TaskRabbit founder and CEO Leah Busque started her business with an age-old goal in mind: She needed to put food on the table.
Truth be told, the Horatio Alger connection breaks down pretty quickly from there. The food Busque needed was for her dog, Kobe, and she had plenty of money to pay for it. But it was a cold and dark winter night, and she just didn’t feel like leaving the house. Irritated, Busque thought about how other people in her neighborhood were probably already planning to go to the store that night. Wouldn’t it be cool if she could just outsource the dog food run to one of them, for a small fee?
In a “flash of inspiration,” Busque started sketching plans for an online marketplace where neighbors could arrange to do simple tasks for each other. Within a few months, she had quit her full-time job as a software engineer at IBM, and the company now known as TaskRabbit was officially born.
In the three years since then, Busque’s leap of faith has paid off. TaskRabbit announced Wednesday it has raised $5 million in a Series A funding round led by Shasta Ventures. The startup, which currently brokers tasks in San Francisco and Boston, will use the money to expand its reach to other metro areas nationwide, Busque told me in an interview this week, parts of which you can watch in the video below.
TaskRabbit works essentially as a two-way marketplace: People who need help with tasks, or “senders,” negotiate prices on TaskRabbit with people who have free time to complete these tasks, or “runners.” TaskRabbit is set apart from part-time job finding services like Craigslist’s et cetera section by several layers designed to add security. TaskRabbit runners are vetted by a comprehensive background check and all TaskRabbit transactions are processed by the company’s proprietary payment system, which helps protect both senders and runners from scams.
Because users have grown to trust TaskRabbit’s platform, today the company’s purview extends well beyond dog food pickup. The price of the average TaskRabbit deal is now $45, Busque tells me, and the company currently facilitates thousands of tasks per month. TaskRabbit does not disclose its revenue, but Busque said the company collects an average commission of around 15 percent on each deal it brokers.
“We’re really empowering people to sell their free time and their special skills and services,” Busque said. “I feel like we’ve really only scratched the surface of what TaskRabbit can be used for.”
TaskRabbit has already become a household name in certain San Francisco circles. I know people who use it to outsource everything from picking up their dry cleaning to waiting in line for the latest iPhone. As it expands to more geographic locations, the company could well become an eBay-for-services, much like Etsy is an eBay-for-crafts.
Watch Leah Busque describe her vision for TaskRabbit in her own words: