Justin Kan already has quite the track record.He’s run two companies through Y Combinator.
His second, Justin.tv, has turned into a runaway success since rebranding to Twitch.tv. Its traffic has doubled in the past six months. It now has more than 16 million unique visitors every month.
Now he’s leaving that startup to work on a completely new company called Exec. It’s a company for outsourcing tasks like picking up a couch or delivering something.
We got in touch with Kan and found out exactly how Exec works. Here’s what we found out:
- The idea came from ordering an Uber driver to deliver a pair of keys. It was an equally low tech and high tech way of averting a crisis, and it worked. Kan said there should be a service for it, so he started Exec.
- Exec personally interviews and hires each “runner.” Instead of running a “marketplace” for completing tasks, Exec personally matches you with a runner within 10 minutes of requesting a task.
- It’s pretty cheap, too. Exec charges you $25 an hour, and takes a cut of that while paying the rest out to the runner.
- He’s going through Y Combinator again. This will be his third round in the startup incubator.
We’ve included the full interview below:BUSINESS INSIDER: So what happened? Why would you leave Twitch?
Justin Kan: When we last saw each other, Twitch was taking off. Actually, it still is, it just passed 16m uniques. Things were going so well, my co-founder Emmett Shear was running it as CEO, that I was getting bored just doing the evangelism. I decided i would reduce my time to a more advisory role and start something new, deciding the week of Christmas. Then I got into this new thing starting in January.
We had the management team at Twitch doing a great job. Emmett required less and less of my help running it. I was spending like 8 hours a week of really productive time with him, but I wasn’t doing anything on an operational basis day-to-day. We also hired a bunch of people who were really excellent. Things were going really great and I felt comfortable not running it myself.
BI: So what is Exec?
JK: We’re launching an app that lets you outsource any job or errand in real-time. All you have to do is load up the app and type up a short description of what you want. We find someone within 10 minutes to do your job for $25 an hour. It’s pretty simple.
Most importantly, though, it’s not an open marketplace. All the people who are providers are people we’ve interviewed and hired through a few rounds of interviews. It’s just starting in San Francisco, but we’re gonna build out the supply for every place we go. It’s open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For workers — we call them execs — it’s on demand. They’re eligible for jobs as soon as they log into the mobile app. If they want to work only on Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., they can just log on during those times.
BI: Sounds like some of those other services like TaskRabbit.
JK: Well, no, not really. From the customer perspective, there’s no auction process — you get someone we select for you based on skills. We also pick them based on their past history working for you, their location, and a bunch of other conditions. We’re trying to get rid of the negotiation and auction process.
TaskRabbit is really cool, it’s enabled this entirely new set of use cases for outsourcing. The way I see it is we focus mostly on real time. I’ve tried to get In n’ Out (a fast food chain) with TaskRabbit, but no one could do it with the time window we wanted.
BI: Where did the idea come from?
JK: I was on my way to burning man with some friends of mine and we were about 200 miles outside of San Francisco when we found out someone left their ticket back in their apartment. We had to either drive back or figure out somehow to get it for us.
Luckily, a friend was in the city, but we needed to get keys for this apartment to our friend so he could grab the ticket and drive it up for us. It was the middle of the work day, so no one could do it. I told my friend to call an Uber cab and have them go pick up the keys and drop them off.
It actually worked. We had to explain it to the Uber driver many times on the phone, but at the end the guy figured it out. Then I said there should be a service for this.
BI: So you’re going through Y Combinator — again?
JK: Yeah. This is about my third time through, so far it’s been really fun. I’m supposed to be back in early stage mode and building a product yourself.
It’s just myself and two co-founders, and we have one new employee. There are 30 “runners” in the city that we’ve hired. We have a small beta going on with around 300 users — mostly friends and friends of friends — that we’ve been running for about 4 weeks in beta mode. We’ve done a bunch of tasks to make it more seamless. Now I think we’re ready, we’ve learned enough that we’re gonna try and get it out there.
BI: What did you learn at Twitch that you’re applying to this startup?
JK: There’s tons and tons of things. The most important things I think differently this time is having a vision for what you’re trying to build is huge. With Justin.tv, we didn’t have much of a vision and we were doing whatever we thought would be cool at the moment. Then when we discovered Twitch, we were like, it’s so obvious. The vision helps us so much. With Exec, we definitely from day one started thinking very hard about that. The way I think about it, is we’re trying to make our customers’ lives easier — when you outsource something you don’t have to think about it again.
Another thing is just focus, just worrying about the most important things. A lot of startups worry about things that are non-material in the long run — like how much should we pay ourselves in a month or what the logo should look like. those things don’t matter that much, your business shouldn’t succeed or fail on those conditions. Whether your business will succeed or fail is whether your product works, how it works. Any time a decision that comes up that isn’t important we just punt it and we go back to focusing on a product. I had a lot of trouble with that at Detail and Justin.tv.
BI: Do you think Exec will be as big as Twitch?
JK: Justin.tv became a big site, but it wasn’t on a trajectory that would make it be explosive and something that would be really valuable at the end of the day. But we wanted to always have something that was way bigger. That’s what we got when we finally switched to Twitch. I’m pretty confident that exec can be something that’s big.
So much of the workforce is not a full-time job relationship. If you want to hire someone in San Francisco, it’s like a step function — every time you hire someone you add this flat, fixed amount of cost. It’s very expensive to hire because there isn’t much liquidity in the job market. You have to pay for someone’s health care, you have training costs. One of our goals at exec is to smooth out that curve. Instead of hiring someone part-time, you can hire them incrementally by the hour. Say a bunch of friends of mine are starting a new company, and they need someone to hire a person to build desks. Now they’re using Exec to do all these random tasks that would have been a more traditional type of job.
BI: When’s it launch? Any chance you’ll be in New York soon?
We’re launching today in San Francisco. The goal is to build this out in New York pretty soon after that. I’m not sure what the timing will be, but this is something that will be pretty popular in New York and we want to come out there pretty soon.
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