born out of the deep despair he experienced last winter when, after trudging through a mile of slush and “whatever else was going on on the sidewalk’’ in Southie, he came face to face with his snow-covered car.
“I had the realization of, ‘Oh man, I’m already really miserable and now I have to shovel three feet of snow off my car.’ I was like, ‘Why isn’t there some service that I can have this taken care of?’ And in today’s sharing economy this app was the natural progression of that.’’
Barry spent the past year developing the app, and says he’s hoping to release it in time for this winter’s first big snow storm. He said the name was inspired by the Boston yeti, a human in a yeti suit who strolled around the city during the seemingly endless massive snowstorms of 2015.
The goal of Yeti is to keep transactions local, so that shovelers are walking—rather than driving or taking public transportation—to get to customers. The service will work much like Uber: The buyer drops a pin in the app’s map to mark where their car is parked. The app then matches the buyer with a yeti and notifies the buyer when help is on the way.
The yeti sends a picture of the snow covered car once he or she gets there, then shovels it out and sends another picture once the job’s done. The buyer then rates the shoveling job to maintain a high level of service, Barry said.
“Part of that is that people will get a kick out of seeing it happen in real time,’’ he said. “You get to sit on your couch in front of the TV and know you’re not dealing with it. Your car magically goes from being under two feet of snow to you being able to walk outside and just get going.’’
Just as Uber puts surge pricing in place, Barry said Yeti will also employ some level of increased price depending on demand. He’s also toying around with the idea of need-based pricing—if you have to be somewhere in the next 40 minutes, you could pay a higher rate to get shoveled out quickly. If you don’t have anywhere pressing to be and could wait a few hours, the price could be lower.
Unlike Uber, however, Barry said the cost won’t be based on how long a Yeti takes to shovel out a car. Instead, each vehicle will cost a set amount, and the buyer will know the price before the Yeti begins the sometimes back-breaking work of excavation.
Barry hasn’t quit his day job as a business consultant at Accenture, though. When asked what he’ll do if it doesn’t snow at all, he said that due to the nature of the app, he’d probably be able to pivot it to meet some other need that is less seasonally dependent.
But even as the sun shone and the temperatures hovered around 60 degrees on Tuesday, Barry was hopeful that the snow gods will be on his side. He’s probably the only person in Massachusetts hoping for a repeat of last winter.
“What was it, 100, 150 inches? I’ll take every inch we can get,’’ Barry said. “For once I’m like bring it on, I’m ready for winter. Give me as much snow as we can handle.’’