Tim Fung, co-founder of services marketplace Airtasker, is aiming to make his company an Australian household name after closing a $22 million Series B investment in the business led by Seven West Media.
The money comes in return for a 15% stake in Airtasker and follows a $6.5 million investment last year by NRMA, Morning Crest Capital and Exto Partners. Airtasker has raised a total of $32 million in capital since founding in 2012.
Existing investors from that earlier round including Shanghai-based Morning Crest Capital, Sydney-based VC fund Exto Partners and National Road and Motorists Association (NRMA) have also raised their stakes in the company.
Talks between the startup and Seven West began last year, says Fung. “It wasn’t a short process.”
“It’s the same case with anyone making a big investment. They’re going to take the time to make sure they get it right… we want to get to know each other”.
Seven West also has a 50% stake in Yahoo!7 and is in a joint venture with Foxtel, running the TV streaming service Presto.
Seven West chief executive Tim Worner said the “unique and innovative” model which could help grow through its own media assets.
“Airtasker has a highly scalable online platform that simplifies the end-to-end task process and provides a rich and valuable data platform, which is a strong competitive advantage.”
New growth, new goals
But for Fung, these mighty goals weren’t always at the top of his checklist.
“[Becoming an Australian household name] is a new benchmark,” he told Business Insider.
“When we started we set out on journey aiming to build marketplace that would eventually grow. When starting small it’s important to only look certain distance ahead so you don’t psyche yourself out.”
But now that the four year-old startup has more than doubled its total number of users from 250,000 to over 600,000 community members, and grown transaction volume to more than $40 million per year, it’s time to move into the big boys league.
“We’re helping Australian people and businesses get more done with their day,” Fung said.
“Whilst we’ve seen rapid organic growth over the past year, we’re only scratching the surface of a multi-billion opportunity – we still have a huge way to grow in Australia alone.”
He wouldn’t discuss the valuation of the company, attributing “all sorts of reasons and future capital raisings”, but said the money will boost the business in a big way, and help new key hires flourish.
Airtasker has made a number of executive and board appointments to help drive its plans. Firstly to its board of directors, where it welcomed James Spenceley (founder and CEO, Vocus Communications) and Jenny Hosie (Sales Director, Seven West Media).
The company has also hired Paul Keen, the former CTO of Dick Smith, and CJ Foo, the former CEO of Delivery Hero Australia.
Fung says Keen, who also was a lead engineer at Red Balloon, an online marketplace tech expert.
Keen was one of around 3000 employees affected by the closure of Dick Smith.
During his time at Dick Smith, Keen undertook a creative transformation of the company’s legacy systems to provide the flexibility the then-growing business needed without requiring a full rip and replace. IT News credited him with the introduction of industry-wide standards for the exchange of data in the online retail industry.
Keen will lead the engineering team and drive the company’s new “hard-core tech perspective”, said Fung. Keen will help the startup to manage the technology issues that present themselves when growing a business from a startup to a corporation.
This isn’t the only area where the business is shifting from a startup perspective.
The additional funding will further develop its core marketplace product, lead by Foo, and grow Airtasker as a household name for local consumer services.
The startup is also going to investment in world class technology team to assist this growth.
“There are three core things were working on,” said Fung.
“The first is consumer growth through brand driven marketing.
“The second is basic customer experience. No one globally has nailed in terms of being able to find, connect with and deal with local services. We’re finding it’s the small components of customer experience that can change user dynamics.”
Fung said this comes down to transparency in scheduling and messaging, as well as targeting the recurring nature of business.
“We want to shift from the connector of the services to also helping with the management of services, moving further to the value proposition,” he said.
“Also we’re starting to work with a number of partners who are high scale workforces, with high volume situations.” He said the business would be announcing partnerships in that area next month.
“Adding on to that is marketing and branding — making Airtasker a household name.
“The product is not just the software, it’s the range and diversity of the community that supports the software.”
It’s a big shift for the business, which Fung once likened the growth to “like building a nightclub”, in that it basically centres around three main parts: press, product and people.
“A lot of entrepreneurs only focus on product and the reality is in a marketplace the people form part of the product so whilst you can sort of sit around trying to tweak the details of the website, a huge part of what makes the experience of the platform awesome is just the people – how many of them there are, and just the culture,” Fung said.
“It’s the same thing for a nightclub, you can have the coolest nightclub with the best seats and awesome vodka martinis, but if you don’t have people dancing in there it’s lame. You need lots of people and you need them to be dancing.”
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