Leah Busque – TaskRabbit 2 of 2

"Whatever comes my way I will figure it out." Taskrabbit is a service marketplace where people can outsource their errands and tasks to members in the community.

Matthew: We know founders face unique challenges when they decide to launch and build a company. What was the hardest part about building TaskRabbit and how’d you overcome those obstacles?

Leah: You know I think that early on I again, was very much and engineer, I wasn’t an entrepreneur then, and I remember vividly this moment where I quit IBM and I was on LinkedIn and, so what do I put as a job, what am I doing and I literally had a conversation in my head. Like do I put entrepreneur, I don’t know if that feels right, you know? It feels like such a big thing, and so I did, I ended up just going for it. 

I was like, you know what, this is what I’m doing, I am an entrepreneur and that was kind of the moment that I made that huge shift. And I think early on there’s just so much to learn and so much to ramp up on, that what was really pivotal for me was to have a great group of mentors and advisors. 

Now, I mentioned Scott Griffith who’s the CEO of Zipcar who came on early as a mentor and advisor to me. There’s also Tom Erickson who’s the CEO over a Acquia the Drupal Company. I mean these folks early on; I would not have survived without them being a part of this business and without their support. And so [Robbie Warhouse] is another one who’s out of New York. All of these people are still involved with the company with me today. We’ve really been through a lot together, and it was nice for me even though I felt like I was always kind of working in a black hole, in a black box in a black tunnel, I didn’t know what was ahead, but I knew that I had the right people around me to help guide me through those obstacles. And I think that you have to have enough confidence in yourself as well that you’re going to figure it out.

And another moment I remember is thinking, you know what, this is not rocket science, whatever comes my way I’ll figure it out. You just have to have that mentality and not be afraid of the unknown. But I think having the right mentors and advisors that are there with you early on helps overcome those challenges. 

Matthew: Since you’ve been in operation, what have you learned about your business and your users that you didn’t realize?

Leah: Well, one of the most fun learning’s I’ve had early on is when I launched the company back in Boston I thought Boston’s a great college town. I’m going to get all these college students involved, that want to become TaskRabbits, that want to make money, and it will be super easy. And that was my first big surprise in learning. 

Actually it wasn’t the college students that wanted to be TaskRabbits. I had stay at home moms that were out running their own errands anyways and didn’t mind picking things up for people, there were young professionals looking to supplement their incomes nights and weekends because they were living in expensive cities. 

The most fun and inspiring and I think surprising group was this group of retirees that loved the idea of staying active; they loved the idea of meeting other people in their community. For them, they weren’t driven and motivated by the monetary rewards, but they had so much experience in life to share with people that this group of retirees were actually coming to me and loving being TaskRabbits and almost making this their second career. This was what was keeping them busy after they retired. 

So that was really fun learning early on, to understand who wanted to be a TaskRabbit, what motivated that and how to get more people like that. 

Matthew: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned building TaskRabbit?

Leah: I honestly think it goes back to the concept of mentorship. I think that even with co-founders, you know me being a sole founder, even with co-founders I think it’s just so important to have the right mentors and advisors and the right network of people that are there to support you. It’s hard, it’s difficult, it’s challenging. You’re innovating a way that people haven’t before. The answers aren’t out there; you have to innovate them yourself. And so I think having like minded folks that are really passionate about what you’re building as much as you are that you can rely on, that you can call up is the most important thing. 

Matthew: Lots of people admire entrepreneurs because they appear to make building companies look easy, we know it is very challenging. What talents or skills come intuitively or easy for you? What has been difficult and how do you manage that? 

Leah: I love that question. I think I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last three years. In sort of what I’m capable of and what I’m made of and I think, you know when I was at IBM I loved engineering, loved technology, but I always felt like I had more that I wanted to offer and do on a daily basis. 

So the things that came easy to me I realized are, if I hit a wall I’m going right through it, I’m going over it, I’m going around it. There’s no way you can say no this isn’t going to work to me and I’m going to believe you, this is not going to happen. 

So I think I’ve consistently just been obsessed with persevering and just continuing to push forward and of course there are moments when you sit there and your just so overwhelmed and you’re wondering how is this going to work, how are you going to make it work. 

But I think just consistently pushing against that feeling, I don’t know it’s just always in my nature, always in my blood. So that was something I think that was important that came sort of easier and familiar to me. 

The challenges were really around. Going from an engineering into learning about all of these other aspects of what takes really to build a business. The great thing is that I’ve loved every single second of what I’ve been able to learn and accomplish and there’s no other job in the world that would’ve given me these skills. 

But I think for me the challenge was okay, how do I figure out how to do a forecast and a strat plan and cap tables and raising money and what’s in a pitch deck. With all these varied, like business school type things, didn’t come as easily to me. But I really love digging in and learning those pieces of the business as well. 

Matthew: What advice would you like to share with our audience about launching and building a startup? If you have to distill it, what are the key elements?

Leah: Be tenacious, never give up, rely on other mentors and advisors that can help you along the way, because you’re going to need a lot of help. But I think the main thing is to just have the energy, the attitude, the passion to make it happen. 

Matthew: Before we close, we’d love for you to give our audience your vision for TaskRabbit and how you hope it will continue to change the world.

Leah: The vision honestly hasn’t changed that much from very early on. I had this huge vision in my head and I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible with this platform that we’ve built. You know from the very beginning I’ve called TaskRabbit servicing network platform instead of social networking. And it’s about being able to leverage these technologies to build something that is real and tangible and helps people in real life. 

And so I think my continued vision for the company is to create a platform where that servicing network mentality continues to succeed. And so there’s a lot of different ways that can happen from people getting into more skill based tasks for instance, if you’re a master seamstress, or gardener, or you’re a really great chef, I want to create a platform that empowers people to build up their own business and sell their own services in a place where they’re celebrated, really as micro entrepreneurs. Because these are people that are entrepreneurs themselves. 

So I think the continued vision around service networking and micro entrepreneurship just has huge opportunity. And like I said I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of what we’ve built and in general these peer-to-peer marketplaces I think are just up and coming and over the next decade I really think that this is a trend that going to change consumer behavior and even commerce in a big way.

Matthew: Leah, it’s been a pleasure having you as a guest on FounderLY. We’re routing for your continued success at Task Rabbit. For those in our audience who’d like to learn more and join their community you can visit their website at www.taskrabbit.com. This is Matthew Wise with FounderLY. Thanks so much Leah.

Leah: Thank you.

 
 

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