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FRANKFURT, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Helpling, the online marketplace for household cleaners backed by Germany's Rocket Internet, has raised 13.5 million euros ($16.8 million) from investors to fund its race to go global before rivals stake out the territory.
Berlin-based Helpling aims to do for home cleaning what Airbnb and Uber have done for room-sharing and ride-sharing respectively, using reviews and ratings to bring transparency to the market.
Helpling launched its online service to connect households with domestic cleaners in March and has expanded rapidly into 150 cities in seven countries across Europe and, most recently, to Brazil.
The start-up is one of the latest entrants into the opaque market for cleaning services, where it competes with U.S.-based Homejoy, backed by Google Ventures, and firms with names such as TaskRabbit, Handybook, Direct Cleaner, Hassle and Mopp.
But the biggest competitor of Helpling and its rivals is the black market that dominates domestic cleaning services in most countries.
In Germany, where Helpling operates in 50 cities, most home cleaning work is done for cash, based on informal referrals, outside the reach of tax authorities.
"In general, Germans like to follow the rules," Helpling Co-founder Benedikt Franke said. "Yet 90 percent of domestic cleaning work in Germany happens on the black market. We offer a legal way for the two sides to do business together."
Helpling's so-called Series A financing round draws in new investors Mangrove Capital Partners, the first investor in pioneering European start-up Skype, frequent Rocket co-investor Phenomen Ventures, angel investor Point Nine Capital and serial entrepreneur Lukasz Gadowski.
Helpling is one of the youngest in the stable of start-ups backed by Rocket Internet to receive fresh funding in the weeks since Rocket's initial public offering in October.
1 US dollar = 0.8028 euro Reporting by Eric Auchard; Editing by Mark Potter