Meet Airtasker, a Community Marketplace Enabling Users to Hire Skilled Workers for their Tasks | Startup Story
In your day to day life, you might have come across many situations where you were helpless to complete a particular task. It might be due to your busy schedule or you simply might not be having the required expertise or experience for that task. We all face such situations and hope for someone to help us out. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could simply outsource your tasks? Tim Fung and Jonathan Lui were thinking to solve the same problem when they co founded Airtasker.
Airtasker is an Australian startup based out of Sydney that enables users to outsource their daily tasks to skilled workers. Users have an option to choose a skilled worker for their task based on rating and review system. Workers have an option to bid for a task. All payments between users requesting a task and workers performing a task are managed by Airtasker. Airtasker was founded in 2012 and is going strong.
We had a conversation with Tim Fung, the co founder of Airtasker to understand the business model of Airtasker and know how they became successful by capturing a large market share. Before we move on to the conversation, here are few facts about Airtasker.
Startup Vertical: Marketplace connecting skilled workers with people who want to get a task done.
Headquarters: Sydney, Australia.
Total Funding Received: $8.49 Million (Till Feb 2016).
Founded: In 2012.
Founders: Tim Fung & Jonathan Lui.
No. of people using Airtasker: 415,000. (As of 2015 end).
Q) Starting an online services marketplace is definitely a great idea. Tell us a little about Airtasker and your personal motivation for starting this platform?
My co-founder Jono and I came across the idea for Airtasker in 2011 when I was moving apartments and had so many tasks that needed to be done like packing and moving boxes, assembling our new flat pack furniture and then cleaning up the house that we were leaving.
At the time, we were working at amaysim (which was a small startup at the time) and had seen the massive potential in the local online economies being built. That got us thinking that there had to be a more trusted place where people could find other people to help them with all of these types of tasks – especially since there are so many people looking around for jobs to earn extra money (over 600,000 people across Australia earn their income by doing more than one job.)
After a few months working from Jono’s living room after hours, we finally launched and although it feels like an achievement to launch a company, it’s really only then that the “real fun” begins. Since then, Airtasker has grown to over 400,000 community members and processes over $35 million in tasks per year.
Q) Can you give us a rundown of how it works?
We’ve designed Airtasker as a simple marketplace that connects people, small businesses and enterprises together with people in their local community who want to complete tasks to earn money. You can use Airtasker apps for iPhone or Android or via Airtasker.com – here’s how it works:
Post a Task. You can get anything done. Describe your task in just two minutes and post it for free. There’s no obligation to hire on Airtasker.
Select the Airtasker Worker you believe is right. Trusted Airtasker Workers will offer their help on your task and discuss the requirements of the task in the comments. View all of the offers made and accept the offer of the Airtasker Worker that you think is right.
Add funds to the task. When accepting the offer you will Add Funds for the task via Airtasker Pay, which is securely held in an Airtasker Trust Account until the task has been completed.
Your task will be completed. Make contact with your Airtasker Worker via Private Messages to arrange the details and complete the task. Once you’re satisfied the task is complete, the Airtasker Worker Requests Payment and you need to Release Funds to the Airtasker Worker.
Q) What is the value proposition you are offering to customers ?
Local workers – Airtasker connects people and businesses with local workers that can complete tasks in the real world, not just virtual tasks like coding or web design. Unlike virtual outsourcing platforms, you can actually meet the people your working with and they can perform jobs that require a physical presence like promotions work or a receptionist role. Airtasker workers are also high quality Australian staff that have local knowledge and cultural fit.
Flexibility – Airtasker is a completely flexible platform that can find workers to meet almost any specific need. You don’t choose people by fixed “job titles” but rather by “skills” and the ability to get you the result you need.
Simple and self-serve – Airtasker is a simple platform that almost anyone can use. There are also no fees for people and businesses that are outsourcing their tasks (we charge a small fee to the workers that successfully complete your jobs).
Airtasker Marketing & Branding
Q) What is one particular Marketing Tool or process which you swear by, that has helped you gain more users on the platform?
The one marketing tool that really changed our growth trajectory was the implementation of a “smart CRM” system.
We used a platform called Vero (another awesome Australian startup) which allows you to set up events based on user behaviour and manage customers individually based on what services they’ve purchased, what potential concerns they might have with the product and what they’ve achieved on Airtasker. For example, Vero allows us to send an email to one of our Airtasker Workers once they pass 100, 200 and 300 jobs respectively.
This was a huge step change for us, as it meant that we could start to give specialised treatment to each of our customer groups – but at scale.
Q) How did you go about getting clients and taskers on your platform?
From the beginning of building Airtasker as a two-sided marketplace, we knew that we needed to solve the very initial “chicken and egg” problem so we set about recruiting just the first few hundred people. We made a decision that we needed to build the “supply” (Worker) side of the marketplace first – because if we didn’t, there wouldn’t be anything for our “buyers” (Job Posters) to buy!
We first worked with a bunch of college students to spread the word within associations like the Law Association, Marketing Association, Business Association etc as these guys were eager to earn money and already had a somewhat flexible work timetable – although in hindsight, it turns out that college students are only a very small portion of our overall Workforce.
We then built an Alpha Test group of Job Posters which included influencers in technology, marketing and PR and allowed them to use Airtasker to get their tasks done with some very “hands on” customer service from the Founders.
From there, we used simple feedback loops to continuously optimise the customer experience and marketing. We stayed away from discounting (as this skews how much customers value your product) and overall there was no “silver bullet” – just persistence and lots of perspiration!
Q) What is Airtasker biggest achievement to date? How did you go about accomplishing this?
Without wanting to use another cliché I think one of our biggest achievements (which I think many other startup founders would relate to) has been creating a culture and putting together a team of people that are genuinely passionate about the vision for Airtasker – to build a global network of local service marketplaces.
Creating a good company culture is one of those things that sounds easy and for the very logical type of people, probably seems like something that is secondary to nailing a product design or raising capital. What I’ve learnt over the past years is that it’s super critical to create a good working environment for the team and to put that in terms of numbers, if you have a team of 5 people and you can create a workplace that makes them say 10% more efficient, then you’ve just created half an FTE.
That said, I think it’s the small, inexpensive things that create a good company culture:
Fostering random, non-work related conversation: Simple stuff like eating together a few times per week (not fancy lunches or anything)
Getting the right office space: Find a place where people will like to work and don’t mind staying back or putting in the extra hours. eg. We found that our design and engineering staff really needed an office where they could find some quiet time.
Creating passion: Hand over genuine responsibility for tasks and let people make mistakes, rather than trying to prevent every little mistake yourself which eventually leads to people not caring about what they work on.
Q) What are your future plans? Are you planning to integrate more features in the service?
Scaling our marketplace from here will be mainly about focussing on customer experience optimisation as “word of mouth” marketing is by far the most efficient way to grow an established community of passionate users.
For Airtasker, this means being super detailed oriented when we look at the individual customer experiences that we create across a multitude of task categories, geographies and people.
Whilst we can’t share with you all of our planned features just yet, one example of experience optimisation is “clustering”. That is, in the current (fragmented) services marketplace there are many situations in which – for example – five different cleaners are visiting the same suburb, or even the same street or building on various dates and times. This costs that group of cleaners a lot of time and cost efficiency. Clustering all of those jobs into a single “block” of work for one Worker removes most of the travel / admin / management time for that Worker – thus the Job Poster could have their home cleaned for much less whilst the Worker could at the same time earn more. We believe clustering will massively improve the customer experience for both sides of the market.
Of course, we’ve got plenty more to come – but that’s for another day!
Q) Where do you see Airtasker in five years?
We’re changing the way that people think about employment and services.
In terms of getting business and personal tasks done, people use to think about hiring people in very niche verticals however this left a huge gap in the market for everything that didn’t fall in to one of these verticals. For example, you don’t necessarily need a carpentry specialist to hang a mirror on the wall and you don’t necessarily need an IT expert to help set up a wireless internet router in your office.
In terms of working, we’re also changing the way people think about employment. There use to be really high barriers to entry to earning money – long job application processes, onerous requirements and very rigid structures (full time, part time etc). Through Airtasker, people have “liquid access” to available work – they can simply find jobs to fit in with their timetable and maintain a flexible lifestyle.
The online outsourcing industry is tipped to grow by more than 400% in the next 4 years to $5 billion and that’s before you look at the opportunity to take even more jobs online via hyperlocal networks and marketplaces, exemplified by Uber.
We see huge potential to create opportunities for people to make a living outside of traditional 9 to 5 jobs and contributing to the evolution of the employment sector is really exciting. Bring it on.
Q) Any advice for startups trying to make it big as a marketplace model?
My advice would be to try to balance short term and long term wins.
Although it’s imperative to work on enough projects to make sure that you’ll survive the month, take the discipline to set aside time to start planting the seeds for some of the bigger picture projects that might take a little longer to take effect.
For example: SEO, brand-building and team-building don’t usually produce a result for at least 3-6 months, but if you always ignore them in favour of working on small projects that will take effect in 1-2 weeks, then you’ll never build a big business.
Take a defined amount of time to question yourself thoroughly and make a decision on what you should be working on. Then, once you’ve decided on these projects, have the confidence to keep them pushing along with the knowledge that if you continue to work on them, they will produce results in the medium term.