TaskRabbit, the U.S. startup that runs a marketplace for people who need help with short-term work and errands, is hopping over the pond for its first international city launch. On Thursday, it will open for business in London, starting with 50 Taskers ready to take on your every need in the areas of Christmas-related errands, cleaning and handyman-type work. Further UK cities will come in the months ahead, Stacy Brown-Philpot, TaskRabbit’s COO, told me on Wednesday.
Prices for the initial errands on offer while TaskRabbit is still in beta in the UK range from between £12 to £25 per hour ($19-$40).
TaskRabbit has seen some knocks in its home market — manifested in the form of layoffs to refocus on what the company believes are opportunities in enterprise, mobile and geographic expansion. And some of its would-be competitors like Zaarly have also faced business challenges. In that sense, expanding internationally and the move to greener pastures could be a way for the company to spur growth. The London launch follows on the heels of a five-city expansion in the U.S. in August. London brings the total number of cities where TaskRabbit is active to 20.
But TaskRabbit is not entering a new market without its own hurdles. The UK, as Zadie Smith recently noted, is not exactly known for its service culture around food delivery, partly because the people who bring the food are surly, and partly because customers find the whole exchange so awkward. Taking that another step further, and going on my own experience as a longtime London transplant, I’d venture to say that perhaps many UK consumers are not naturally inclined to call on strangers to do lots of other things for them at the spur of the moment. The pictures that TaskRabbit supplied to me, in their stilted staging, only emphasize that feeling to me even more.
There are other challenges in the UK, in the form of existing players in the delivery market. Among them, the UK has TaskPandas, Sorted, Sooqini, Mila, along with at least one casualty, Milk.ly, which started as TaskRabbit clone but now has pivoted to e-commerce.
Interestingly, although there are a ton of offerings in the UK already, TaskRabbit says that London has been the most-requested city outside of the U.S. for the company. “Paris is a hot city that has the largest amount of demand after London,” Brown-Philpot says. “Toronto and Sydney after that.” (All those expansions would make a big dent in the $37.7 million the company has raised to date.) You could argue that the fact that these other startups are here working will make the market more receptive to TaskRabbit, too.
So what will set TaskRabbit apart from the rest? At its base, TaskRabbit is coming into the UK with the feeling that it is the market leader. Even if there are others, none have “our reputation,” she says, with 75% of its business coming from word-of-mouth. (And, from my own experience, using TaskRabbit in San Francisco, I have wished we had it here in London — although the service I have used it for, slightly odd purchasing and delivery requests, doesn’t fall into the three categories TaskRabbit’s launching with here in London.)
Brown-Philpot says that TaskRabbit has also done its homework, with a survey of some 2,000 consumers. The three areas where it is first concentrating (Christmas shopping/wrapping/preparing; cleaning; small repairwork) came directly from those results. The target audience, she says, are professional women who are married and have kids and just want more time in their lives.
On the supplier side, Brown-Philpot says that TaskRabbit had no problems getting people to sign up to become Taskers. She says that TaskRabbit found them through Facebook and Google advertising, and as part of getting onboarded they were vetted for fraud and other security-related areas, “and to make sure they had the skills they said they had.” There are more applications coming in, as there always have been in its home market, she says. Putting demand and cultural norms in the UK to one side, “We never have a problem with supply. There are always people looking for extra income.”