Australian startup Airtasker to take on Taskrabbit in London after raising £19m

Sydney-based Airtasker, a gig-economy platform, is launching mid-march in the UK after raising AU$33m (£19m) from investors.

Airtasker's 'Like a boss' campaign
Airtasker's 'Like a boss' campaign

Founded in 2012, Airtasker lets its users list any job they need doing and other members bid to take on the work for an agreed-upon fee. 

Airtasker currently employs more than 120 people and has received AU$63m in funding to date. The most recent round in October of AU$33m was led by Skyfield Capital. In Australia, the platform has partnerships with Ikea and Coles. 

The community marketplace's main point of difference from Taskrabbit (now owned by Ikea) is that it puts virtually no limit on the kind of services people can request. 

"Rather than trying to start with a bunch of services you can buy, such as handyman, furniture assembly, cleaning, and so on, Airtasker starts on the demand side. Users can ask for whatever they want and we will find people. This could range from pruning a tree to writing a poem," Fung explained to Campaign

One of the more unusual services requested and fulfilled on Airtasker in the past has been for someone to dress up as a Stormtrooper and escort a bride down the aisle. 

"While it sounds niche-y, in aggregate, this sort of marketplace is massive," Fung said. 

Airtasker decided on the UK as its first international market based on research that indicated that UK customers share similar attitudes to Australians when it comes to trust in online communities and towards getting things done. 

"London obviously provides massive urban scale and hasn’t seen as many potentially unsustainable vertical service companies compared to say New York or Shanghai," Fung said. 

In the UK, freelancers in the UK contributed £119bn to the economy in 2016, according to a recently published report by The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed.

Airtasker has had a team on the ground in London for the past five months, working out of a tech startup space in Old Street.

Led by UK country manager, Lucas London, the team has been focusing on creating a strong community of "early taskers" on the platform across greater London and a wide breadth of verticals. 

"For us, it was really important to build a strong community with strong profiles and who are educated about how to get the most out of the platform," London said.

While in soft-launch mode, the platform has been working with PR agency, Emerge, and Leeds-based digital agency, Journey Further. 

"We were attracted to these agencies because they're young and have strong experience in working with startups. They are running our pay-per-click ads, social and programmatic," London said.

At the moment, the marketing team's focus is on recruiting taskers for the platform. Once sufficient numbers have been reached, Airtasker will launch in open beta stage. 

"The capacity to drive growth in the market is high, but we want to do so at a controlled rate. We understand that in the UK, a key frustration with working with gig-economy platforms is a lack of customer support – which is a core part of our offering," London explained.

Ahead of the main launch, London and his team are testing the possibility of using Airtasker's first TV campaign, "Like a boss", in London. 

"It was by UDKU (U Don't Know Us), an agency formed by ex-executives from M&C Saatchi. We're not jumping to any conclusions and will do market testing. If it doesn't translate well for the UK market, we'll see, we may look to appoint a UK agency," London said. 

Unlike its first launch five years ago, Airtasker will not have to educate the UK community about outsourcing jobs online. 

"The UK is used to it by now and our focus will be on the breadth of jobs you can outsource," Fung said.