Jaspar Weir and Bryce Maddock developed the idea for virtual personal assistant company TaskUs while eating at a burrito stand in Argentina.
At the time, Weir, 23, and Maddock, 22, wanted to open a frozen yogurt shop in the South American country, but aborted their plan after the American owners of the burrito restaurant cautioned them against it.
"They drilled it into our heads that it would be too difficult to open a frozen yogurt store," remembers Maddock, who has been friends with Weir since high school.
So, Weir and Maddock ditched desserts and focused on the outsourcing industry. The pair invested $25,000 money they made from promoting nightclub events while in college and spent months researching companies that did tasks for others.
They tested outsourcing companies by having them do chores for their friends and parents.
"Then we would call our friends and ask them what they thought," Weir said. "Some of the quality was bad."
After finding outsourcing companies that could complete assignments to their standards, Weir and Maddock launched TaskUs in November. It's a service where people and companies can log on to a Web-based portal and request that a virtual personal assistant perform a task such as entering data, doing research or making reservations. Customers can purchase one hour of work for $15.95, or packages that range from $13.95 an hour for 10 hours to $9.95 an hour for 100 hours.
In order to make the service affordable, the majority of the tasks are outsourced to workers in India, Pakistan and the Philippines. However, certain projects that require a strong grasp of the English language, such as proofreading documents, are completed by people in the U.S.
But what if assignments get lost in translation? TaskUs employs five American administrators, including Weir and Maddock, who work out of the company's Santa Monica headquarters. The administrators serve as a liaison between the client and the outsourcing company to make sure that the task is completed as requested.
Weir and Maddock believe that TaskUs' model will thrive in the rocky economic climate as companies continue to trim their ranks in an effort to cut costs.
"People used to just turn to an administrative assistant to get their work done," said Maddock. "But in this economy, it's only a select few who can afford to have a full-time assistant."
TaskUs' client roster includes business-rating Web site Yelp, life insurance company Northwestern Mutual and investment adviser AXA Advisors LLC.
"Our biggest challenge is developing solid operations and a comprehensive marketing plan on our budget," Weir said. "So far, we are doing a lot of it in-house and experimenting with marketing campaigns."
- Jaspar Weir, 23, and Bryce Maddock, 22, co-founders, TaskUs, Santa Monica
- Business: Virtual personal assistant service
- Employees: 5, including Weir and Maddock
- Revenue: Expect 2009 revenue to hit $150,000, profitable since February
- Fact: Before they started TaskUs, the two had dreams of opening a frozen yogurt shop in Argentina
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