TaskRabbit seems super busy. I signed up two weeks ago and I just got a message that they are too busy to answer me back due to the massive volume of applications they are processing. Well, this is understandable because TaskRabbit is a crowdsourcing platfrom, a platform that outsources work to the “Internet crowd” which is well over a billion in number.
TaskRabbit is unlike any platform that we’ve seen. It’s a brilliant technology that brings the concept of cloud computing to our daily lives.
Web-based employment platforms such as Elance and oDesk are great places to find both part-time freelancers and full-time workers but what if I need someone to do petty, yet time-consuming tasks, like cleaning the office, setting up the desk, putting together new servers or even shopping and laundry, on-demand?
TaskRabbit fills this gap and helps you get your errands done on-demand at low cost. Once you hook yourself with TaskRabbit, what you need to do is just post an errand on TaskRabbit that you want someone else to do in your stead, along with the price that you are willing to pay for the task, and almost immediately, thousands of people, mostly likely your neighbors, will reply to your errand and start competing among themselves through a bidding process to win you over.
TaskRabbit is an amazing concept and it sure seems to hold a lot of potential especially for the European and Korean market.
There are not many startups that offer services similar to TaskRabbit’s because the crowdsourcing is a relatively new concept. Nevertheless, it would be very interesting to see how things unfold in the next five years.
Below is a short research done on TaskRabbit as a company, how its service works and some legal challenges it is tied up with.
Company Name: TaskRabbit
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Number of Employees: -
Funding Raised: USD 37.7 million
TaskRabbit, previously known as RunMyErrand, is an online crowdsourcing platform that allows its customers, called TaskPosters, to post a tasks anytime and almost immediately hire a random person to get the posted task done.
The idea of the TaskRabbit is, TaskPosters save time, and money, by entrusting their errands to willing TaskRabbits, and the TaskRabbits in turn receive payment via the platform for the errands they carry out successfully.
Errands posted on the TaskRabbit platform diverse – delivery, house chores, shopping, holiday gift shopping, gift wrapping, office help, pet sitting, event help and even shopping tasks, to name a few.
Currently, there are more than 4,000 TaskRabbits on the platform. The age bracket is from early 20s to early 70s, and students, the unemployed, retirees and housewives make up the majority.
TaskRabbit is available in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orange County, New York, Portland, San Antonio, San Francisco and Seattle, and it continues to expand the coverage of its crowdsourcing service.
As explained previously, TaskPosters post a task on the website. Then, the task goes through a competitive bidding process in which thousands of TaskRabbits, most probably your neighbors, compete among each other by offering lower bid prices to win over your task .
The TaskRabbit who offers the least bid price, or at least a price tag attractive enough for the TaskPoster, wins the job and starts working on it in within a period specified by the TaskPoster. After successfully carrying out the task, the TaskRabbit receives payment from the TaskPoster via the TaskRabbit platform.
Though this over-the-platform payment system is fast and hassle-free, it comes with a heart-breaking transaction fee. TaskRabbit charges separate fees depending on the amount of transaction, and this fee structure is neatly summarized in the table below.
|Amount of Transaction||Fee Charged by TaskRabbit|
|< USD 50||20%|
|< USD 100||18%|
|≥ USD 100||12%|
Highway robbery? Indeed, the fee charged by TaskRabbit for every transaction is ridiculously high compared to what Paypal and Square charges its users.
Because most of the tasks in TaskRabbit require a face-to-face contact between the two parties (that is, the TaskRabbits visiting the TaskPosters in person to deliver what was required by the task), safety concerns are raised on the part of TaskPosters. Imagine a TaskRabbit who is actually a criminal personally approaching just because he was working on the task given by you. There is this risk, or perhaps danger, of a completely anonymous person working for you.
To address this problem, TaskRabbit requires its prospective TaskRabbits to go through a “strict” vetting process. How strict is it? Well, first, you have to submit a fully filled-out online application form. Once you pass that stage (lucky you), you have to go through a phone or video interview. You also need to take a test administered by TaskRabbit. If this doesn’t sound strict enough for you, TaskRabbit pays database Acxiom to perform a federal criminal background check on the TaskRabbits. Now that’s a pretty strict.
By now, you understand how TaskRabbits are vetted by TaskRabbit. Their strict vetting process is just one of their attempt in distinguishing themselves from competitors like Zaarly, Postmates, Exec and Gigwalk. Another notable differentiating factor of TaskRabbit is its gamified service.
Basically, gamification is the application of game elements and game design in non-game contexts. One good example would be Foursquare which gives its users points and badges and even leaderboards (game elements) in its location-based SNS service (non-game context) when its users accomplish some task. And through such gamified service, Foursquare gives its users a game-like experience which triggers the intrinsic fun (i.e the fun of collecting different badges which give you a sense of accomplishment) that keeps them coming back for more.
Similarly, TaskRabbit gives points to TaskRabbits for successfully in finishing a task or for recommending TaskRabbit to friends. Points can be accumulated not only to “level up” but also to secure a good reputation which can be quite beneficial because the the level you have is an objective indication of how good and hardworking you are. A high level can also be a tool that you can use to show how long you’ve been with TaskRabbit, how familiar you are with the service and, perhaps most importantly, how trustworthy you are. Trust matters when it comes to services like TaskRabbit.
To give you a brief overview of the point-level system of TaskRabbit, TaskRabbits need 60 points to level up from level 0 to level 1 while 1,700 points to level up from level 20 to level 21. As of this writing, the highest level achieved is 27.
Point and badges are not the only thing TaskRabbit has to offer. TaskRabbit gives TaskRabbit T-shirts to TaskRAbbit at level 5, a business card with a TaskRabbit logo imprinted on it at level 10 and other special privileges at higher levels.
LEGAL ISSUES AND LIABILITIES
Though TaskRabbit may seem to be doing quite well, it is not without problems, and this is something that would be important to consider if you are thinking of implementing a service like TaskRabbit in your country,
One of the legal issues it is dealing with is the payment that TaskRabbits receive from TaskPosters. Some of the work done awards TaskRabbits a payment that is lower than minimum wage outlined by the U.S. government. The Government has set the minimum hourly wage to $7.25 and there are cases in which TaskRabbits receive an amount less that although they worked for many hours.
In addition to getting paid less than the standard, TaskRabbit are guaranteed no protection nor insurance, and they have to walk into unknown situations and sometimes are demanded to do ridiculous tasks that were not mentioned previously.
Here’s a slice of TaskRabbit’s Terms of Service for some insight.
TaskRabbit.com is not an employment service and does not serve as an employer of any User. As such, TaskRabbit.com will not be liable for any tax or withholding, including but not limited to unemployment insurance, employer’s liability, social security or payroll withholding tax in connection with your use of Users’ services. You understand and agrees that if TaskRabbit.com is found to be liable for any tax or withholding tax in connection with your use of Users’ services, then you will immediately reimburse and pay to TaskRabbit.com an equivalent amount, including any interest or penalties thereon.
In summary, TaskRabbit is a great crowdsourcing platform for people who want to get a petty task done by someone else person at a low cost, on-demand. However, it may not be the perfect thing for TaskRabbits who are looking for extra cash. Getting paid is one thing, getting paid right is another. Setting aside the payment issue, risk and safety concern is another problem that needs to be tackled by TaskRabbit.
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