Yoky Matsuoka, founder of Yohana, speaks at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle last year. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)
[Keerthi Vedantam is a reporter for dot.LA]
Who do you call when three simultaneous Zoom meetings have throttled your internet connection for the fifth time this week and your child has a last-minute project that needs to be completed?
Yohana — a company positioning itself as a household concierge service that helps families address the various issues and tasks that crop up in day-to-day life — wants to be that call. And after initially piloting in Seattle last year, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is now making Los Angeles its second core market, officially launching in the city on Tuesday.
Deploying a membership model that costs $249 per month, Yohana promises to help its customers with everything from finding a plumber to planning a birthday party to buying baby food. The company partners with local piano teachers, handymen, flower shops and other service providers to provide such tasks. It also teams each family subscribed to its platform with a guide and researchers who help manage both short-term tasks like home repairs and long-term goals like travel itineraries.
Yohana is the brainchild of founder and CEO Yoky Matsuoka, a former Google and Apple executive who served as chief technology officer of Google’s Nest smart home division from 2017 to 2019. After leaving Google, Matsuoka started Yohana in 2020 with the goal of creating family-centric technology. She opted to eschew Silicon Valley’s traditional venture capital-backed startup model and instead partner with an old-school tech company: Panasonic, the Japanese consumer electronics conglomerate, which backs Yohana as a fully-funded independent subsidiary.
“[At Nest] it felt that it was very linear no matter how fast we moved; it was a startup with a brand that nobody knew about, and then it takes a long time to build that up,” Matsuoka said of her time at Nest prior to its $3.2 billion acquisition by Google in 2014. With the Panasonic partnership, she told dot.LA, “I have the ability with a larger company to utilize their brands to springboard much faster.”
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Yohana first launched in Seattle in 2021 via a pilot program involving more than 1,000 households that were able to save some 8 to 10 hours per week in household tasks by using the service, according to the company. Through the pilot, Matsuoka said the company was able to further refine its product in advance of forays into new markets like L.A. For instance, it built new security and encryption applications to help families manage their credit cards and other sensitive files.
“Initially before we launched in Seattle, we thought that people would not give us really personal tasks like passport renewal,” Matsuoka said. “It turns out people felt the need to have a lot of personal data passed on to us so that we can do more tasks.”
In the future, according to Matsuoka, the company will be able to leverage its hordes of data through the power of AI and machine learning to make life easier for customers and vendors alike — so that if multiple families are requesting the same service or experience, for example, Yohana’s technology can help streamline the planning.
Yohana’s tech-enabled platform nestles alongside more established ventures like TaskRabbit and Instacart in what’s called the family-tech space, an emerging subsector that collected $1.4 billion in venture capital money in 2021, according to PitchBook.