You Must Remember This

Last Week in Betabeat: Return of the Silicon Valley Diaspora

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Too busy to check your daily Betabeat? Here are the highlights from last week, as selected by the editors.

REQUIRED READING: Return of the Diaspora: After a Taste of the Valley, New York Techies are Coming Home
All work and no play makes Jack a dull startup.

REQUIRED READING: Brother, Can You Spare Some Time? Zaarly, TaskRabbit and the Rise of the Convenience Economy
It’s easy to see why democratizing the personal assistant might do well in New York, a city largely unburdened by hang-ups about, say, paying $20 to avoid wasting time in a Laundromat, even when one’s budget barely permits it.

REQUIRED VIEWING: The Pitch, Episode Eight: Dibsie – Browsing for a Big Idea
We sifted through hundreds of eager startups to find some of New York’s top prospects to pitch Lerer Ventures. Watch Ben Lerer and Jordan Cooper talk about them after they’ve left the room.

VITAMINS:
-MTA to Says ‘Bring It On’ to Investigation Over Sweetheart Deal for Apple in Grand Central
-The Daily Muse, Riding Big Growth, Preps For Y Combinator
-Hip Hop Don’t Stop: Rap Genius Aims To Explain…Everything
-General Assembly Demo Night For General Assembly Companies, Including General Assembly!

MILK AND COOKIES:
-The Great Coffee Shop Boycott
-Rumors & Acquisitions: Fear of Facebook
-Betabeat’s Guide to the New York Tech Holiday Party Circuit

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Do It For Me

Brother, Can You Spare Some Time? Zaarly, TaskRabbit and the Rise of the Convenience Economy

Illustration by Oliver Munday

Chad Miller likes to think of running errands for strangers on TaskRabbit as a quasi-religious experience—or at least as close to spiritual as a gay former Southern Baptist from West Texas is likely to find in New York. Mr. Miller is a 38-year-old Columbia graduate who acts, writes and works full-time managing outreach for the university’s Arts Initiative. He signed up for TaskRabbit as his “tertiary job” in September, shortly after the Boston-based startup launched in New York.

“This is going to be incredibly gay as I’m saying it,” Mr. Miller laughed, “but it’s very hakuna matata, Disney-fied—you put it out there and you get a little back. The karma piece is really nice.”

Along with a bumper crop of like-minded companies, such as Zaarly, Fancy Hands and Agent Anything, that have entered the New York market in the past year or so, TaskRabbit offers an updated play on Craigslist for the iPhone-era: buyers post the dirty work they want to get done and nearby “Rabbits” bid on the jobs. Service requests range from the sophisticated—“Motivate me to write a book :)” read a recent TaskRabbit request from Midtown—to the menial. “$50 for a Massage,” a Zaarly user on the West Side posted in November. “General massage,” the ad elaborated, tersely, in the description. For the most part, however, Rabbits are asked to perform domestic drudgery: assembling Ikea furniture tops the list.

It’s easy to see why democratizing the personal assistant might do well in New York, a city largely unburdened by hang-ups about, say, paying $20 to avoid wasting time in a Laundromat, even when one’s budget barely permits it.

In the past three months, Mr. Miller has made a little over $2,000 on the kind of irksome chores overextended urbanites are eager to slough off on someone else, including driving strangers to JFK, waiting in line for hours to save someone’s seat for a Conan taping and lugging furniture to a fourth-floor walk-up. The money’s nice and all, but to hear Mr. Miller tell it, the appeal doesn’t sound far off from “Love thy neighbor.” Read More