Lauren Goode

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TaskRabbit Raises $17.8 Million, Brings in Eisner as Adviser

TaskRabbit, the Bay Area-based start-up that outsources human “rabbits” to perform odious chores for neighbors, has raised its second cash pile in eight months.

It’s also bringing former Disney chief executive officer Michael Eisner on board as a strategic adviser.

TaskRabbit has nabbed $17.8 million in a Series B round of funding from existing investors, as well as from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Allen & Company and the Tornante Company, the investment firm run by Eisner.

Photo Courtesy of Robert Godwin/Flickr

Lightspeed managing director Justin Caldbeck and Shasta Ventures’ Sean Flynn will also join the board of directors.

TaskRabbit CEO Eric Grosse said the company plans to spend the money on hiring engineers and designers, building out more mobile products — including an upcoming Android app — and expanding its presence in U.S. cities and abroad. Fans of the service can expect to see it become available in Seattle and Portland in the next couple of months, while international expansion could happen by the end of 2012.

While the funding is notable in itself, the addition of Eisner as a strategic advisor could bring to light the possibility of entertainment opportunities for TaskRabbit. Eisner approached after seeing an ABC News special with Diane Sawyer this past September; the segment featuring TaskRabbit drove 6.5 million users to the company’s Web site and overwhelmed its servers.

“He really saw the potential in what we’re building. Every single task that’s posted and completed is a story, and even the TaskRabbits themselves are stories,” said TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque, adding that Eisner’s experience in entertainment is a big asset to the start-up.

TaskRabbit was founded in 2008 by Busque, a former IBM-er, who now holds a chief product role at the company; tech veteran Grosse acts as chief executive officer. Busque has said the idea came to her when she and her husband were looking for a friend or neighbor to get dog food for them on a cold winter night in Boston.

The company works by creating an online community of runners — a.k.a. “rabbits” — who perform errands, and bidders, who are willing to pay the rabbits. TaskRabbit takes a 15 percent cut of each duty performed. According to Busque, who joined us on The Wall Street Journal’s “Digits” show this past fall, the runners are vetted through a multi-step approval process, which includes background checks and video interviews.

The company just received $5 million this past May from Shasta Ventures, First Round Capital and others, following a $1.8 million round of seed funding. TaskRabbit says that since closing its Series A funding in May it has tripled its monthly task volume and net revenue, while increasing its customer base sevenfold, though it declined to say how many customers it has in total.

TaskRabbit isn’t the only start-up looking to outsource garbage-hauling, laundry-washing and dog-walking (and in some cases, even worm-bin managing): New competing platform Zaarly raised $14 million from Kleiner Perkins and Sands Capital Ventures this October, and also added Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman as a board member. Another company, GigWalk, takes a slightly different approach, with a mobile app that utilizes the power of GPS to create a marketplace for on-the-spot small jobs.

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