December 06, 2012 at 04:30 AM EST
While TaskRabbit Ponders UK Launch, Two Local Competitors Emerge: TaskPandas And Sorted
While us Brits wait for San Francisco, U.S.-based TaskRabbit to launch this side of the pond, at least two local competitors have emerged. The opportunistically named TaskPandas , founded by Farrukh Khan, describes itself as an 'eBay for small jobs'. Meanwhile, Sorted , which is part of the Oxygen Accelerator programme and recently won the Entrepreneurs Week seed investment competition, is talking up its ability to be a better TaskRabbit by tweaking the model by which task providers are quality controlled.
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While us Brits wait for San Francisco, U.S.-based TaskRabbit to launch this side of the pond, at least two local competitors have emerged.

The opportunistically named TaskPandas, founded by Farrukh Khan, describes itself as an ‘eBay for small jobs’. Meanwhile, Sorted, which is part of the Oxygen Accelerator programme and recently won the Entrepreneurs Week seed investment competition, is talking up its ability to be a better TaskRabbit by tweaking the model by which task providers are quality controlled.

With TaskRabbit thought to be eyeing up a UK launch, both sites are clearly gunning for first-mover advantage locally, with a strikingly similar model to the U.S. company, which enables people to outsource their errands and to-dos.

Running since July, TaskPandas says that £50,000 worth of work has been posted on its site and more than 1,500 people have signed up to become ‘pandas’ (silly name) in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Leeds, of which half are women. The types of task posted so far have ranged from assembling IKEA furniture, dog sitting, local deliveries or even sorting the household laundry, apparently — with a typical job paying anywhere between £5 and £250, minus TaskPandas’ 15% commission.

For Sorted, it’s even earlier days. Launched as an iOS app-only, the startup has signed up just over 600 ‘sorters’ (task do-ers) in the last 3-4 weeks, although it says that this is without spending anything on marketing. It’s also only available in one city (Birmingham), but plans to expand to “every major city” in the UK in due course.

Interestingly, Sorted thinks that the key to scaling quickly is a more efficient way to verify service providers — the people actually carrying out the tasks — but in a way that also gives reassurance to those doing the commissioning.

“TaskRabbit makes their supply side jump through a lot of hoops to even be able to make offers on the platform, and after that they still need to get off the ground and are put in a bracket in terms of what tasks they can complete. This is great for the person paying for the task but not ideal for the supplier”, says Sorted co-founder James Pursey.

One of the ‘hoops’ that Pursey is referring to is a background check. In the opposite direction is a completely open marketplace, although he doesn’t think this is the answer either because it creates too many trust issues.

Sorted’s solution, says Pursey, is a “gamified review system” where anybody is free to put themselves forward to do any task in any category, “but after doing 5 tasks in 1 category with an average star rating of above 3.5, we ‘certify’ them – essentially saying ‘Hey, use this guy, we recommend him’”.

In contrast, TaskPandas’ Kahn is pushing the site’s reliance on background checks. “A lot of our tasks involve domestic help and so it is of the upmost importance to us that our pandas are verified, CRB checked and that users continually provide feedback as to the service they receive”, he says in a statement.

Whichever system will win out remains to be seen, of course. But I suspect that both startups will have a whole different set of problems if or when TaskRabbit does cross the pond. It dwarfs TaskPandas and Sorted in terms of funding: Just shy of $38m compared to £70k (~$112k) or less each for its UK counterparts.


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