You Must Remember This

Last Week in Betabeat: Return of the Silicon Valley Diaspora


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.

-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!

-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

Zaarly Gets Office Space in Marc Ecko’s Chelsea Building for Its Budding NYC Hub

The office, circa 2009.

Zaarly’s New York team is about to get a whole lot bigger, from two full-time employees up to a possible ten to 30 employees. To facilitate plans to make New York City an central Zaarly hub, the startup, which is part of a growing crop of companies trying to build a real-time mobile market for people to bid on tasks and goods, has moved from temporary space in Marc Ecko’s building at 40 West 23rd Street into an official office under the same roof.

Back in 2009, when Mr. Ecko’s urban apparel empire was reportedly facing sizable debt post-recession, the 28,000 sq. ft. space, complete with half-size basketball court and a rumored $9 million-a-year lease, was on the market. But perhaps Mr. Ecko has had better luck with his venture capital fund, Artists & Instigators. According to the fund’s website, its portfolio companies claim over $5 billion in revenue.

Both Mr. Ecko and his fund invested in Zaarly’s $14.1 million series A round led by Kleiner Perkins. Read More

Do It For Me

The 25 Most Bizarre Zaarly & TaskRabbit Requests: Get Paid to Do What?

26 Photos

A business partner

Like Craigslist missed connections, the random jobs offered up on sites like TaskRabbit and Zaarly have a certain poetry all their own. They offer a glimpse into someone else’s world, a snapshot that often piques the curiosity. Who is the cute addict that needs a kitten hand-delivered to their office for a lunch time cuddle sesh? Why, exactly, does this personal trainer have to wear holiday-themed gear? And how can anyone afford to pay that much for a cup of coffee?

We’ve put together a list of gigs that might inspire you to day labor, even if you don’t need the money. Read More

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

Can I Get a Hand With This?

Founder of Second Life Follows Zaarly and TaskRabbit Into the Errand-Outsourcing Market

What up, gurl? 2008 was aweslam.

You guys remember SecondLife, right? The virtual world that was going to revolutionize education, branding, and human interaction? The one whose economy, based on the Linden Dollar, rivaled some tiny European country’s GDP?

Not sure whether anyone’s avatar is still living (or learning) there, but founder Philip Rosedale has moved on, with an eye to IRL.

As AllThingsD reports, his new startup, Coffee & Power, is an online market that lets users buy and sell small tasks. Read More

Delivery From Inconvenience

Zaarly, the Marketplace for Outsourcing Local Errands, Picks Up $14 Million and Meg Whitman

Mr. Fishback, via Crunchbase

It looks like a few big names have picked their horse they want to bet on in the convenience economy. And then saddled that horse up with bags of cash.

Today Zaarly, the marketplace that matches people who have tasks they need to get done with people willing to do them (for a price and within the specified time frame), just announced it picked up $14 million investment round led by Kleiner Perkins. For comparison TaskRabbit, one of Zaarly’s many competitors, raised a more modest series A at $5 million in May.

Zaarly, which counts Michael Arrington, Ashton Kutcher and AngelList’s Naval Ravikant as seed investors, also announced a would-be governor on their board: current HP CEO and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Read More

shameless rumormongering

Rumors & Acquisitions: Skills And a Gawker-TechCrunch Blog Fight


PIVOTS AND PYRES. Pivots are in vogue, and recently-pivoted SkillSlate is taking full advantage of the hype with a self-branded Pivot PartyThe start-up began as a directory-like site for local businesses and entrepreneurs to build a personalized profile that could put them in front of new customers; it was also meant to capture people like personal chefs who would post specific offers for customers to browse. Oops, no one used it because small businesses don’t check their email, and SkillSlate had burned through half its cash. Pivot time!

SkillSlate is now more like a Zaarly-esque, real-time classifieds where customers posts requests and service providers respond. Which is how the start-up nabbed a fire dancer for tonight’s fete. Founder Bartek Ringwelski posted an ad on the site: “I’m throwing a party for 100+ people for our startup on Tuesday, June 26th, and I really want to invite someone different for entertainment. I’m looking for someone who is an expert sword swallower, juggler, magician or has some other amazing talent. In total, I’m looking for 10-15 minutes of you doing your talent. Please provide some background on yourself and, if possible, a video of you doing your thing,” he wrote. He passed on the ventriloquist ($120), the ribbon dancer ($250), and the magician who can swallow razor blades and needles but no sword ($200).

But within 48 hours, he had a fire performer: Matthew Pagliaro, who we see is being paid $75 to do two five-minute performances with fire poi, which are flammable balls on chains. Good thing the pivot party is at the DCTV Firehouse, LOL LOL. 7:30 p.m.

TECH NEWS IS BORING. Adrian Chen’s meta-post about tech blogging and how boring it is and how sleepy it makes him to read infamous Apple fanboy MG Siegler’s thoughts about Facebook’s iPad app–“Make it stop! This is the most boring shit ever”–and what it will look like and when it will come out is a hit! Almost 8,000 views in two hours and a pick-up from TechmemeDave Winer and Slate’s Farhad Manjoo.

Mr. Siegler responded on Tumblr with a post titled, “Rhymes With Douchebag.” Read More

The Start-Up Rundown

Start-Up News: Spotify, Tumblr, Bitcoin, Summer Assemblies

wet hot american summer

What’s new in New York start-ups this week? Well, it’s really hot, and there seem to be a lot of rooftop parties. Launches and new features–not as many. We guess the start-up scene gets just as sleepy as the rest of New York City in the summertime:

SPOTIFY SAYS HI. Spotify is launching in the U.S. soon (squee!) and they’ve got a mini-office in New York, also known as the city where music start-ups go to die. (Kiddinggg! We’re sure it’s going to be fine, exfm and Turntable.) Want to meet some of the Spotify team? Clear your Tuesday for “Behind The Music @ Spotify lecture 6:30pm 76 9th Ave, Floor 11, Manhattan: Come hear Andreas Mattsson, Spotify’s head of Software Development, and Emil Fredriksson, Spotify’s head of Operations, talk about the architecture and infrastructure of Spotify. And here’s the kicker: everyone who comes gets an invite to Spotify!” Read More