The Acquisition of TaskRabbit and the death of the ‘Gig Economy’

A number of people sent me articles this last week on TaskRabbit being acquired by Ikea. The amount of the acquisition was not disclosed; its investors are likely to be both relieved and disappointed.

This is almost identical to HomeDepot acquiring Redbeacon. RedBeacon was dying under HomeDepot but has now been reinvented as Pro Referral, a lead-gen site for contractors in the home services vertical. It’s not clear how Pro Referral is doing but RedBeacon (“OpenTable for contractors”) is gone. Is suspect in a couple of years, Pro Referral will be sold or shuttered by the retailer.

For the foreseeable future TaskRabbit will continue matching people and those who can help them, while Ikea will probably funnel lots of near-term furniture assembly work to “taskers.”

Over time, TaskRabbit will likely also die. Ikea has little interest or incentive to support the fully array of services currently available through the site. It’s likely that the non-Ikea, non-furniture-assembly parts of the business will atrophy.

TaskRabbit was founded almost 10 years ago and was the poster child for the so-called “Gig Economy.” It was very hot for awhile and it symbolized a new type of work and worker. It took almost $40 million in investor money but more recently struggled against stalled momentum.

With the acquisition of TaskRabbit (and the inevitable Ikea neglect) we can probably pronounce the so-called “Gig Economy” dead — at least as conceived and written about for the past decade. Sure, Uber and Lyft and a few others still exist. But for the most part these employment matchmaking sites are really online marketplaces or lead-gen sites for local services, which are as old as the internet.

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