TaskRabbit Founder Leah Busque Takes Back The Reins, Stepping Back Into CEO Role

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Leah Busque, the founder of TaskRabbit, the web and mobile marketplace for outsourcing small jobs and errands, has reassumed the role of CEO at the San Francisco-based startup.

It was just this past fall that Busque handed over the chief executive title to Eric Grosse, an experienced web executive best known for co-founding Hotwire and leading it through its 2003 sale to digital conglomerate InterActiveCorp. Grosse is staying on with TaskRabbit on the company’s board of directors, where he will continue to advise on strategy and operations.

Bringing Product And Engineering To The Forefront

Although from the outside the change may seem like a surprising shift, Busque told me in an interview at TaskRabbit’s headquarters that there are absolutely no hard feelings associated with the move. “Eric has been incredibly helpful over the past nine months, so I’m super psyched that he’s going to say on board,” she said. “His focus has been strategic planning, corporate strategy, and high level operations, and those aspects are incredibly important things he helped us set up and establish.”

But it seems that the four-year-old TaskRabbit has realized that amid a growing landscape of competitors from Zaarly to Exec to Postmates, its real value proposition is not in metrics and operations — it’s in the unique flavor and experience it delivers.

And it just so happens that that’s what Busque has been focusing on all along. Busque, who first conceived of TaskRabbit while working full-time as a software engineer at IBM, stepped away from being CEO in October to concentrate solely on the company’s product in a “chief product officer” role — a bid to get back to her roots in a way, she told me at the time. Since then, she said, the company’s executive team and its investors have realized that a focus on the product and engineering should be driving TaskRabbit’s core strategy overall.

The Old Models Don’t Necessarily Apply

Busque is straightforward in addressing any misconceptions about why Grosse was brought on in the first place. TaskRabbit has raised nearly $25 million in venture capital, and often when big-name investors get on board they encourage younger founders to step aside and let an executive with some “grey hair” take the reins. That was not the case here, Busque said: Rather, it was she herself who thought that it was important to bring on a more experienced person in either a CEO or COO role, based on what she had learned from watching other business models. “It was my decision to do that search, and find some executive help. There was absolutely zero pressure from investors.”

Over time, Busque said, she has come to realize that the old models of building a business may not apply at all to TaskRabbit. “It’s a unique business. Really, it’s a completely new industry that we’re a part of, and all of these are trends and segments that have only been around for maybe 12 months. It needs a lot of innovation, and while we’ve learned a lot with Eric’s help that has been amazing, now it’s an important time to focus on re-invigoration.”

It’s Good To Be A Founder

Personally, I think it’s fantastic news for TaskRabbit — and on a higher level, it’s just another encouraging sign for the founder community and the tech industry at large. Where maybe in the past it was more common for founders and engineers to take a backseat as their ideas grew, Busque is just the latest proof that these days, for people with both engineering training and a nice helping of product vision, the sky should really be the limit. It’ll be exciting to see how TaskRabbit continues to evolve now that she is back at the helm for good.