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Why TaskRabbit’s Gig Economy Model Is Thriving Under Ikea’s Ownership

July 17, 2018, 11:13 PM UTC

TaskRabbit helped invent the gig economy by building a network that let users hire independently-contracted “taskers” to perform household chores. But since being acquired by furniture retailing giant Ikea last year, the company has been expanding rapidly.

TaskRabbit is now available as an option for Ikea shoppers who want a hired hand to put together their new bookshelf or dining room table bought through all stores in the United States and the largest markets in the United Kingdom, CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference on Tuesday. But more growth is planned.

“Part of our expansion strategy is new markets in other cities,” she says. “Ikea’s in 49 countries—we want to be in all of them, with them, eventually.”

Ikea bought TaskRabbit less than a year ago for an undisclosed price and is operating it as an independent subsidiary. Although TaskRabbit is fully integrated as an offering for people who shop at Ikea, the unit is also able to strike deals with other potential partners. Brown-Philpot, who has been on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list, joined the company in 2013 as chief operating officer and got the CEO job in 2016 when co-founder Leah Busque stepped down.

The easy availability of help to assemble Ikea products has boosted online sales, Brown-Philpot says. “Even if they had a web site (before the acquisition), we’ve seen more customers now will buy things online through the Ikea web site – and buy more things – because the TaskRabbit service is available,” she said.

One recent Ikea customer set a TaskRabbit record, hiring helpers for 117 hours worth of furniture assembly. “The customer went online, saw that they could get TaskRabbit to put everything together, and basically bought all new furniture for their entire house,” Brown-Philpot recounted.

The CEO has sought to better understand both her customers and her contractors by going undercover and being hired as a tasker herself. In one case, she had two hours to clean an apartment sufficiently that the customer would get a deposit back from their landlord. “That was a lot of pressure,” she recalled. “It was a good experience to not just feel what it’s like to be a client sometimes but also feel what it’s like to be a tasker.”

The dirty oven was especially challenging but the customer did get his deposit back. Did Brown-Philpot reveal her ruse?

“I did not, because I didn’t want to freak him out.”