Innovative Twists on Crowdsourcing: TaskRabbit.com and More
One of the fascinating things about crowdsourcing is discovering the various twists on the concept that entrepreneurs have come up with. I’m absolutely sure that 2011 will throw up some innovative new business models and some very clever start-ups, but even in the existing crowdsourcing palette there are some very neat ideas out there, some of which have been established for a number of years. It’s fun to do a little surfing and see if you can stumble upon the next Quirky.com.
In my recent travels I came across Wishabi, a Canadian site which gives small financial incentives and draws on Canadian national pride to persuade users to submit details of online bargains which are available to Canadians. Then I went and admired the single-mindedness of the very niche Lawn Mowers Online. This currently operates in three US cities and connects lawns in desperate need of cutting to professional mowers. Finally I came upon TaskRabbit which has been around since 2008.
Like all the best ideas TaskRabbit is very simple. It’s a cross between a microtask and service marketplace, which sources simple but often recurring errand work such as collecting messages, doing the shopping, walking the dog or putting up the flat pack furniture. People known as “Senders” post jobs and then hire registered “Runners” to carry out the work. Payment is then made by credit card once the job is completed.
At the moment it operates in just San Francisco and Boston and I suspect the “locality” is important, as it’s the type of service that will grow by word of mouth. I can see a couple of potential pitfalls. Firstly ensuring that customers trust the Runners is going to be really important. The site carries out background checks, but that may not be enough to get over some people’s fears who may not use the site. Secondly I would hope the Runners are treated with respect. The fact that the company didn’t call them Rabbits is a good starting point, anyhow.
TaskRabbit does seem to be establishing itself. The founder Leah Busque, has already attracted $2m USD in funding, expanded into an extra city, and is experimenting with corporate partnerships where TaskRabbit as an employee perk. It’s the sort of simple service that I could imagine myself using occasionally.
What do you think will be the shape of crowdsourcing start-ups in 2011? What’s the next brilliant idea on the horizon?