A former army commander launched an online tradie marketplace that just spent an estimated $2 million on WOMO

OneFlare CEO Marcus Lim. Image: Supplied.

After two years in the army, rising to the rank of infantry commander, Marcus Lim decided the military’s strict protocols weren’t for him and left to launch local services marketplace Oneflare, an online tradie marketplace.

“The military is very rigid and structured, and that’s not a bad thing, but the personality that I am… the military doesn’t allow you to innovate,” he said. “I didn’t see myself in the military in the long run…the cons didn’t weigh up for me.”

The idea of Oneflare came to Lim and technical co-founder Adam Dong in 2011 when they realised how difficult it was to find a local tradie.

Today the company announced it had finalised a deal to acquire local services review site Word Of Mouth Online (WOMO) in a deal understood to be worth just shy of $2 million.

With hundreds of thousands of reviews posted to the site in Australia, WOMO is one of the largest online reviews site in the country. At last count WOMO had 175,000 businesses registered and 420,000 reviews clocked against them.

In four years OneFlare has grown to have over 60,000 registered businesses and claims to generate thousands of job leads for cleaners, removalists, electricians, renovators, gardeners and builders.

It’s been a big 12 months for OneFlare, which has also acquired home remodeling advice site Renovate Forum, flagged an expansion into the UK and landed $1.5 million in funding.

Lim said after a hectic couple of years he’s thankful for his military training which he said has helped him stay cool in stressful situations and manage a bunch of moving parts at once.

“I used to be in charge of platoons of people,” he told Business Insider.

“That has so far served me fairly well in terms of building the team from 12 people 12 months ago to 37 people.

His time in the military also taught him how “to deal with challenges, and a lot of challenges at the same time, both physical and mental…[as well as how] to stay calm in stressful environments.”

He assured Business Insider he’s never made an employee drop and give him 20 if they are running late to the OneFlare office.

“We train under peaceful environments,” he said, adding: “We operate in a flexible environment here.”

He said his developers do like to come in a little later and the Oneflare working hours accommodate that.

WOMO’s employees and management have joined the Oneflare business but will maintain a separate brand and site for the time being until Oneflare figures out an integration strategy.

“At the moment our plan is to leave WOMO as a stand alone business,” Lim said. “Eventually we are going to integrate those two platforms.”

“The main reason we bought WOMO is that it fits strategically in our vision,” he said, adding: “Customer reviews and ratings are an important indicator of whether a business is reliable.”

WOMO operates in service categories that Oneflare currently doesn’t, including beauty and spas. By making the acquisition Lim said the company has “shortcut” part of the expansion process.

“Those sectors are segments we aren’t involved in and looking to get into,” he said, adding WOMO’s IP which it’s built over the past seven years and includes a widget that is circulated on businesses’ websites, was also an attractive draw card.

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