Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Get Ready for More TaskRabbit, With New Open API

TaskRabbit, the Bay Area-based start-up that farms out human “rabbits” to perform the odious chores you hate to do (like build IKEA bookshelves #firstworldproblems), is introducing a version of its application that allows other companies to tap into the rabbit-hiring.

In short, it’s offering an open API.

For casual app users and non-techies, hearing that a company is opening up its API may present yet another confusing tech acronym to puzzle out — or lead them to believe the company is opening up some sort of striped-awning storefront.

An open API, or application programming interface, is common among popular Web and mobile apps, enabling the growth of the application while other developers tap into the basic functions of what the app does. Google, Facebook and Twitter all have open APIs, which is why you can use so many applications that tap into their feeds and functions. On a much smaller scale, apps that create photo magnets and canvases emblazoned with your Instagram photos are tapping into Instagram’s open API; apps that offer “tips” on venues or remind you where you “checked into” a year ago are using Foursquare’s open API; and the list goes on.

Because TaskRabbit is a Web service that isn’t just a Web service — you use it to hire real people, who are vetted through a multistep approval process before joining the Task force — this means other apps can now have a button or feature that allows you to hire someone for your needs.

The best use case might be integration with a “to-do” app: Let’s say you’re using an app to stay organized, and hiring someone to walk the dog or digitize your contacts is on the list — now you can use a TaskRabbit to do it.

That’s exactly how TaskRabbit’s open API is rolling out: A “to-do” app called Astrid is integrating TaskRabbit into its Android, iPhone and Web apps, while task-management app Producteev is putting TaskRabbit-hiring options onto its Web app. For mobile, the TaskRabbit API will be available across iOS, Android and Windows platforms.

YouEye, a Web site for user testing and feedback, is tapping into TaskRabbit’s API for business purposes, to staff Rabbits as testers for its site.

TaskRabbit was founded in 2008 by Leah Busque, a former IBM-er who now holds a chief product role at the company, and is run by CEO Eric Gross, the former president of Expedia Worldwide. The service is currently available in five seven cities across the U.S., though it has detailed plans for aggressive expansion over the next year.

In December, the company raised $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; TaskRabbit brought former Disney CEO Michael Eisner on board as a strategic adviser.

As we’ve noted before, TaskRabbit is not alone in the market for outsourcing domestic duties: Competing platform Zaarly raised $14 million from Kleiner Perkins and Sands Capital Ventures this October, and added Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman as a board member. Another company, GigWalk, offers a mobile app that finds local workers for on-the-spot small jobs by tapping into the inherent GPS capabilities of smartphones.

(Photo courtesy of The.Sprouts/Flickr)

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