Sydney-based Airtasker is a service-sharing platform founded by two people in 2012. Five eventful years later, the company comprises 120 staff across three global cities. Co-founder and chief executive Tim Fung describes the journey so far and offers his advice on how to approach funding.
Can you give us a brief overview of Airtasker and the problem it set out to solve?
Airtasker is a community marketplace that allows people and small businesses to connect with members of their local community to get tasks completed – whether it’s everyday tasks like cleaning and handyman work to small business jobs like graphic design and photography or higher scale jobs for bigger businesses, e.g. IKEA furniture assembly.
Our mission at Airtasker is to empower people to realise the value of their skills. We are passionate about using technology to create jobs for humans – each and every person has unique skills and previously some of these skills couldn’t necessarily be easily monetised. For example, people on Airtasker are now able to make money from skills such as “setting up a Game of Thrones date night” or “getting a drone out of a tree” or even “dressing up like Santa”.
How has the company grown to date and how have you managed this growth?
Getting initial traction in a two-sided community marketplace from scratch was incredibly difficult and it took us quite a few years of refining the product, hustling and even completing tasks ourselves to get the marketplace growing.
Since, then we’ve been growing at 2–3x annually and we’re now seeing more than $100m in Tasker Earnings each year.
You’ve recently secured another round of funding and look set to launch your UK operations: why the UK? And do you see any new challenges with this new territory?
Yes, we recently raised a round of $35m from investors including Seven West Media, Exto Partners and Morning Crest Capital to launch in the UK (www.airtasker.co.uk)
Following months of research, we selected London as our first launch city outside of Australia because of the similarities between Australian and UK consumers’ attitudes towards services, as well as a positive level of community trust. We also decided against launching in some of the major cities in the US and China, where there have been some quite specific vertical on-demand service companies that have impacted the market but may not necessarily be sustainable in the long term.
As we’ve seen with each individual city in Australia, launching in a new geography will almost certainly bring about its own unique challenges – whether it’s due to different languages, types of work or even the specific characteristics of some individuals in each community. But Airtasker is all about the individual people in the community – so we tend to like these unique challenges!
How has the company changed as you’ve grown and how have you personally found this journey?
Over the years, Airtasker has grown from two people in a co-working space to 120 people across Sydney, Manila and London. Over time, we’ve slowly shifted our focus from “do whatever it takes to get traction” to “build a great experience for our Job Posters and Taskers” to “build a company which will best serve our community for the next 100 years”.
While it’s been a super fun and exciting journey, my role has definitely had to evolve over time – from starting out as a “getting stuff done” founder to moving into a leadership role with the challenge of putting together an awesome, autonomous team. Along the way, I’ve definitely had a few rough days and made mistakes – but overall it’s been a super enjoyable experience.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to raise their first round of funding?
Start early and raise when you don’t need the money – it’s pretty rare that people will invest the first time that they meet you so you need to give yourself the time to get to know each other and build a trusted relationship by doing what you say you will. It’s also really important to have other options for growth – you never want to be in a position in which you need investor money to survive.
Be prepared to “kiss a lot of frogs” – you will likely pitch a lot and receive plenty of “no” responses. Getting a “no” doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing a good job or working on an important mission – there are just plenty more reasons for people not to invest rather to invest. You need to be really resilient and keep pushing!
What does the future hold for Airtasker?
Right now, we’re absolutely focused on driving improvement of the Airtasker user experience while expanding the Airtasker community across Australia and the UK.
In the long term, as we continue to build upon the Airtasker reputation passport (made up of users’ ratings, identity and verified qualifications), we believe that we can use this passport to create more trusted relationships within local communities – and this presents absolutely huge opportunities for local commerce.