EP417: A Female Founder Mindset With Leah Busque Solivan
Power + Presence + Position
If you want to launch, scale, and eventually sell your business, understanding what investors are looking for is important. Besides having a great business idea and the skills to operate it, it’s about your mindset. Entrepreneurship is like leaping blindly into the unknown and having the confidence in yourself to know you’ll figure it out. As my guest today says, there’s no better job than creating what’s in your head and sharing it with others. And recognizing that you don’t need to know how to do everything off the bat is key. Keep Reading >> I am so excited to share this conversation with you today. I’m talking with TaskRabbit founder and General Partner at Fuel Capital, Leah Busque Solivan. Leah scaled Task Rabbit to be in 44 different cities across the country, raised more than $50 million in capital, and in 2017, it was acquired by Ikea. She has a wealth of wisdom and experience to share with you about building, scaling, and selling a business. Listen in today as Leah walks us through the process of launching, scaling, and selling her startup, TaskRabbit. She is now an investor in startups so she also offers some critical mindset considerations for female founders. And, she’s sharing how you can start building relationships with investors so you can secure the funding you need for your startup down the line. This episode is packed full of insights and advice from someone who has been there and did it successfully, I know you’re going to learn a lot from her. Today on the Power + Presence + Position Podcast: Why Leah became an entrepreneur and the impetus for starting TaskRabbit. The importance of understanding your customer and following data. The biggest shifts Leah had to make as a leader. Leah’s advice for female founders looking to secure funding. Why it’s so important to have more underrepresented groups writing checks. How Leah advises founders to lead their companies through a crisis. Resources Mentioned: Today’s episode is sponsored by the show, Young Money with Tracey Bissett Fuel Capital EP416: Free Yourself from Freelancer Pricing Love the show? Let us know! Are you a fan of the Power + Presence + Position? If the tips and interviews we share in each episode have helped you gain the confidence and inspiration to become a better, more powerful leader, head on over to Apple Podcasts, subscribe to the show and leave your honest review to let us know! What are you waiting for? Head on over to Apple Podcasts, subscribe, and leave a review to enter your name into this month’s drawing! Join the Community of Practice! Want enriching conversation with intelligent, insightful women entrepreneurs, who are unapologetic about their ambition? Join me in the Power + Presence + Position community - the free, invite-only community for fierce, high-level women entrepreneurs making a huge impact on the world. You’ll get access to our book club, happy hours, and executive round tables where we talk about the issues that matter most to women entrepreneurs. If you’re ready to take your business to the next level and be part of the best conversation about women entrepreneurship on the internet, join me in the free Power + Presence + Position community today!
"The most exciting new podcast in the startup world.” - Eric Ries, Founder and NYTimes bestselling author Welcome back to another episode of Below The Line. Today's episode is with Leah Busque Solivan who is the founder of TaskRabbit and now a venture capitalist in Fuel Capital. We talk about the low points of her eight year journey as a founder, running her own startup TaskRabbit, sparing no details of the reality of that role, and how she transitioned to becoming a venture capitalist after handing off the reigns. We also talked about why she sees herself being an investor for the foreseeable future and not doing her own startup again along with some real talk on her lowest 24 hours she experienced as CEO. Her candor is so refreshing. And that candor along with her experience is what is making her one of the best investors out there in my opinion. Her story and our conversation is one that I haven't heard anyone share — not quite like this on below the line. I think you’re really going to enjoy today’s honest and open conversation with Leah. You can email James questions directly at email@example.com or follow us on Twitter @ twitter.com/gobelowtheline — “Below the Line with James Beshara" is brought to you by Straight Up Podcasts LLC.
Leah Busque, Founder of TaskRabbit sale to Ikea, Mental Health, Venture Capital
Leah Busque Solivan is the founder of TaskRabbit and a Partner at Fuel Capital. n this conversation, Mayra Ceja and Leah Busque Solivan discuss her humble beginnings as the first Tasker on TaskRabbit and eventually sold it to Ikea, her personal challenges with founder stress and how it put her in the hospital right before her last fundraise, and how she’s helping entrepreneurs as a venture capital investor TaskRabbit is an on-demand services company that can help you with everything from building Ikea furniture to standing in line for you at the Apple store. I Additional topics: FBfund, Jonathan Zimmerman, founders of Zipcar, Winning vs. Success. New episodes launch every Tuesday at 7am ET. If you like this episode, remember to subscribe, rate, and share. Follow me on Twitter @MayraCeja007 or join our newsletter at www.VentureUnplugged.com -----This episode is sponsored by eToro, the smartest crypto trading platform, and one of the largest in the world. Join me and 11 million other traders and create an account and build your crypto portfolio the smart way. ------This episode is sponsored by Qtum, the first proof-of-stake smart contracts blockchain. If you're tired of paying high fees on other smart contracts platforms, head on over Qtum and start building today your own low fee, solidity smart contract today! ------This episode is sponsored by Lukka, an institutional-grade, back and middle office accounting software and data services company that is bridging the gap between the business and blockchain world. -----This podcast is presented by BlockWorks Group, an exclusive content and events company that provide insights into the crypto and blockchain space.
Leah Busque Solivan, Founder of TaskRabbit: "I would look at everything in my life and question, like, "Is there a solution here?"
9 to 5ish with theSkimm
Leah Busque Solivan is an engineer and entrepreneur. In 2008, she became a rising star of the gig economy when she quit her job at IBM to found TaskRabbit, the mobile and online marketplace that hooks you up with people to help with everything from picking up your laundry to building your furniture.She sold her baby to IKEA in 2017 and now she’s using her expertise to help other startups as a general partner at the venture capital firm, Fuel Capital. On the Couch, Leah talks to us about how she hired her first 30 task rabbits (11:45), why it was hard for her to celebrate success (18:00), what pushed her to the edge (23:20) and how she helps new entrepreneurs learn from her mistakes (30:20).This episode of Skimm'd From the Couch is sponsored by AC Hotels by Marriott. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
SaaStr 253: TaskRabbit Founder Leah Busque on Lessons Learned from a Product Reboot
The Official SaaStr Podcast: SaaS | Founders | Investors
Leah Busque is currently a General Partner at Fuel Capital, an early stage venture fund located in Silicon Valley. She likes to invest across consumer, B2B saas, and technology infrastructure companies at the earliest stages. In 2008 Leah founded TaskRabbit, the leading on-demand service marketplace in the world. She spent nearly a decade involved with the company as CEO and Executive Chairwoman before she sold the company to IKEA in October of 2017. Hear about her takeaways from a product reboot with TaskRabbit. Missed the session? Here’s what Leah talks about: What are the lessons learned from a product reboot? When bringing a product to market - what are the BHAGs? How to navigate a product pivot. If you would like to find out more about the show and the guests presented, you can follow us on Twitter here: Jason Lemkin SaaStr Leah Busque
50 Leah Busque - The Founder of TaskRabbit on Being Purpose Built for Your Idea
The Mentor Files
Listen in as Leah talks about her career moving from entrepreneur to becoming a general partner in venture capital, and her advice for young companies. "TaskRabbit was able to help shape the future of work at a time when people really needed it." - Leah Busque. Learn more about this episode of The Mentor Files with Monica Royer at www.monicaandandy.blog/50
Origins - A podcast about Limited Partners, created by Notation Capital
Leah Busque is a General Partner at Fuel Capital, an early-stage venture firm based in SF. Before Fuel, she was the co-founder and CEO of TaskRabbit for eight years, and before that an engineer at IBM. In this episode, we discuss Leah's path to founding TaskRabbit, moving to SF, and partnering with Chris Howard as Fuel's second GP just over a year ago. We also dig into how she discovered and has navigated the LP community, how she expects to support the founders she works with as a former founder and engineer herself, and finally how Leah and Chris plan to grow Fuel as a firm in the years to come.
20VC: Finding VC Partners That Look Beyond The Numbers, The Black Box of VC Secrets That Needs To Be Shared & The 1,000 Reasons A VC Won't Invest In You When It Has Nothing To Do With You with Leah Busque, General Partner @ Fuel Capital
The Twenty Minute VC: Venture Capital | Startup Funding | The Pitch
Leah Busque is a General Partner @ Fuel Capital, one of Silicon Valley's leading seed funds with the most incredible portfolio including many previous 20VC guests Ryan @ Flexport, Florian @ Mesosphere, Alex @ Clearbit and Dan @ Convoy (episode Friday). As for Leah, prior to VC, she was a pioneer of the sharing economy with her founding of TaskRabbit, one of the leading online labor marketplaces in the US, raising over $37m in the process before their sale to IKEA last year. Due to this incredible success, Leah has been named to Fast Company's "100 Most Creative People in Business". In Today’s Episode You Will Learn: 1.) How Leah made her way from sitting on the couch discussing dog food with her husband to founding TaskRabbit and how that translated into the world of VC today? 2.) How did Leah's time in operations affect: Question from Sean @ Shasta: the founders Leah backs and why she chooses them? Question from Craig @ Collaborative: the business models and unit economics Leah backs and why she backs them? 3.) Leah has said before that "authenticity and transparency between VC and founder are now table stakes", what more can be done to improve the VC product? How did Leah select the investors she worked with on TaskRabbit? How can founders truly determine "founder friendly" VCs? 4.) What have been Leah's biggest surprises on her move into the world of VC? What elements has Leah found most challenging? How has Leah looked to scale that learning curve? 5.) What does a successful marketplace look like? How does one know when is the right time to really scale a marketplace? What is the inflection point? How can marketplaces be efficient with their unit economics from day 1? How does one balance the NPS of the supply side with the NPS of the demand side? Items Mentioned In Today’s Show: Leah’s Fave Book: Founders at Work Leah’s Most Recent Investment: Bark: Parental Control Phone Tracker App As always you can follow Harry, The Twenty Minute VC and Leah on Twitter here! Likewise, you can follow Harry on Instagram here for mojito madness and all things 20VC. Leesa is the Warby Parker or TOMS shoes of the mattress industry. Leesa have done away with the terrible mattress showroom buying experience by creating a luxury premium foam mattress that is ordered completely online and ships for free to your doorstep. The 10-inch mattress comes in all sizes and is engineered with 3 unique foam layers for a universal, adaptive feel, including 2 inches of memory foam and 2 inches of a really cool latex foam called Avena, design to keep you cool. All Leesa mattresses are 100% US or UK made and for every 10 mattresses they sell, they donate one to a shelter. Go to Leesa.com to start the New Year with better nights sleep! Zoom, fastest growing video and web conferencing service, providing one consistent enterprise experience that allows you to engage in an array of activities including video meetings and webinars, collaboration-enabled conference rooms, and persistent chat all in one easy platform. Plus, it is the easiest solution to manage, scale, and use, and has the most straightforward, affordable pricing. Don’t take our word for it. Zoom is the top rated conferencing app across various user review sites including G2Crowd and Trust Radius. And you can sign up for a free account (not a trial!). Just visit Zoom.us.
186: TaskRabbit Was Ahead of its Time, But Leah Busque’s Vision and Persistence Made it a Game-Changer
Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan
No Task Too Big Leah Busque launched TaskRabbit and became a pioneer in the sharing economy. Now she wants to empower other founders as she transitions to venture capital. Picture this: You’re sitting at home on a February night in Boston, where winter temperatures dip well below freezing, and it’s snowing outside—not exactly a good time to find out your hundred-pound Labrador retriever is out of dog food. So what do you do? Do you don your boots and trek through the snow in pursuit of kibble? Do you ask your spouse to do it? To a 28-year-old Leah Busque, the solution should have been simple: Why not hire someone in the area to run that errand for you? “[My husband and I] were certain that there was someone in our neighborhood that'd be willing to help us out,” Busque recalls. “Maybe even someone at the store at that very moment, and it was just a matter of connecting with them.” After some geeky brainstorming with her husband, Busque grabbed her iPhone—it had come out a few months before—and bought the first domain that came to mind: RunMyErrand.com. Four months after that, she left her job as a software engineer at IBM and locked herself in her house for 10 weeks to build the first version of the site, all because a service she wanted didn’t yet exist. Thanks to Busque’s creativity and persistence, now it does—TaskRabbit. Think Big, Start Small: From Back Bay to the Bay Area In September 2008, RunMyErrand launched in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, where Busque was living at the time. “I was very targeted,” she says. “[I] really wanted to focus on one geography and create a peer-to-peer-network in that geography that was liquid, that would have high supply and high demand … and from there it just really started to snowball.” Word traveled fast. People in Charlestown started telling those in Beacon Hill about this new service that let you hire locals to run your errands. Word traveled from Beacon Hill to the residents of Back Bay and Cambridge. Soon enough, Busque was recruiting Taskers from all over the city of Boston. By the summer of 2009, Busque was invited to participate in an incubator program run by Facebook, leading her to change the name from RunMyErrand to TaskRabbit before launching in her second market—San Francisco. A Pioneer in the Peer-to-Peer Sharing Economy Here’s how TaskRabbit works: First, you post a task on the platform (mobile or web), such as, “I need help mounting a 32-inch flat screen TV on my wall.” Next, you get matched with vetted Taskers in your area, and you can view their ratings and hourly rates. Then, your chosen Tasker shows up, completes the task, and gets paid securely via the app. A simple enough idea for any smartphone user today, but you have to remember that TaskRabbit launched in 2008; most people were still rocking flip phones, and the term “sharing economy” hadn’t yet made it into the consumer vernacular. “These technologies were so new and so emerging, it wasn't an obvious thing to be able to utilize your mobile device to connect with people in real time,” Busque explains. “Certainly, no one was going to jump into a stranger's car off the street and grab a ride with Lyft or with Uber. And so the consumer mindset was completely different. Trust was a big barrier. Letting a stranger into your home to hang shelves, or hang curtains, or clean your house—these were all very big decisions that the consumer was making.” It’s been almost a decade since TaskRabbit’s inception, and the company’s come a long way from that neighborhood in Boston. The service has expanded to about 40 markets (including London), raised more than $50 million in venture funding, and last year was acquired by Swedish furniture giant Ikea. According to Busque, TaskRabbit gets more than 15,000 applications every month from people who want to be Taskers. And on the buyer side of that marketplace, people have hired Taskers to do errands as varied as waiting in line at a store, rushing a passport to the airport, and even retrieving keys from the bottom of a lake. Knowing When to Quit, and When to Keep Going As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know when to quit. Failing to realize an idea is a dud can lead to overspending and wasted time. So we had to ask Busque, especially given the novelty of the idea when it first launched: Did she ever feel like giving up? “I’m not someone who gives up,” Busque says. “I’m not someone who quits.” Given the dismal economy during TaskRabbit’s early days, one would have understood if she had. When Busque launched the first version of the site in September 2008, subprime lending had tanked the housing market and the stock market was crashing, ushering in the Great Recession—not exactly the best time to be quitting a steady job, or starting a business, or seeking investors. But still, Busque pressed on, choosing to bootstrap her startup for almost a year. “We had a mortgage on our house and we had bills to pay,” Busque recalls. “We basically did the math and thought, 'We've got about six months where I don't need to work. I don't need to take a salary to kinda make ends meet.'” When six months came and went and TaskRabbit still didn’t have an investor, it must have been difficult not to close up shop right then and there. “We were so close though; I felt like I was on the brink of something every day. I thought, ‘I just need 24 more hours, 48 more hours, one more week.’ And so every day was a question [of], ‘Should we keep going? Should we call it?’” Thankfully, Busque didn’t call it quits. In December 2008, three months after she had missed her self-imposed deadline to raise funding, Busque closed her first angel round of $150,000. That funding was enough to carry her fledgling business through to the end of 2009, when she raised a seed round of $1 million. As an entrepreneur, it’s just as important to know when to keep going as it is to know when to quit. Before You Automate, Do it Manually As Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham says, “Do things that don’t scale.” In his famous 2013 essay on this principle, Graham writes, “Startups take off because the founders make them take off.” “I definitely had to do things that weren't going to scale over the long term,” Busque says. In the early days, for example, Busque could often be found zipping around Boston on her little Honda scooter, completing tasks on her own. “I still am the master TaskRabbit,” she laughs. That firsthand experience as a Tasker proved invaluable, as Busque got to know her customers and gained a deeper understanding of how her service fit into the marketplace. That willingness to dive in and get her hands dirty proved to be a hallmark strategy for the founder. “Even as the company developed … I would say one strategy I used that worked pretty well was figuring out how to do things manually first, to really, really understand what to build, how to make it more efficient, and then start to automate layers on top of it over time.” Take TaskRabbit’s application process, for example. The first version involved an online application, an in-person interview (to start the site, Busque conducted 30 interviews herself over coffee in Boston), and a background check. In total, that highly manual process took three to five days. “But the time we spent,” Busque says, “for instance, doing in-person interviews, really helped us to understand what was important in finding the right Taskers, in the highest quality, most consistent Taskers. And so we then, from those in-person interviews, would figure out what questions we needed to ask, what the indicators were early that this Tasker was going to perform well on the platform.” Now? Every piece of that process is automated, and a Tasker can be onboarded in a matter of hours, not days. How to Get Comfortable With Competition Every founder knows that sinking feeling of learning a new business similar to yours is entering the marketplace. Maybe it’s why entrepreneurs are notorious for guarding their ideas with intensity, fearing one slip-up will allow a competitor to crush everything they’ve built. But the fact is, if you’ve got a good idea, someone else is either already doing it, or will be doing it soon. After nearly a decade in business, TaskRabbit has seen its fair share of competitors. At first, this rattled Busque’s nerves. “I remember early on stressing out a lot about the competition, but I think what I learned over time was that I just needed to stay focused on what we were building.” What inspired her shift from flustered to focused was seeing so many competitors rush in and then quickly fizzle out. “I would see competitors come out of the gate, raise multi-millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars, and burn through it in 18 to 24 months. And so after that happened a couple of times, I just realized that I was going to play a long game.” What was TaskRabbit’s competitive edge? “From day one, we were producing revenue,” Busque says. “From day one, we had positive operating margins. So for every job that went through the site, we were always making money on it. And we had to be very disciplined about how to build a platform that operated that way.” She also thinks that too many of her competitors caved to marketplace and investor pressures, something she as a startup founder was not immune to. “I remember getting a lot of pressure even from my investors at one point in the company's life cycle about growth, about the competitive landscape, pressure to move faster, to copy whatever it was that they were doing, but I knew my business better than anyone.” Repeat After Her: ‘This Is Not Rocket Science’ Many aspiring entrepreneurs let what they don’t know become a stumbling block to launching their businesses. But for Busque, what she didn’t know, she knew she could figure out. She recalls a conversation she had with herself just before leaving her job at IBM to pursue TaskRabbit: “I was thinking about all the things that I didn't know how to do. I was thinking, ‘All I know how to do is build this product. I’m a coder; I know how to code. I don't know how to raise money from investors, I don't know how to hire, I don't know how to fire, I don't know how to build a financial model.’ And then I realized that, to me it sounds funny, but I remember saying to myself: ‘This is not rocket science. … Just go figure it out.’” Busque cites confidence as a key requirement for every successful entrepreneur. “As an entrepreneur, you're doing something that no one's ever done before, and you're going to have to innovate and build new things in new ways.” Another key entrepreneurial quality? Adaptability. And having gone from engineer to entrepreneur to investor, Busque clearly has that in spades. Though she studied at a women’s liberal arts college, she works in the mostly male tech industry. Though she’s highly analytical and majored in math and computer science, she appreciates the arts and minored in dance. “The appreciation of those other aspects has really aided me in being able to adapt, and learn quickly, and jump into new situations, and have the confidence that I'm going to be able to figure out and learn whatever I need to as fast as I need to.” From Founder to Investor In 2016, Busque stepped down as CEO of TaskRabbit, and in September 2017, the company was sold to Ikea. (Interestingly, in a TEDx Talk six years prior to the acquisition, Busque said the most popular task posted on the platform was Ikea furniture assembly.) “TaskRabbit is my first baby, my first child,” she says. “The one thing that you would hope for your child or for your company is that it has a full life, right? And is happy, and grows up, and moves on from you. And so I feel very fortunate that I got to be on that journey and see that happen all the way through.” Even after the acquisition, Busque has her feet firmly planted in the startup world. She serves as executive chairwoman at TaskRabbit and has transitioned into the role of investor as general partner at Fuel Capital, a seed-stage venture fund in San Francisco. It’s a natural transition, given her background as the founder of a venture-funded startup. “Building things has always been my passion,” she says. “I love the early stages of a company, when there is a seemingly impossible-yet-pressing problem to solve. I couldn’t be more excited to work closely with early-stage founders and their teams as they take on world-changing ideas—much like I did during my early days at TaskRabbit.” Given her years of experience building a peer-to-peer marketplace, Busque as an investor has chosen to focus on consumer businesses and marketplaces. “I’ve also focused my attention on meeting and supporting the ‘outsiders,’” she says, such as women founders, those who don’t fit the typical mold, and those who aren’t based in Silicon Valley. “It’s been awesome to meet so many awesome entrepreneurs who don’t look like the typical founder. … I certainly didn’t!” Her new role and focus couldn’t come at a better time. According to the Crunchbase “Women in Venture” report, in 2017, only 6 percent of all seed dollars went to female-only-founded startups, while male-only-founded startups received 83 percent of all seed dollars. Those figures have remained remarkably static since 2012. Busque’s first investments reflect the type of impact she hopes to make. Werk is a women-founded career platform helping women find flexible job opportunities. Feather is a Brooklyn-based startup that provides affordable furniture rental with quick delivery. “As I thought about what I wanted to do next, I just started getting pulled in the direction of venture from a lot of different angles,” Busque says, “from investors that I highly respect, from friends that were in the industry, and so I made the decision that I wanted to do investing full time as the next stage of my career.” And if the previous stage of her career is any indication, there’s no task too big for Busque. Key Takeaways: The two traits Busque says all entrepreneurs need to have to be successful (it has nothing to do with skills or industry knowledge) The stumbling block that keeps many aspiring entrepreneurs from launching businesses How Busque eventually got comfortable with competitors entering her space Why Busque's "never quit" attitude was the key driver of TaskRabbit's early success
#51: How to Start & Scale a Global Business featuring the Founder of TaskRabbit, Leah Busque
The IVY Podcast
As the Founder and former CEO of TaskRabbit, Leah Busque has over 15 years of experience building and creating technology products that have reached millions of people around the globe. In 2008, she founded TaskRabbit, the world’s leading on-demand service marketplace, which connects consumers that are looking for help with everyday tasks, with independent workers willing and able to lend a hand. Leah has since expanded TaskRabbit internationally, raising more than $50 million in venture funding, and has inspired legions of startups in the collaborative consumption space. In 2012, Fast Company named Leah one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” and her achievements have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Time. At an IVY Entrepreneur Night in San Francisco, Leah discussed the entrepreneurial tools necessary to become a creative leader, pioneer revolutionary concepts across diverse industries, and launch a successful business around the world. Please enjoy our conversation with Leah Busque. And remember to visit IVY.com to enjoy access to a lifetime of learning, growth, and impact through in-person collaborations with world-class leaders, thinkers, and institutions.