TaskRabbit for Business, the errands marketplace’s business-focused web portal announced at the beginning of last year, has quietly disappeared. Links to this particular service, which was aimed at companies looking for temp workers, have been instead redirecting users to the main TaskRabbit sign-up form instead.
However, TaskRabbit claims that the business offering was not shut down, exactly – they’ve just migrated users to a “more unified product experience” instead. Or more simply put, the company claims it’s still serving business customers, they just no longer have their own specially tailored product offering.
For background, the TaskRabbit for Business offering got off the ground in March 2013 at the SXSW event in Austin, Texas. The company said at the time that when it had first launched at the previous year’s SXSW, a number of companies began using the service for tasks like street team marketing, supply delivery and event staff. The idea with the Business tier was to make it easier for companies to quickly find that sort of short-term labor, with a product that was “more reliable than online classifieds and less costly than traditional temp agencies.”
In May 2013, TaskRabbit expanded that product, which then had 16,000 business sign-ups, with more tools to help companies hire W-2 employees via TaskRabbit, which began handling all compliance paperwork, including payroll taxes, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.
Despite this growth, the company faced layoffs in mid-2013, but still claimed that supporting businesses was a key focus for their team going forward. “We realigned the company to support our key business opportunities, namely mobile, geographic expansion, business services and our marketplace operations,” said founder and CEO Leah Busque last July.
All this made the disappearance of the TaskRabbit for Business service seem suspect. TechCrunch had been receiving tips from various readers noting that the Business portal was no more, as links redirected them to the TaskRabbit sign-up form, which was odd. And odder still is that despite the regular announcements about the Business service’s progress, and there was no formal announcement about what was going on in terms of this supposed “unification” of the consumer and business products.
However, when we reached the company for comment, a representative for TaskRabbit claimed that its marketplace is, in fact, still catering to its business customers, it’s just that they’ve combined the consumer and business experiences: “meaning that businesses and consumers alike have the same posting experience on TaskRabbit,” a rep said.
The further explanation is as follows:
We did this to better serve both constituents (consumers and businesses), giving them the best of both worlds (i.e., hourly payment options, recurring hiring options, etc.). Businesses continue to make up quite a significant and important percentage of both our customer base and monthly revenue. We listen to the needs of both our consumers and business and make product changes accordingly.
To what extent this is a legitimate product realignment, versus simply company spin is difficult to parse. It’s reasonable enough to assume that it made sense for TaskRabbit to combine its consumer and business offerings, especially if consumers were sometimes finding themselves in need of the perks and tools the business customers had access to. But the failure to clarify this to the company’s user base has left many scratching their heads, as indicated not only by those reaching out to TechCrunch with their concerns, but also others pinging the company on Twitter (for example, see below), with similar questions, only to be met by silence.
@TaskRabbit Have you guys discontinued your “Taskrabbit for Business” side of things? Was about to sign up but couldn’t find it anywhere
— Carmen Sognonvi (@carmensognonvi) February 26, 2014
The company did not offer an update on the number of business customers it has at this time, only saying that the segment accounts for 40% of its revenue, up from 30% last May. As to why it didn’t announce the merging of the consumer and businesses to head off the kind of speculation and confusion it’s now facing, the response was that TaskRabbit doesn’t announce every new feature or design change.
We were also informed that there is some product news arriving in a couple of months’ time, so it’s also possible the company was hoping to bury this portal’s closure/merging (or whatever you want to call it) until then. In fact, the change could just as easily point to TaskRabbit planning to more heavily cater to their business customers in the future through its main service, making the need for a separate portal no longer necessary.
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