We were too busy to write an article about TaskRabbit, so we posted a task—"write a freelance tech article"—on the site. The winning offer came from Laura Edgar, an out-of-work copy editor in El Cerrito, Calif., who says she finds jobs on TaskRabbit "about twice a month." - The Editors
Leah Busque and her husband Kevin were headed out for dinner in Boston one night in early 2008 when they realized they'd run out of food for their 100-pound Labrador, Kobe. Kevin mused that it would be nice if the couple could use the Web to find someone else to do the errand for them. Busque, a programmer for IBM (IBM) at the time, decided that was a great idea. She registered the domain name RunMyErrand.com from her smartphone before they got to the first course.
Nearly three years later, RunMyErrand.com has gone from idea to startup. Now known as TaskRabbit, Busque's site is a network of several hundred "runners" willing to do short-term jobs on short notice. People who need the jobs done—"senders," as they're known on the site—post errands and the maximum amount they're willing to pay to have them completed. Runners then bid on the task. The sender can choose among them, or have the site do it based on factors that include price, speed, and the runner's reputation. TaskRabbit earns a small fee on each transaction.
Grocery shopping and assembling Ikea furniture are two of the most common requests, says Busque. The idea is to "allow people to live more efficiently, enjoy a better work-life balance, and optimize their time and money," she says.
Busque launched an early, Boston-only version of the site in 2008. She raised $2 million in venture capital in late 2009 and in June of this year expanded the service to San Francisco, where the eight-person company is now headquartered. She plans to expand to other cities soon and is also working on developing partnerships with corporations that want to make TaskRabbit available as an employee perk. Google (GOOG) recently completed a four-week trial in which employees in the San Francisco and Cambridge (Mass.) offices received TaskRabbit credits. (The search giant says it currently has no plans to extend the program.)
Busque acknowledges that not everyone is comfortable with contracting with strangers for work. TaskRabbit interviews potential runners over the phone and performs background checks before adding them to the network. The site also has a reviews section where runners and senders rate each other. Roberta Ponder of Danville, Calif., says she quickly grew comfortable with the site. She recently used a TaskRabbit runner to take a donation to the local library and says she was happy to find someone "to take care of it for such a small cost."
The bottom line: TaskRabbit is a site where busy people—including magazine editors—can find "runners" to do their errands for a fee.