TaskRabbit Wants To Help You Do Chores Right Now
When TaskRabbit, a startup that connects customers with household help, changed how it charged for work in 2014, things didn’t go as planned.
Until then, the company let “taskers,” as it calls workers, bid for jobs and set their own rates. But with the new model, TaskRabbit seized most of the control—and created a public relations mess with workers, some of whom felt blindsided by the change.
Now the eight-year-old company, wiser with age, is trying something new again. On Tuesday, TaskRabbit is adding a new option for customers who want their leaves raked, furniture assembled, and toilets scrubbed right now.
The new service focuses on four categories of tasks—deliveries, home cleaning, handyman tasks, and moving help—that the company’s army of household help can complete them within 90 minutes of the customer’s initial request. When a customer asks for help, TaskRabbit will show them how quickly a tasker can be at their doorstep and the cost, all in under five minutes.
According to TaskRabbit, this mirrors much of the behavior already happening on the service. The company merely decided to formalize it by creating an additional option.
But the new service also matches a shift in consumer expectations, largely thanks to the proliferation of mobile apps that deliver virtually anything.
“The consumer expectation has become much more immediate, and this is a step toward meeting this new expectation,” TaskRabbit founder and CEO Leah Busque told Fortune in an interview at the company’s San Francisco office.
Although TaskRabbit shies away from any comparison to ride-hailing giant Uber, it’s hard not to draw the parallel. Uber often brags about its mission to pick up passengers within five minutes (sound familiar?), and is largely credited for the I-want-it-now mindset of today’s consumers.
TaskRabbit is still leaving some aspects of the service up to its contractors, by leaving it up to them to set their hourly rates and the types of tasks they want to perform. And that relative flexibility taskers still have over their work is likely what’s kept TaskRabbit away from lawsuits over its classification of workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Other companies, including Uber, are currently grappling with such lawsuits that largely hinge on how much control their exert over their workers.
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Busque founded TaskRabbit in 2008 when a cold night in Cambridge, Mass. left her wishing she could pay someone to pick up food for her dog and save her the hassle. Inspired by the idea of an online marketplace for people to find help for routine chores, the site, then called RunMyErrand, debuted in September of that year.
Since then, the company has gone through not only a name change, but also a move across the country to resettle in San Francisco. It’s also undergone huge growth along with growing pains. There was an executive shuffle (Busque briefly handed the CEO hat to Hotwire co-founder Eric Grosse), an expansion into several new U.S. cities, and raising $38 million in funding. There was also an aborted foray into supplying taskers for companies, layoffs, and a major shift in strategy that served as a big lesson.
TaskRabbit is also facing increasing competition from delivery companies like Postmates and now Uber, which aim to deliver food and other items to their customers with the tap of a button. Home services startups like Handy and Thumbtack also provide home help along with giants like Google and Amazon, which recently rolled out their own services for getting jobs around the home done by professionals.
But as with everything else it does, TaskRabbit’s new service is deeply rooted in data and inevitably part of its product. For example, taskers were already agreeing to take on about 70% of tasks within five minutes of being posted. Tuesday also brings an entirely new design to TaskRabbit’s mobile app, through which use tripled during 2015.
“It’s certainly, I would say, the next iteration, the next evolution of the service,” Busque said of the new service and an accompanying app redesign.
Next up in the company’s evolution is also profitability, which Busque confidently predicts will happen in 2016. While other on-demand services struggle to wean themselves from investors’ money, Busque says TaskRabbit has always made financial viability a priority.
“Because we started at a time when things were tight, we’ve been very disciplined,” Busque says of her company’s beginnings just as the Great Recession hit the economy in 2008. She declined to share the company’s revenue, which comes from the 30% commission it takes from each task. But she said that it’s grown four-fold during 2015, and that TaskRabbit has more than tripled the number of customers it has during that time.