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TaskRabbit gets $850K to cross errands off your to-do list

Life is busy. But if you don’t have time to go to the bank, would you trust a stranger to deposit a check for you? Users of TaskRabbit, a network of part-time personal assistants, do.

The site pairs assistants, called runners, with overtasked city dwellers. TaskRabbit has more than 300 runners, who have all undergone a background check, and they accept tasks online from thousands of users in Boston and San Francisco. Task requests include running to the bank, jump starting a car and building furniture inside a stranger’s home. My request for groceries last Thursday night resulted in two runner responses within 15 minutes, and orange juice was delivered to my neighborhood within an hour.

Founded in Boston, TaskRabbit raised $1 million from Baseline Ventures and Floodgate in 2009. The startup recently raised $850,000 more from First Round Capital and existing investors.

The site expanded to the San Francisco Bay Area this summer. San Francisco is already doing as much task volume as Boston, and the company plans to expand to more cities soon, according to TaskRabbit CMO Anne Moellering. Urban, sophisticated, wired cities top the short list of next stops for the company, she said, naming Chicago, Austin and Portland as potential destinations. Though the site is not yet profitable, TaskRabbit makes money by taking a 12 to 28 percent cut of each paid task, depending on the size. For a $19 dry cleaner pickup, TaskRabbit makes $4, while the runner gets to keep $15.

Runners range in age from 18-year-old students to 70-year-old retirees. The site is popular with enterprising moms looking to defray the cost of a trip to Target. One rabbit, a student on leave from school, said he had completed seven tasks in a week and was paid as much as $60 for one job, though the average task pays $20 to $25. Moellering said the company’s top rabbits, who she called “rabid rabbits,” could make more than $20,000 in a year.

Though dedicated rabbits can make substantial earnings, the company is careful to designate runners as independent laborers, rather than employees or contractors. Runners sign no contracts, and TaskRabbit only has to report their income if it exceeds $600 per year. Runners may still be eligible for unemployment benefits as they complete tasks, and it is a runner’s responsibility to verify eligibility.

Despite safety concerns (many users invite strangers to their homes), more than 80 percent of customers return for repeat tasks. Runners don’t get paid until a user says the job is complete, and users rate runners after each task.

Initially called RunMyErrand, the site focused primarily on errands. In part due to the evolution of jobs listed on the site, the company changed its name to TaskRabbit this year. It now covers anything on a to-do list. Virtual tasks, such as making PowerPoint slides or merging contact databases, are increasing in popularity. The startup may launch group buying in the next couple months, allowing users to team up with others requesting goods from the same store, and the company is also considering a “panic button,” which would charge users a premium flat rate for immediate needs.

TaskRabbit has raised a total of $2 million in seed funding to date.