TaskRabbit aims to help the busy — and the unemployed, CEO says

September 3, 2013

Back in 2008, Leah Busque had a problem. She needed dog food. To be more specific, she needed dog food for her 100 lb. yellow Labrador, Kobe, on a cold night in Boston, and wished she and her husband could just ask someone already headed to the store to pick up a bag for them.

It wasn’t a big problem, though certainly one that many pet owners have faced in one form or another. But something about the idea of being able to reap the benefits of a personal assistant without actually having to hire one stuck with Busque, then a software engineer at IBM. And, after some thinking, she decided to launch TaskRabbit — a service that lets anyone post a small job offer to a community of those willing to pick up the task in exchange for a little cash.

The company, which originally launched in Boston and San Francisco, has been expanding across the country — including a launch last month in D.C.

Busque said that D.C. has been one of the most-requested markets for TaskRabbit, and that demand was able to allow the company to launch its services with a stable of 700 fully vetted individuals looking to pick up some extra work through the service.

TaskRabbit, Busque said, not only offers a way to make life a little simpler for busy people, but it also gives those looking for full- or part-time work a chance to earn some money on the side.

“When we started the company, that was a time when the stock market was crashing,” Busque said, adding that she was a little nervous to leave her cushy job at IBM to start something new. But, she said, she found that the economic downturn was actually “the best time to launch something like TaskRabbit,” which she said can give ambitious people a platform to expand their own businesses. The top 10 percent of workers who use TaskRabbit to look for jobs, she said, earn as much as $5,000 to $7,000 per month by completing two or three jobs per day. While those folks are certainly the exception rather than the rule, Busque said, it illustrates how popular TaskRabbit can be in cities with higher unemployment rates.

As for the D.C. launch Busque said that it has been particularly successful both because of the demand for TaskRabbit in the region as well as the timing of the launch, which came right as parents and students in the area were looking for school-year moving help.

“Particularly in D.C., we’ve had a lot of handyman tasks, a lot of furniture assembly, home organization and moving help,” Busque said.

But some of the tasks requested have been a little out of the ordinary as well. Busque said that one D.C. bride hired some TaskRabbits to help make 300 handmade pies in time for her wedding.

Related stories:

On Small Business: TaskRabbit launches in D.C.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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