Micro-Entrepreneurship, Productivity + Life Efficiency

A History (and Economics) Lesson in Service Networking


As one of our loyal blog readers, we hope that you’ve already discovered the power of TaskRabbit and agree that our service marketplace is revolutionizing the way that people get things done.  Many of you may know the TaskRabbit story – it all started when our CEO and founder, Leah Busque, and her husband, Kevin ran out of dog food for the 100 lb yellow lab on a cold night in Boston. Leah and Kevin decided to create  a way of allowing busy people to outsource their Tasks and services to others in their community. Thus, the concept of Service Networking and TaskRabbit were born. TaskRabbit is continuing to lead the way in this exciting space.

Before TaskRabbit, if you wanted to get something done, you either simply did it yourself, asked a friend for a favor, hired a professional, or threw something up on Craigslist and prayed for a response.  Of those options, hiring a professional specializing in your Task was clearly the best choice due to the benefits of “comparative advantage.” But, as we all know, professionals can be really expensive.

Enter TaskRabbit…a professional services 2.0 in a way. With TaskRabbit, you can tap into our network of TaskRabbit Runners to find someone in your community with the exact skills you need to work with you- only cheaper! Said differently, Service Networking removes the “brokers” from professional service marketplaces and directly connects community members to efficiently carry out specialized Tasks.

While TaskRabbit was only recently made possible by the perfect storm of technology, customer need, and a 100 lb. yellow lab, the founding principles of Service Networking can be traced waaaaay back to a stoic Scottish man with a white powdered wig named Adam Smith.

Smith is known as the “farther of modern economics,” and we think that he had some pretty great ideas that embody exactly what we’re striving to do here at TaskRabbit.  His best-known book was a lengthy read called The Wealth of Nations.  In it – explained concisely in 1200 pages – are some adages we think are pretty awesome and relevant to what we do at TaskRabbit:

  • “Great is the almighty “invisible hand” of the market” – What!?!  Basically, Smith is saying that governments should simply provide an unrestricted market system for people to easily exchange goods and services, and then get the heck out of the way!  Market forces will take care of the rest. Yep, we totally agree!  Our goal at TaskRabbit is to build a platform that makes it as easy as possible for busy people to connect with folks in their community who are best equipped to handle their Task. We then step out of the way and let our Runners do what they do best – provide great service!
  • “Take the customer view or, said another way, the customer is always right.” – (Paraphrasing Smith a bit here.)  Smith says that individuals will act in their own long-term best interest. This in turn motivates them to provide great products and services in order to achieve prosperity.  Spot on.  We encourage our Runners to be the best Runner they can be and provide the best service they can for our TaskPosters. With this approach, their TaskRabbit potential is limitless.
  • “Props to owner-managed enterprises and local investment” (again paraphrasing)– Smith believed in the vision of an efficient market comprised of small, owner-managed enterprises that share in their community’s values, and have a personal stake in its future.  Yes!  This guy was good.  We are all about building an enterprising community at TaskRabbit and want to empower our TaskRabbit Runners to be true entrepreneurs!

So, it looks like Smith had the potential to be a fabulous TaskRabbit Runner.  If only he had a laptop and access to the inter-web, he could have made tons of dough offering freelance economic consulting advice on TaskRabbit instead of wasting all his time writing books.

Until recently, the concept of Smith’s free market was most often applied at the firm level: companies could take advantage of comparative advantage by trading efficiently with other firms.  Now, the interconnectedness and transparency offered by the Internet and social networks make it possible for Smith’s vision to be realized for individuals in a community.

Many people believe that Smith’s ideas have done more to raise the global standard of living than any other idea in history.  We tend to agree. We are hopeful that Service Networking is continuing to foster Smith’s philosophy- making it increasingly possible for markets to be truly free for the betterment of the community.