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她上小学时就当上了CEO,长大后借金融危机成功创业

Dinah Eng 2019年07月01日

巴斯克的公司为零工经济的发展做出了巨大贡献。

莉娅·巴斯克在2017年将TaskRabbit卖给了宜家,出售价格并未透露。图片来源:Photograph by Winni Wintermeyer for Fortune

在我8岁那年,我问我父亲,公司里的最高职务是什么,他回答说:“首席执行官。”当时我就定下了自己的梦想。我在小学发起了一个回收项目,并在地下室搭建了办公室,当起了首席执行官。

在大学时,我的专业是计算机科学和数学,辅修舞蹈。我在2001年毕业于弗吉尼亚州的斯威特布莱尔学院,随后供职于一家很快被IBM收购的初创企业。我从事信息发送和合作产品工作约7年的时间,并学会了如何打造世界各地日常使用的软件。

作为一名工程师,我对科技充满了激情。2008年年初,那时候还没有苹果应用商店。我与前夫凯文住在波士顿,有一个实验室。一天晚上,我们正准备出去吃晚饭,但突然发现狗粮吃完了。我当时想,如果能找个人帮忙该有多好,也就是可能当时还在店里的员工。我拿起iPhone,输入RunMyErrand.com,但发现此类服务并不存在。这个域名是可以使用的,因此我立即就买了下来。

我看到,将新兴移动和定位技术与社交图谱(在线联系的人)结合起来会有不俗的潜力,并决定打造一个名为“服务联网”的平台。

我开始与潜在的用户进行交谈,向人们询问他们希望采购什么样的送货服务,以及他们愿意为此付多少钱。如果我遇到一个杂务工,我会问服务的价格。某天,我遇到了Zipcar的时任首席执行官斯科特·格里菲斯,他是我一个朋友的朋友。我们每周都会碰面深入交流一次,直到有一天他问:“为什么你不直接编写这个应用?还待在IBM干什么?”

我在IBM的养老金大约是2.7万美元,因此在2008年4月,我取出了现金,然后辞去了工作。为了构建测试平台,在大约10周的时间里,我一步都没有离开过自己的房间。我免费使用了斯科特的办公室一年的时间,并通过自己的努力获得了成功。

那年夏天,我在波士顿的邻城查尔斯顿推出了这一平台。我经常去一家咖啡店, 查尔斯顿母亲协会的成员每天早上都会在送完孩子上学后光顾这里。我向她们介绍了我的理念,她们对此十分感兴趣。因此我在Craigslist网站上发布了一则寻找杂工的广告,收到了数百个回复。我邀请其中约30人喝了咖啡,并和他们进行了面谈,然后聘请他们为最初的网站效力。在这之前,我们没有做背景调查,因此我得确保他们没有什么不良企图。我的标准是,如果我邀请他们来我祖母的住处为她干活,我是否会感到不适。在开业第一年的前三个月,平台的营收约为1万美元。

斯科特鼓励我筹集一些天使资金,但到了2008年9月,股市崩盘了,令我恐慌不已。但事实证明,当时是创建TaskRabbit的最好时机,因为人们都在寻找机会赚更多的钱。2008年的金融危机催生了零工经济。

最终,我从两家波士顿地区的天使投资者那里筹集了15万美元,并获邀加入fbFund,它是一个针对企业家的孵化器训练营,位于帕洛阿尔托。

我会在波士顿待了一周的时间,处理项目的事情,然后在帕洛阿尔托待一周。在西海岸,人们更愿意冒险投资新企业家。我刷爆了自己的信用卡,因此每次购物时都得精打细算。我刚回到波士顿一周的时间,便得知《4小时制工作周》(The 4-Hour Workweek)一书的作者提姆·菲利斯下周将现身帕洛阿尔托。

我花了700美元飞回帕洛阿尔托,只和他交谈了15分钟。我觉得,“如果我把这个钱用于聘请他当顾问或投资者,应该会很值当。”后来,他把我引荐给了Floodgate的创始合伙人安·米乌拉-科,而且她领投了TaskRabbit的种子融资轮,斩获了180万美元。正是这种冒险精神改变了公司的轨迹。

2009年年底,我决定给公司换一个新名字。我们进行了一些集体讨论,然后将新公司名选项缩至五个。我讨厌RunMyErrand,但当我们对波士顿用户进行调查时,他们都喜欢这个名字。人们都不希望更改,但他们第二喜欢的名字是TaskRabbit。

在最初几年,我学会了如何组建团队。我在IBM从未聘请、开除或管理过任何人。有时候我聘请得过于仓促或聘用了公司并不需要的人。夜晚我总是在想如何才能够招聘到合适的人选,以及如何省钱。

随着时间的推移,我的信心也在不断增加。一开始让我感到吃惊的是,如果我遇到解决不了的问题,我会向三个不同的人征求意见,然后得到三个完全不同的答案。我意识到,对于自己的公司而言,我才是那位说了算的人。我会搜集信息,但会根据自己的直觉来做决定。在玩游戏时,游戏规则得由你自己来制定。

在2015年年底,宜家想请一些人帮助安装店面,我觉得这是一个尝试与店面开展合作的好机会。几个月后,宜家表达了收购公司的意愿。那个时候,平台每个月的营业额已经达到了数百万美元。

双方在2017年10月达成协议。我决定从事风投行业,并加入了Fuel Capital,担任普通合伙人。

对我来说,这就像是把自己的孩子送去上大学。TaskRabbit永远都将是我的第一个孩子。它只不过发展成了一家成功的公司和品牌,已经不再需要我的帮助。作为一名创始人,我对此感到异常自豪。

When I was 8, I asked my dad what was the highest role in a company, and he said, “It’s the CEO.” That’s when I decided what I wanted to be. I started a recycling program in our elementary school and set up an office in our basement, where I was the CEO.

When it was time to go to college, I majored in computer science and mathematics with a minor in dance. I graduated from Sweet Briar College in Virginia in 2001 and worked at a startup that was quickly swallowed by IBM. I worked on messaging and collaboration products for about seven years and learned how to create software that was used around the globe on a daily basis.

As an engineer, I was passionate about technology. In early 2008, there was no Apple App Store yet. I was living in Boston with [my then husband] Kevin, and we had a 100-pound yellow Lab. We were getting ready to go out to dinner one night when we realized we were out of dog food. I thought it would be great if I could find someone to help, maybe someone who was at the store that very moment. I grabbed my iPhone and typed RunMyErrand.com. No such service existed. The domain name was available, so I bought it on the spot.

I saw the potential of combining emerging mobile and location technologies with the social graph [the people you’re connected to online] and decided to build a platform for what I called service networking.

I started talking to potential users, asking people what kinds of errands they would outsource and how much they’d pay. If I met a handyman, I’d ask how much he would charge. One day, I met Scott Griffith, [then] the CEO of Zipcar, who was a friend of a friend. We brainstormed once a week, until he asked, “Why don’t you just go code this? Why are you still at IBM?”

I had about $27,000 in my IBM pension fund, so in April 2008, I cashed it out and quit my job. I locked myself in my house for 10 weeks to make the beta platform. I ended up spending a year working out of Scott’s office for free while I was bootstrapping.

That summer, I launched in Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston. I would go to this coffee shop where the Charlestown Mothers Association would come every morning after dropping their kids off at school. I told them about my idea, and they loved it. So I posted an ad on Craigslist for Taskers. The response was in the hundreds. I met about 30 of them over coffee and hired them for the original site. This was before we did background checks, so I had to make sure they were the right people. My criteria was whether I’d be comfortable inviting them into my grandmother’s house to do a job for her. For the three months we were live that first year, the revenue was about $10,000.

Scott encouraged me to raise some angel money, but by September 2008, the stock market had crashed, so I panicked. But it turned out to be the best time to start TaskRabbit because people were looking for ways to make more money. The gig economy was born out of that 2008 downturn.

I ended up securing $150,000 from two Boston-area angel investors and was invited to join fbFund, a 12-week incubator boot camp in Palo Alto for entrepreneurs.

I’d spend a week in Boston, working on the program, then a week in Palo Alto. On the West Coast, people were more willing to take risks with new entrepreneurs. I maxed out my credit cards, so every purchase had to count. I had just returned to Boston one week when I learned that Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, was going to be in Palo Alto the next week.

It would cost $700 to turn around and fly back to Palo Alto for a 15-minute time slot with him. I thought, “If I could turn that into making him an adviser or investor, it would be worth it.” He ended up introducing me to Ann Miura Ko, a cofounding partner of Floodgate, and she led the seed round for TaskRabbit, which totaled $1.8 million. It was taking risks like that that changed the trajectory of the company.

At the end of 2009, I decided we needed a new name. We did some brainstorming and whittled down the options to five names. I hated RunMy¬Errand, but when we did a survey of our Boston users, they all loved it. No one wanted to change it, but their second favorite name was TaskRabbit.

In the early years, one of the things I had to learn was how to build a team. I’d never hired, fired, or managed anyone at IBM. At times, I hired too quickly or hired for roles we didn’t need yet. The things that kept me up at night were hiring the right people and not running out of money.

I gained confidence over time. One of the things that surprised me at first was that if I had a problem, I could go to three different people and get three different kinds of advice. I realized I was going to be the only one who could make the call about my business. I would gather information but made calls based on my own instincts. You have to write your own playbook while you’re playing the game.

At the end of 2015, Ikea wanted some in-store installation help, and I thought it would be great to try a partnership in-store. A few months later, they were interested in acquiring us. By then, we had multimillion dollars a month floating through the platform.

We closed the deal in October 2017. I decided to go to the VC side and joined Fuel Capital as a general partner.

I feel like I’ve sent my child off to college. TaskRabbit will always be my first baby. It went on to become a successful company and brand, and no longer needs me. As a founder, I feel really proud about that.

****

最佳建议

莉娅·巴斯克,39岁,TaskRabbit创始人

创始人的健康对于公司的健康真的很重要。

TaskRabbit最后一轮融资是最困难的。我后来因为压力导致的结肠炎住院了,我的结肠几乎要溃破了。我在病床上完成了融资。你不仅得照顾公司的需求,还得在自身的锻炼、睡眠和营养方面进行投入。(财富中文网)

本文另一版本登载于《财富》杂志2019年7月刊,标题为《胜任工作》。

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

Best Advice

Leah Busque, 39, founder of TaskRabbit

A founder’s health is really important to the company’s health.

TaskRabbit’s last round of funding was the hardest to raise. I ended up in the hospital with stress-induced colitis, and my colon almost burst. I did the closing from a hospital bed. You’ve got to invest in your own exercise, sleep, and nutrition, as well as your company’s needs.

A version of this article appears in the July 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Equal to the Task.”

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