Australia’s largest online jobs marketplace, Airtasker, has completed a $33 million funding round to bankroll the company’s first overseas foray, with an expansion into the UK.
Airtasker had already been enjoying a milestone year, with the formation of strategic partnerships with IKEA and eBay plus the introduction of income protection insurance for its workers.
The company’s latest funding round was participated in by all of its current major shareholders including Seven West Media, Exto Partners, Morning Crest Capital and Black Sheep Capital. Skyfield Capital also made an investment, with its managing director Tyler Tan joining Airtasker as a director.
Airtasker’s UK operations will be headed up by startup advisor and mentor Lucas London, who will be joined by members of the company’s Australian team.
CEO Tim Fung, who co-founded Airtasker with former COO Jonathan Lui in 2012, spoke to Dynamic Business about taking the business abroad.
DB: What made the UK a logical choice for your first overseas move?
Fung: Firstly, there isn’t anything thing equivalent to Airtasker in the UK at the moment, which we actually found pretty surprising. Secondly, when we conducted consumer research, we found that UK residents share similar attitudes to Australians when it comes to the services they purchase and the value they place on trusted service providers. Thirdly, we looked at other countries to get a sense of the competition and we saw that in some of the big economies, like in the US and China, there were a lot of companies being built around vertical service niches. Although we don’t feel those businesses are sustainable, they definitely create difficulties when it comes to building and operating a services marketplace. The UK has a big economy, a great tech startup industry and most importantly consumer attitudes comparable to Australia.
DB: In the press release, you said you must ‘learn how to fly again’. How so?
Fung: From one perspective, you could argue “It’s just a website, just turn it on in another country and go and do some marketing’. That’s one extreme, the other is “we’re building a brand new business and we need to start from scratch”. The truth, as usual, sits between those two perspectives. We absolutely have to learn to fly again in terms of building up the infrastructure over there as well as the trust between people in the marketplace. Fortunately, we come now with six years of IP and experience that we can apply to that exercise.
DB: Will the $33m capital raise be put primarily towards the UK expansion?
Fung: We were pretty well capitalised for our Australian business, so the main purpose for the round was to launch into the UK. We exceeded expectations in terms of this raise – we hadn’t originally set out to raise so much…but we ended up taking a bit more than we originally set out to build out the team with good people.
DB: Is UK a test case to determine further appetite for Airtasker overseas?
Fung: For sure. In the long run, our vision it to build a global local marketplace but you have to take one step at a time. For now, however, we are totally committed to launching in the UK and we’ll be focusing on that market for the foreseeable future.
DB: Where will Airtasker’s operations be in the UK, and when will they launch?
Fung: We’ll be starting in London, and that will be our focus for all of next year. In terms of when, we’re launching in T1, 2018.
See also: Up for the task and on the job: Airtasker’s Tim Fung on shaking up the local labour market and Solo with Soho: Jonathan Lui on following up Airtasker with a ‘LinkedIn for property’ app.