By Eric Auchard
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Helpling, an online marketplace for hiring home cleaners backed by Germany's Rocket Internet, is expanding beyond its base in Europe to set up new operations in the Middle East and Asia, aided by the acquisition of a rival Singapore start-up.
Berlin-based Helpling said it was acquiring Singapore-based Spickify for an undisclosed sum. Hoe Yeen Teck, Spickify's co-founder and chief executive, will be Singapore country manager of the company, which will operate under the Helpling brand.
Besides Singapore, Helpling is also expanding into the United Arab Emirates. It already operates in Germany and six other European markets, plus Australia, Brazil and Canada -- a total of a dozen countries, supplying cleaners in 200 cities.
The company announced a $16.8 million financing round in December to fund international expansion.
Helpling is one of several start-ups looking to open up the often opaque market for household cleaning services.
It offers comparable services to U.S.-based Homejoy, backed by Google Ventures, and other memorably named firms such as TaskRabbit, Handybook, Direct Cleaner, Hassle and Mopp.
Helpling is fond of saying its main rival is the black market that dominates domestic cleaning services in most countries, as well as job placement agencies and classified advertising listings.
Booking local cleaners via Helpling's vetted online directory can take less than a minute, a service designed for young professionals living on mobile phones who are increasingly comfortable with researching and buying services via the Web.
(Editing by Mark Potter)