Ikea, the Swedish furniture retail giant, has bought TaskRabbit, a San Francisco startup that lets people hire workers to do short-term odd jobs—like setting up Ikea furniture, fixing a leaky faucet, or setting up for a party.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Recode, which first reportado the acquisition, noted that “previous acquisitions by Ikea have ranged in price from $20 million to $90 million.”
“As urbanization and digital transformation continue to challenge retail concepts, we need to develop the business faster and in a more flexible way,” Ikea CEO Jesper Brodin said in a declaración. “An acquisition of TaskRabbit would be an exciting leap in this transformation and allows us to move forward with an even greater focus on innovation and development to meet changing customer needs.”
For now, TaskRabbit services—where each worker sets their own rates but the company takes 20 percent—are available in 40 American cities and in London. The majority of its American workers (or “taskers” as the company dubs them) do not receive any health or retirement benefits, as is typical in so-called “gig economy” jobs. While TaskRabbit itself has not been sued in federal court by any of its workers so far, other companies in the industry have been—numerous labor cases filed against Uber were recently heard at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
It seems unlikely that Swedish business culture will have any impact on TaskRabbit’s workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are para contractors. Sweden, which generally lacks a similar “gig economy” environment, boasts universal public health care and housing and child care subsidies. Employees in Sweden are required to be provided a minimum of five weeks paid annual leave, and wages are typically set by annual collective bargaining. According to Ikea’s statement, TaskRabbit will remain an independent company and will remain in San Francisco—as such, its taskers aren’t considered to be employees.
“The taskers are not employed by TaskRabbit or IKEA Group,” Mona Liss, an Ikea spokeswoman, told Ars. “However, in general, IKEA supports good working conditions. We are really excited about this acquisition. We look forward to working with the competent and passionate TaskRabbit team and innovate the way in which IKEA customers can access services.”
In March 2014, TaskRabbit founder and then-CEO Leah Busque told Ars that she wanted the company to “work on a global scale.”
“There’s so much opportunity and potential that we can realize: we are 20,000 in the US; can we empower one million people on the TaskRabbit platform to build out their own businesses?” she said.
Busque also said:
I think the uniqueness and the value-add is the in-person experience, particularly in an on-demand way. But that’s really the challenge that I want to solve: delivering in-person, on-demand. I think [our goal is] becoming a global company and expanding our categories and building out more categories across the platform and going deeper on those categories. For example: we have a certain number of handymen; can we [multiply them] 10 times for handymen in [a given] area?