Office Hours: I'm a GP at Fuel Capital and I was the Founder & CEO of TaskRabbit. I'm Leah Solivan.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Leah Solivan. I’m a General Partner at Fuel Capital where I invest in early-stage startups in consumer tech, marketplaces and retail.Before becoming an investor, I was the founder & CEO of TaskRabbit and spent nearly a decade building the company. I scaled the company to 44 cities and raised more than $50 million in capital before selling the company to IKEA in 2017.Before founding TaskRabbit, I spent 8 years as a software engineer at IBM. I have a Computer Science degree from Sweet Briar College, an all-women's college in Virginia.As a Latina, I’m a firm believer in the importance of driving diversity in business and ensuring more representation in tech. I’m excited to be here to answer your questions! Ask me anything about transitioning from operator to investor, building a thriving marketplace, the mechanics of marketplaces, stress management as a founder, or really anything else!
Thanks so much for joining us, Leah!Elpha – Please ask Leah your questions before this Thursday. She may not have time to answer every question, so please emoji upvote your favorites.
So excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Hi Leah! Your story is inspiring! Now that you are on the other side of it as an investor... looking back, are there things you would have done differently in the early days when you were raising money for TaskRabbit?
Hi Tanya,Thanks for the question! It's a good one.A few thoughts: 1) I would have spent more time understanding the investors' fund sizes and when they got involved in companies so I was better able to target the most appropriate investor. Word of caution... investors will always take a meeting. And they will always leave their options open by saying that they invest in everything from seed to growth rounds. But, the fact of the matter is that they do have a "sweet spot." It is important to understand that sweet spot so you aren't continually discouraged throughout the course of fundraising.2) The second thing I wish I had known was all the dynamics that are at play for venture investors. As a founder, I was most focused on the competition in my specific market (who was competing with TaskRabbit directly in the space). As an investor, I now realize that a founder’s competition is not only the companies in your respective market but also the other companies in your investors’ portfolios. It has become quite clear that founders are competing for an investors’ time and money with all other companies in their portfolio. I wish I had recognized this when I was a founder. Decisions that seemed so odd at the time would have made so much more sense.
Great Advice. Definitely keeping that in mind. Thank you!
@leahsolivan The second point is 👌
Thanks Leah for the office hour! On Product/Market Fit - Would you go about changing the product to fit the market or focus on selling the product to the right market?
Hi Fanny, Great question. It's a tricky one and really depends on where you are in your product development cycle. The key to finding product-market fit is listening to your current customers and then iterating to adapt the product to meet their needs. If you feel like your current product might resonate with a different customer, by all means, run a test to see if you can gain more traction with a different customer segment. More often than not, if you start with the customer, listen to their needs, and build for them, you will iterate into a product that hits that magical zone of product-market fit.One thing to remember is that the customer that you are building for is not static; they are always changing. Their needs are always changing as well. You have to continuously listen to their feedback and ABA (always be adapting) to ensure that you maintain product-market fit as the company scales as well. It's always a moving target :-)
Thanks Leah! This is super useful.
Hi @leahsolivan, what inspired you to build TaskRabbit? Did you start to scale the demand side or the supply side while building TaskRabbit? Why? And what the most critical challenges did you see at that time? Thanks for taking time to answer my questions!
Hey Samantha,Thanks for the questions.... On the inspiration question for TaskRabbit. I had actually lived the problem. On a cold night in Boston in 2008, I ran out of dog food and immediately thought… wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place online where I could go, say I needed dog food and find someone (perhaps who was at the store at that very moment) who would be willing to help me out. It was such a common problem but there was no real solution. Given I was an engineer, I knew I could build a solution so I decided to make the leap and do it. On the supply versus demand side. This is a question I get a lot. As with most marketplaces, we at TaskRabbit needed to get the quality supply in place (in our case, the Taskers, who would be doing the work) before we could push the demand side. The reasoning is that this is the best way to ensure a quality and consistent experience once customers (the demand side) came to the platform. On the challenges... the main one was convincing customers that they could trust strangers to help them with jobs and tasks in their own homes. The idea of outsourcing to strangers was so nascent back in 2008/2009 so there was a lot of convincing to do in the early days. Now, it's commonplace to hop in a car with strangers but it was a totally foreign concept when we launched TaskRabbit.
Hi @leahsolivan, thanks so much for your in depth thoughts of scaling the TaskRabbit in the early days. They're still revelent in current marketplace business model.
Leah, you are so inspiring. I'm one of the founders of Art in Res (, a fine-art marketplace that allows you to try art in your home before you buy it. We're lowering the barrier to art collecting and helping emerging artists get their work out there. We work with artists nationwide, and our platform is peer-to-peer, so artists sell directly from their studios to art lovers. When folks choose to return a rental, they ship their boxed rental directly back to the artist's studio. Sometimes our users call us the "Rent the Runway for Fine Art". My question for you, because you've built such a reputable and trusted brand in TaskRabbit is - especially in the early days of Task Rabbit, what did you do to ensure best practices between participating members of your marketplace? In other words, how did you encourage people to 'behave as good users', and when they acted outside of those requirements, what efforts did you make to maintain the integrity of your userbase? Thank you very much for answering! Noni
Hi Noni,Thanks for the question... this is hard, particularly when we have 60,000 Taskers representing our brand. The key ways we ensured that Taskers and Clients were good actors were:1) Extensive vetting process before allowing Taskers on the platform. This included criminal background checking.2) Robust ratings and review process on both sides of the marketplace. This gave both sides the opportunity to raise any flags or concerns that they see in the "real world." We took these reviews very seriously and would action on anything that was worrisome. 3) Instituting policies around response time and other performance metrics. 4) Actively managing the marketplace so that the "best" Taskers were surfaced in search results.
Thank you for your reply!
I remember reading an article with the Stacy Brown-Philpot where she mentioned that no one thought she was the CEO of Taskrabbit. That always made me wonder how you may have gotten connected to Stacy initially and how you convinced a team of people such as your board, for example, that she was the right fit, knowing that there would have likely been unconscious bias at play amongst the decision makers since society is not accustomed to seeing a black female CEO in Silicon Valley?
Hi Jessica, Thanks for your question. I found Stacy through a recruiter. We actually met a few years before I recruited her to come be our COO. When I was ready to make the hire, Stacy and I had built a trusted relationship over many years, so it was actually a pretty easy decision for me and our Board to bring her on. I think because we had so much time to get to know each other, this really helped with the process. She references incredibly well too ... everyone who worked with her at Google raved about her :-) I was lucky to be working with a Board and team that embraced Stacy from the beginning. There really wasn't any bias or concerns in bringing her on board and she has been a great partner to me and leader for the company.In fact, one of Stacy's key initiatives has been to increase the diversity of the broader TaskRabbit team and she has done such an incredible job at doing so. As she has demonstrated... if you have a diverse team at the top, it attracts a more diverse team. As we know from research, it's also great for business - diversity leads to an increase in the bottom line. I'm really proud of the work she has done here.
Hi Leah, I was a TaskRabbit user for a few years, before the Ikea acquisition. Congratulations on your success, and also congratulations on raising Fund III at Fuel Capital.How would you like founders to meet with you and your team to introduce themselves? Warm introductions, of course, is the industry norm. However, is there any other way to get connected with Fuel Capital?Thanks,
Hey Hoda...Easy... just email me at [email protected].
Hi Leah! I don’t have a question 😛 I’m just here to fan girl a little bit. I love the product and what a great and long lasting company you’ve built! I love how it gave opportunities to people during the worst economic times and created value for everyone. Thank you for creating it! 🥰
Just want to say that I love that you're here!
Hi Leah. I’m also a technologist from Virginia. I’m creating an animated and interactive cartoon to teach kids Computer Science and Cybersecurity. I’m pursuing a contract with the federal government (where I have my roots) to develop this further. Do you all invest in pre-revenue companies or do you prefer to see revenue first (and what amount)? If you invest in pre-revenue companies, what KPIs do you look for?
Hi, Leah! Congrats on your success! What's interesting to you in the category of marketplaces? Are one-stop-shop marketplaces fading out, as niche/highly-targeted marketplaces growing?Who do you think is poised or what does it take to become the marketplace of DTC brands (as they seem to exist in silos on their own, relying heavily on social media to drive awareness), if it's not the inevitable Amz?
Hi Leah. Thank you and congratulations on your success -- and your new venture. My company developed a digital trust badge for the gig and sharing economies. As an add-on or upgrade, it lets a gig worker show they've undergone a broader, deeper screening. Companies like TaskRabbit are our ideal target, though we are still very early. What's the best way for a young start up to introduce an opportunity to an established marketplace company to open a conversation?
Hello @leahsolivan! My question: I know the primary focus is usually on the end users/customers, but what methods have to used to learn more about the day-to-day lives of the people who make money through the platform?
Thanks for doing OH and for sharing your great story! I am a non-tech founder of a deep tech company at the pre-seed/pre-revenue stage. I filed patents and assembled an A Team (all with track records). The problem I’m solving requires a complete restructuring that has to happen except that that means it’s complex! My feedback from investors: come back when you’re raising more money. Or no, you’re taking on the mega giants with way more human and $ capital. I also would love nothing more than a diverse, woman-soaked dev team (and/or CTO). I just need one of the right people to believe in me and what I’m doing, as I know I’m doing the right thing. I raised 4.5 million on a previous company business plan/no traction. This time not even getting offers for 300k. Any advice? Tysm!
Thanks for sharing your story Leah! Very impressive career. I am currently co-founding a private fundraising marketplace that uses machine learning to identify investors most likely to invest in start-ups and to enable data-driven deal screening and investments. Our mission is to connect and bring transparency to private fundraising process by using the power of Network Effects, Data and AI. The ability to discover less obvious sources of funding solves the long tail problem of the marketplace, bringing efficiency, diversity and cost cutting across the entire eco-system. Part of our marketplace data curation algorithm is to build a reputation and value score for all participants, and a friend of mine recommended to take a look at Task Rabbit’s “Elite” or “Value” classification. Would love to get your insights of what worked and what didn't, especially at the beginning.We are a pre-seed/ pre-revenue stage company trying to get off the ground, so any advice is like gold for us. Please check our first iteration of our website ( and test our alpha matching algo ( What do you think about "Alice" and the results she generated? Please comment here Thank you!!
Leah you're rockstar! We'd love to invite you to as your mission and purpose aligns with ours:-)
Thanks to everyone who joined us! Office Hours are now over.