Small-business owners are like Swiss Army knives expected to handle
dozens of specialized tasks without falling apart. But even the sharpest
entrepreneurs have it tough this time of year inevitably, some will
outsource part of their workload to other enterprising people.
season, dozens of start-ups are competing to take on your holiday
headaches. Here are four time-gobbling situations and the young
companies vying to eliminate them:
Your to-do list is crammed with tiny tasks. How can you delegate them cheaply?
For $5 you could drink a large latte and work through the
night. Or you could hire a minion at Fiverr, which bills itself as "the
world's largest marketplace for small services." Starting at $5 apiece,
tasks include designing business cards and letterheads, sending out
handwritten cards, editing newsletters, making short commercial videos
and throwing darts at a picture of your rival.
anything you imagine can be found on Fiverr," said the company's chief
executive, Micha Kaufman, who set out in 2010 with Shai Wininger to
build what Mr. Kaufman calls "an eBay for services."
"It's giving people the tools to do business with the entire world," he added.
with headquarters in Tel Aviv and offices in New York and Amsterdam,
has more than a million active buyers and sellers across 200 countries,
Mr. Kaufman said. He would not disclose revenue or the number of sales
his site has brokered so far. Fiverr has raised $20 million in financing
and has 60 full-time staff members. The company collects a 20 percent
commission on each sale.
Fiverr's success has
inspired an army of imitators, including Gig Me 5, Gigbucks, TenBux and
Zeerk. Building and selling Fiverr copycat sites has also become a
cottage industry for online software developers. Asked whether he took
this as a compliment, Mr. Kaufman replied dryly, "One of my friends
said, 'It may be flattering, but it's a very annoying way to flatter
You want to delegate complex, highly specialized
tasks, but it's hard to find people whose expertise matches your needs.
SkillPages connects skilled workers with those who want to
hire them. The site showcases an array of specialists - beekeepers, tree
surgeons, witches, clog dancers along with professionals with more
conventional business skills, like payroll administrators, social media
marketers and typists.
Iain Mac Donald decided to start SkillPages
after seeking a tree cutter online to do work in his yard. "This guy
arrives with a huge truck, and he could have taken down a forest," Mr.
Mac Donald said. "He was going to charge me $3,000. It just wasn't
Mr. Mac Donald figured there had to be a way to help make
better matches. To that end, SkillPages identifies specialists whom
users' families and friends may already know through social networks
like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Users can also view work samples
online and contact members directly.
Based in Ireland, SkillPages
went live in 2011 and opened an office in Palo Alto, Calif., this year.
The company's 35 employees handle traffic from more than nine million
users worldwide, 1.5 million of them in North America. The company has
received $18.5 million in financing, said Mr. Mac Donald, the chief
executive, declining to disclose sales figures.
services are free. To make money, it sells advertising space and offers
premium memberships with stand-alone Web sites for those offering
services. Next year, Mr. Mac Donald plans to offer a paid matchmaking
service for talent-seeking companies. He is also building a "targeted
offers" program that will let niche vendors present deals on products
and services to members with relevant expertise. The vendors will pay
SkillPages a bounty for each sale.
Guru, oDesk and
Elance also focus on skilled work. LinkedIn added a "skills" component
to its profiles last year.
You are overwhelmed by
errands and other location-specific jobs that cannot be farmed out to
the other side of the planet. You need an affordable gofer: competent,
TaskRabbit is an on-demand
service for handling quick jobs: assembling Ikea furniture, packing
boxes, wrapping gifts, mailing invitations or even carrying awkward
objects like Christmas trees. The company sends requests to a network of
"rabbits" - errand-runners screened through video interviews and
background checks - who bid for the work. Last month, 80 were hired to
wait on Black Friday lines.
Leah Busque got the idea for
TaskRabbit one night in 2008, when she was going out to dinner and
realized she had no food in the house for Kobe, her yellow Labrador.
Envisioning an online service for dispatching errand-runners, she quit
her job as an I.B.M. software engineer to build it. A year later, she
won a slot in Facebook's now defunct incubator program and later moved
her company, then called RunMyErrand, to San Francisco from Boston.
TaskRabbit has 60 employees at its headquarters and more than 4,000
freelancers wrangling tasks for customers in the Bay Area and Austin,
Tex.; Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; New York; Portland, Ore.; and San
TaskRabbit has raised almost $40 million in financing,
and revenue nearly quintupled this year, Ms. Busque said. She would not
disclose sales figures but said the company typically charges users 18
percent on top of its freelancers' fees. Small businesses, she said, are
her fastest-growing group of customers.
Agent Anything, Exec., Fancy Hands, PAForADay and Zaarly.
Your business moved. In days of yore, you would just update the address
in the local Yellow Pages. But now that information appears on myriad
Web sites like Yelp, Citysearch, Yahoo and Foursquare. How do you adjust
Yext gives business owners a single
dashboard for updating directory information and posting special offers
across 57 listing sites. After Hurricane Sandy, about 2,300 users logged
on to post closings and other storm-related messages, according to
Yext's chief executive, Howard Lerman.
"My favorite was one guy who put up a 24-hour elevator rescue hot line," he said.
in 2006 in New York City, Yext, in its first incarnation, drove sales
leads to other businesses on a pay-per-call basis. In August, Mr. Lerman
sold that service, which he said was profitable and generating
eight-figure revenue. He wanted to refocus on expanding Yext's fledgling
directory information product, which came out in 2011.
"I'm perfectly happy with the word 'gamble,' " he said. "You should only take big bets in technology."
has raised $27 million in financing so far for its listings service,
which passed the 100,000-subscriber mark this month and generates more
than $30 million in annual revenue, according to Mr. Lerman. The full
service costs $499, billed annually, and also notifies users when new
reviews of their companies appear on listings sites.
"To go to all
of those sites individually and try to manage your information or
update stuff would take hours and hours and hours," Mr. Lerman said.
"Yext is all about businesses owning their own data."
Localeze, Express Update and CityGrid.
© 2012, The New York Times News Service