Often times I ask myself if technology is really helping us. I’m not suggesting it’s not beneficial. It’s making us super human beings! And I’m sure you have days when you feel like a 56K modem in a broadband world. The San Francisco based company TaskRabbit wants to bring you up to speed.
TaskRabbit is a two-way marketplace that connects ‘TaskPosters,’ people who need help, with ‘TaskRabbits,’ a network of pre-approved and background checked individuals, who have the time and skills needed to complete the listed task. Today, the service networking platform is moving into mobile and has released its brand new iOS app for the iPhone and iPod touch. The mobile app will allow you to coordinate tasks you can’t handle while you’re on the go, which is exactly when the busiest people need it. While the official announcement hasn’t been made, starting today, TaskRabbit is now active in New York City, home to the busiest people in the whole world. The service is already live in San Francisco, Orange County, Los Angeles and Boston.
Why it’s safe: The biggest challenge with any collaborative consumption business like Airbnb, Roomorama, GetAround, Zaarly and GigWalk is that things happen. One traveler who used Airbnb while she was away recently, came home to a ransacked apartment, her life in shambles. Just having a Facebook profile and an account isn’t enough of an identity verification process. TaskRabbit minimizes these risks with added transparency and an unparalleled vetting process. All TaskRabbits first apply online and, if selected, are added to the community based on location and skills. Second, TaskRabbits go through a video interview as well as a federal, criminal background check via Axiom. And TaskRabbit offers a 24-hour member services department should you run into any trouble (877.617.TASK).
TaskRabbit is all about building a community. The company hosts frequent ‘meet and greets’ for its TaskRabbits. While there are people who are full-time TaskRabbits, Kevin Cruz, TaskRabbit’s community manager says that the best TaskRabbits are retired individuals with skills and spare times, as well as stay-at-home moms (and dads!) who want to contribute to the household but maintain flexibility. Other great TaskRabbits include underemployed individuals- waiters, artists, and those with full time jobs who may have had their salaries scaled back during the recession. While there are no quotas to fill, TaskRabbits must be 21 years of age and older.
To use the app: Fill out the task with as much detail as possible including any special pickup instructions. Within the app you can upload voice recordings and photos, tag geographic locations, and view pricing history for similar tasks. After you post the task, it will be on the TaskRabbit service network in a matter of minutes. In addition the payment, TaskRabbits are rewarded with “carrots” each time they complete a task. Complete a Task, get a Carrot. Complete 3 Tasks and get up to $20 off the TaskPayment, up to twice per month.
The company began as “Run My Errand” in Boston in 2008, but rebranded in April 2010 and moved its headquarters to San Francisco. The 28-person team enjoys weekly yoga classes, unlimited gluten free snacks, coconut water, lots of natural light and dogs running around in its sweet new office space. We caught up with Leah Busque, founder and CEO at TaskRabbit for a brief interview.
CBM: Yes! Not another margarita making-daily deals serving-find the nearest hook up to you app! TaskRabbit is actually making the world a more efficient place. You must be a very special founder. Tell me what motivates you to do what you do.
Leah Busque: Thanks, we are certainly not another margarita making deal site.
Although it may sound a bit cheesy, it is the stories I hear each day about how people are using the site – the fun and silly stories, like prank my office mate by wrapping his desk and chair in cellophane to the more serious tasks like help me plan my wedding and bring soup to my sick girlfriend. I’m inspired by the fact that we are bringing people together to get things done in a novel way. The service network that we’ve built goes far beyond just tasks, small jobs, and errands. This is what inspires me to keep building and expanding the platform and bringing it to more people across the country.
CBM: What was the “apple on the head” moment when you suddenly realized, I have to create TaskRabbit!?
LB: It was a cold winter night in Boston in February of 2008. My husband, Kevin, and I were getting ready to go out to dinner. We had called a cab to come pick us up, when we realized that we were out of dog food. We have a 100lb yellow lab named Kobe who doesn’t miss many meals. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place online you could go, say you needed dog food, name the price you are willing to pay. I was certain there was someone in my own neighborhood that would be willing to help us out. Before the cab even made it to their door, I had mapped the vision for TaskRabbit in my head. That was the exact time and place the idea was born.
CBM: Traditionally, what kinds of people are Task Posters? How about Task Rabbits?
LB: Our community is open to anyone looking for an extra hand or looking to put a little extra time back in their day. We provide services both for busy individuals and for businesses looking for additional resources and looking to save money. Our “typical user” – although that is hard to say as we have some many different users of the service- is the uber busy professional. We also have many small businesses using our service for extra administrative help, quality assurance testing and general office admin tasks.
CBM: You are a female entrepreneur and that is awesome. Any comment on that?
LB: As a female technical founder, I can’t really say if the road has been any different for me than it is for my male counterparts. I have nothing to compare it to. What I do know is that I am so grateful for the tremendous mentors, advisors, investors, and the team I have built. Making the leap from an engineer to an entrepreneur hasn’t been easy, but I remember my defining moment where I literally thought – this isn’t rocket science, I’ll figure it out. I should just go for it.
CBM: Where do you see the future of TaskRabbit? Expansion? World domination?
LB: Definitely world domination. (Smiling) In the meantime, we have plans to expand to the major metro areas in the US this year. Over the next few months, we will be launching in NYC, Chicago, Seattle and other major cities.
CBM: Any copycats out there?
LB: Recently, a few companies have popped up doing similar things, but no one is creating the service networking platform that TaskRabbit has. We’ve built in a robust reputation engine, proprietary payment platform, and integration with social technologies, all of which allows us to provide an amazing user experience on the TaskRabbit site. We are also the only company focused on safety and security- as mentioned, we background check every TaskRabbit. I haven’t seen any other companies out there approaching the space like we are.
CBM: When you think about future business motivation, who inspires you? Any favorite quotes?
“See how far you can take it”… Scott Griffith, the CEO of Zipcar.
I met Scott back in 2008 and spent 30 minutes describing my vision for TaskRabbit and at the end of the conversation he said, “I think you are onto something here. I think you should see how far you can take it.”
To monetize, TaskRabbit takes a percentage of each task fee, approximately 15%. To date, TaskRabbit has raised $6.8 million dollars, including a recent $5 million Series A round from Baseline Ventures, First Round Capital, FLOODGATE Fund, Collaborative Fund, and Shasta Ventures.
And congratulations to TaskRabbit on snagging Apple’s featured app for the week. Download it here (Free).