Startups produce a lot of one-off needs that can be painful to solve. I don’t have the manpower to put someone on them without sacrificing on core product development. I’m always on the lookout for a better way to handle these sorts of needs. To that end, I’ve experimented significantly with distributed workforce services. I’ve tried out all of the obvious candidates: Fiverr, mturk, TaskRabbit & MobileWorks. I have gotten quite good at using these services to fill needs without distracting the team from the most important work. My early experiments with MobileWorks have gone well but the best results I’ve seen have been from TaskRabbit.
Going into these experiments one of my unspoken biases was the assumption that workers on these platforms are not skilled or highly educated. I was wrong - I’ve been consistently surprised at the quality of the distributed workforce taken as a whole. It is not exclusively unskilled labor. There are a lot of highly educated intelligent people who are picking up extra cash by taking on well-defined units of work in their spare time. If anything I’ve found that the TaskRabbits I’ve hired are more motivated than the average employee. This is likely due to the review system. We’ve found people with MBAs and accounting degrees on TaskRabbit. Once I hired an IT manager from a well known software company to help do some technical research.
The lesson here is to not assume that the task is too challenging or specialized before you give it a shot.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the ways I’ve successfully used TaskRabbit: