Office Hours: I'm Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO of TaskRabbitFeatured

Hi everyone!I lead TaskRabbit as CEO and I'm an expert at building and scaling large, mission-minded organizations. In 2017, I led the successful acquisition of TaskRabbit by the IKEA Group. During my tenure, TaskRabbit has expanded its presence into 70+ markets and thousands of cities across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and Spain, and is continuing to expand across Europe and North America. In addition to shaping the future of work, TaskRabbit is now a core driver of the e-commerce and services strategy for the world’s largest furniture retailer with the mission of making everyday life easier for everyone.Prior to joining the company, I spent nearly a decade at Google heading online sales and operations, including serving as the Head of Online Sales and Operations for Google India. I sit on the board of directors for HP Inc., Nordstrom, and Black Girls Code. I am a champion of diversity and inclusion, and a frequent speaker on the empowerment of women and minorities in global business and technology.Originally from Detroit, I developed a deep love for all things Motown. I reside in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband and two daughters. I hold a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School of Business, and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.Ask me anything about scaling a company internationally, my thoughts on the future of work, transitioning from a sales and ops leader to CEO, or something else!
Thanks so much for joining us Stacy!!Everyone – please ask Stacy your questions before this Thursday. She may not have time to answer everyone question, so please emoji upvote the ones you'd most like her to answer.
Hi everyone! Thanks for having me.
Hi Stacy, I work at Gusto and I’m on the finance & strategy team. I was wondering if you could share any best practices on funnel optimization - how to increase visit to lead, and MQL to join conversion rate? In addition, what would you say is the biggest difference between a marketing-led sales strategy and a sales-led sales strategy and what does it look like to execute well?
Hi Chloe! Funnel optimization is a fun topic here at TaskRabbit. The best way that I've seen us make improvements to the funnel is by running many A/B tests knowing that many won't work but a few will be hugely successful. Every test should have a well thought out hypothesis and measure for success but also a measure for failure. If it is clear it is not working, stop and move on. I think there is no short cut for constant iteration.Regarding sales strategy, whether marketing or sales-led it should be customer driven. Where is the customer and how do you best reach them to share your value proposition. If have often found that it is not an either or. At TaskRabbit, we do not have a dedicated sales team so all of what we do is marketing driven but many of our insights come from our operations team that is talking to the customer every day. When I was at Google, many efforts were sales driven especially for large advertising customers and that worked because of the complexity of the sale. Overtime, all sales teams whether working with large or small advertisers benefited from marketing because it gave Google the opportunity to tell a different side of the story and amplify the message coming from salespeople.
Hi @stacybrownphilpot,Nice to e-meet you, and thank you for sharing your story. I am a co-founder of a marketplace product, and I am really impressed by how you grew TaskRabbit in more than 70 markets! How did you choose which markets to penetrate, and when? What were some challenges you faced (in the company, in the product, and in the market) as you expanded?
Hi Ting!Nice to e-meet you too! Deciding which country to launch was based on many factors the most important was which was customer demand. For example, when I first joined the company and we were only operating in 9 cities in the US, London was consistently one of the top 3 cities requested when potential users visited the site. So when we decided to expand internationally, it was no question that we would go to London first. As we've continued to launch new counties we have built a playbook that includes a timeline along with other criteria including market potential , market density, and regulatory environment. Because we need to invest in and grow each city within a country we take more of a linear approach. That allows us to apply any learning quickly to new cities within a country.Some of the challenges we faced, especially as we launched non-English countries, was translation and ensuring the vocabulary and meaning translated well into the local language. That required us to invest in a team to ensure that we did true localization and not just translation. We also began to grow our company faster outside of SF so that our operations team would be more geographically spread. This increased the importance of communication and forced us to evolve the way we share information so everyone is aligned as we execute. All great problems to have in my mind!
Thank you for doing this, Stacy.How have you learned to push through those difficult moments when, because of your sex, or race, or some other unfair preconceived notion about you, you have a harder time than others might? How do you get respect, buy in? How do you make your voice heard?Sorry if this sounds a little nebulous. As a queer woman who has been surrounded by straight white men the past few years at work, I've become just...tired. What do I do with the voice I've developed over the years that tells me that I am not as respected, or as listened to, as one of my straight male peers? I love the work I do, but still every day think about quitting for an industry where I'm treated as more of an equal. Have you had moments like this?
Steph, first of all. Hang in there! I hear you and I'm sure so many others do to. Find those people and lean on them. I've been tired too at many points in my career. Each time, I've found my 'support crew' of friends, gotten energy from them, and then got back in the game to try to make change happen. For example, after being at Google for a few years I looked around and there weren't many people that looked liked me. I got tired of being lonely and channeled that frustration into a decision to create the Black Googler Network. They have since gone on to bring more diverse talent into the company than they could have otherwise and I'm proud of that. Along that journey, I had to realize that I was the person "we" were waiting for to make it happen and my mentor Sheryl Sandberg helped me see it. At TaskRabbit we have a culture of encouraging all voices to be heard. I don't know the culture of your company but if it is similar (or supposed to be similar) then I would challenge the process or things that are happening that aren't allowing your voice to be heard. Are there allies who can help you amplify the culture that you want to see and the environment that will make you most successful? Seek them out and I'm sure they will be inspired to make change.
Stacy, Thank you so much for taking the time to join us here! One remarkable thing about TaskRabbit is that it's created a positive customer experience that truly goes full-circle. What's been the most challenging aspect of scaling that sort of excellence while keeping the user at the heart of the innovation? Since I'm a UX Designer, please excuse the heavy design bias in my question. Looking forward to your answer!
Great question Tiffany! We are customer obsessed over here at TaskRabbit :) While our customer is technically the client who pays for the service, the Tasker who provides serves is THE key to a successful customer journey. Therefore, we are always keeping both in mind. The challenge there is finding solutions to problems that work for both clients and Taskers. One way we ensure that we do this, our design team has collab design sessions that always include people focused on the Tasker and clients. This is true even if they are only designing a feature for the Client app (or only the Tasker app). This often results in a healthy debate on the right way to design a flow or communicate a feature but I believe it leads to the best form of innovation.
Thank you!!!
Hi @stacybrownphilpot, what is the number one challenge you see a company scaling internationally? For example, UberEasts withdrawed from India. Thanks!
Hi! We now operate TaskRabbit in 6 countries and launching each one has had it it's own set of challenges. I would say the biggest thread across all of them is that each country has it's own local flavor and you often to learn what that really is until you spend time there. Of course, we do localization and everything possible to adapt to a new country (and even cities within the country) but the real learning comes when Taskers do their first few tasks for Clients and we get a sense for the customer experience. For that reason, we take measured approach to scaling in each country to give us the time to learn about the customer experience and invest the effort in making it better from the beginning.
@stacybrownphilpot, Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome? How do you manage it? What is your favourite Motown hit? This is my favourite Motown hit: inspiring!
I have so many! Here's one of them. sang this to my girls (age 8 and 5) once and they just giggled for some reason so sometimes I just burst out singing it to them in the middle of dinner :) I love yours too!
Thank you @stacybrownphilpot for sharing on of your Motown favourite songs. This a lovely and very inspirational song. Have a wonderful weekend. Warm regards,Ekua πŸ’›
As a POC myself and Penn alumn I am so inspired by you! Thank you! My question is around the very early days of TaskRabbit. When you were validating the idea- what were the most successful ways you got the word out and found your early adopters?
Great to hear from a fellow alum! I wasn't around in the very early days but heard lots of great stories from Leah. She interviewed the first few Taskers in a coffee shop in Boston, some of whom still task on TaskRabbit today. Getting the word out involved getting local and working with local papers to tell the early story. Our first Taskers were also great ambassadors in recruiting more Taskers and clients on the service. Therefore, it was very important that the first Taskers really represented the culture and customer experience we were trying to create. It made word of mouth a very effective growth tactic for us.
Hi Stacy, thanks for doing this and sharing your learnings with us. My question is how did you decide to sell Task Rabbit, why Ikea and what criteria did you use to make your decision?
Hi Joanne! Deciding to sell the company was one of the hardest decisions I have made as CEO. By that time we had pioneered the sharing economy and built an amazing business that Taskers and clients depended on everyday for the livelihood. Knowing that most acquisitions fail, I wanted to make sure that we didn't let the community we created down. To do that I focused on alignment of values and mission. TaskRabbit's mission is to make everyday life easier for everyday people. Ikea's mission is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Ours written 11 years ago, theirs 76 years ago. I found that there was so much alignment not just in mission but also in values with their focus on the customer experience and building a sustainable company. With this alignment, the rest was easy. As the worlds largest furniture retailer, I knew that we had the potential to expand TaskRabbit globally with an amazing partner. My vision was for TaskRabbit to be everywhere for everyone and I feel lucky to have a partner that shares that vision and is helping to propel our growth as we enter new countries.
@stacybrownphilpot Thank you for being a part of this platform, giving us your background and agreeing to help us . My question is this: "how did you or do you keep yourself motivated and focused to achieve high value outcomes?, how do you push yourself and hold yourself accountable? Do you have a system?"The reason why I ask this is I work as a Data Scientist in a fortune 500 company, and I have ambitions (like other people I want to solve world problems). But seems like it all comes down to 'how do you execute?', its not just the idea but the work put behind it. I am personally struggling with this and get the feeling that I am not doing enough or doing too many things at once.
Hi Shweta, Having worked at a Fortune 500 company (Google) I know the feeling. Sometimes I got bogged down in the tasks of the day and lose the big picture. To pick myself up I reminded myself why I joined the company. I am a mission minded person and I joined Google because the mission meant a lot to me. I would then connect what I was doing to the mission. If I couldn't see a connection then it probably wasn't the most important thing to work on. If that's what happening for you then talk to your manager and ask them how what you are doing connects to the mission and strategy of the company. When my work is aligned with the mission and the strategy, I have no problem keeping myself accountable because my purpose is clear.
Hi Stacy! I’m the founder of homely first Mexican on-demand based marketplace matching cleaners with households and business, while increasing income and life opportunities of cleaners. Would love to know you thoughts on the best way to scale a marketplace since we are currently facing a stage of changes in the model and the main segment we want to focus on
Congratulations on starting your own company! I added some responses already about scaling already. My only add here would be to really understand your customer. Get close to them and invite them to come to talk to you and your team. And, most importantly, get out there and do some tasks. I learn so much from living the Tasker experience!
Hi Stacey! I am wondering about how it felt like when TaskRabbit hit product-market fit. We often hear "you just know it when it happens" but I am curious how did your team arrive at what the key retention metric was and how long it took to achieve sustainable growth. Thank you!
@stacybrownphilpot, welcome, and thank you for doing an AMA. How do you manage customer expectations for your new deals or partnerships? Especially when results are slow because of new challenges. What do you do when delivering on the value prop might take longer than expected? How do you provide value in the meantime? I'm a solo-founder with a small pilot of B2B customers. Lately, the unknowns can take on a life of its own.I'm a Detroiter too. Eastside or Westside?
Thanks Stacy for sharing your time and wisdom.1) What customer acquisition channels have proved the most effective for TaskRabbit?2) Who are your startup role founder models and why?3) What are the must read books for a marketplace CEO, or any CEO in your opinion?