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Tim Fung was moving house and couldn’t find anyone to help him with the move. He then decided to team up with Jonathon Liu to come up with Airtasker, a site that connects people with odd jobs to do with those offering their services. The site and app have taken off and now have 13,000 Facebook likes.

What were you doing before Airtasker?

Jonno and I were both parts of the founding team of Amaysim. We were basically the first two employees of Australia’s fastest-growing mobile SIM business. We took it from a team of 5 up to 120, so it’s a really good company now.

How did the idea for Airtasker come about?

When I was moving house in mid-2011 there were so many chores we had to do, moving boxes, opening boxes, cleaning up the house, cleaning up the new house. We had to ask our cousins, brothers-in-law, and people like that to help us with these kinds of jobs but they didn’t want to do it.

But on the flip side, there are so many people in Australia who complain that they don’t have enough money and they would love to have these extra jobs. So we thought, why can’t we just connect those two people together?

At the time we were doing a lot of research on Amaysim because we were really looking into the application layout of mobile commerce. Jonno and I thought this consumption and sharing economy are just going to become massive. P2P (peer-to-peer) transactions are just going to go through the roof. So that’s why we got off our butts and did it.

What was the toughest challenge starting out?

Something that was specific to what we were doing was building a marketplace from scratch. When you’re building a marketplace you’ve got to have buyers and sellers and it’s super difficult to create that from nothing in the very beginning. So the hardest thing for us was that we really started this party with no one there at all which we had to bluff our way to get to the first couple of thousand users and then just build up from there.

What has been the most successful form of advertising?

We do a lot of referrals. Referrals are strong for us after you have a task completed. We’ve got a 92% net promoter score, so we really take advantage of that. When someone has a really good experience on their task we basically jump onto the opportunity to say ‘Hey, refer your friends. If you really like the experience, share it and we make people feel really excited by the concept.

But [we also] tag along to a whole bunch of events. By tag-a-long I mean from an online perspective. Tag-a-long to events that signal [people would] want a task to be done. For example, we used to go down to Ikea and hand out fliers because we knew that if you buy Ikea furniture you would be prime and ready to post a task and get someone to help you assemble. And equally, if you’re moving house we’d email you and say ‘Hey you’re moving, we can help you get cleaned up. It’s about targeting and segmenting based on what people are doing at the time and what their likelihood is of them posting a task is.

How did you grow your Facebook following to 12,000?

Farina, our general manager here, runs our Facebook staff and she lives the personality of Airtasker. I think the biggest thing we probably have with our audience on Facebook is that we have a pretty consistent feel because it’s only just one person running all of the social media. But also we stay away from pushy ads like ‘Press for a task right now!’ or ‘Get a task done now!’ but more like soft comments of how you can use Airtasker. [It’s] also knowing your audience so we post all this geeky stuff because we know all the people who use Airtasker are geeky and techy users.

Has Airtasker always been an app?

We started coding up the app around the same time as the website. We launched the iPhone app around 6 weeks after we launched the website so that was big for us. We see that 40% of our traffic is coming through from our mobile website which we direct from an iPhone or Android app, we direct them to download the app. There’s a huge amount of traffic coming from mobiles and our product is inherently mobile because it’s all about convenience and productivity.

How do you approach competitors?

For us right now we welcome competition to the market wholeheartedly. I get calls every day from different startups that are in a similar space to us. The reason why it’s like that right now is that there is no precedent for this market. [It is] growing at such a ridiculously fast rate that it doesn’t really matter if there are five guys all going at it together. It’s kind of like how mobile phone providers [were] in like 1995.

They all loved each other because everyone could sell a mobile phone and you can be in the market together. The more people talked about mobile phones the better the mobile network got and the more other people wanted to use mobile phones as well. Mass created more mass.

What do you think the Federal and State governments could do to make things easier for small business owners?

We’ve just come back from San Francisco and by comparison, we have a great system in terms of grants and tax concessions for startups. The only thing I would probably say [for] the long term is that the number of engineers available, the evangelism that goes into getting people to code, and learning how to code to build internet and web-based software. At the moment it’s a little bit expensive to create websites in Australia and create mobile apps because there aren’t enough engineers around.

Because of that, they’re very hard to come by and with that, it costs a lot of money to get one. The best in the long term, and this is what everyone is fighting over, is just more education for software engineering and coding so that we can have more guys who are talented and can build these things.

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