Meet Exec: Personal Assistants on Demand

Exec, a new service from founder Justin Kan, makes its public debut today via the Exec iPhone app, available now from the App Store. Exec allows users to hire temporary executive assistants for on-the-spot requirements. Need someone to pick up your dry cleaning or help plan an upcoming anniversary vacation? Exec has you covered.

The idea for the app came from Kan himself having a specific task he needed fulfilled, but no existing service quite met his requirements. Kan was on his way to Nevada’s annual Burning Man event when one of his friends realized he’d forgotten his ticket. Already 200 miles out of San Francisco, turning back was hardly an option, but the keys to Kan’s friend’s apartment were with another friend back home, and a third friend was preparing to leave for the festival at the same time. If they could get the keys to the friend leaving for Burning Man within 30 minutes, he could pick up the ticket and deliver it safely to Kan’s group in Nevada.

Kan eventually resolved the situation with a call to crowdsourced car-hire service Uber, but the solution was far from ideal and required a lot of extra effort in terms of explaining what was needed to the Uber driver. Kan figured there had to be a better way, and set about creating Exec to provide “remote hands for the real world,” he told BetaKit in an interview.

Immediately, Exec calls to mind TaskRabbit, the Shasta Ventures-backed startup that connects people with task requirements to job seekers in a similar manner. There’s also Zaarly, which bills itself as providing “what you want, when you want it,” and also lets people post on-demand task requests. Exec is different from TaskRabbit in a number of ways, however. For one, it works on a flat-rate system; execs (which is what Exec calls its pool of job seekers) are paid $25 an hour (plus additional costs for expenses) regardless of what they do. In both TaskRabbit and Zaarly, payment is determined by which job seeker bids lowest.

Kan also said that unlike either of those services, Exec tries to focus on immediate needs. “We try to get you someone within 10 minutes,” Kan said. “TaskRabbit wouldn’t have worked for my situation [with Burning Man].” We reached out to TaskRabbit for comment but they are not commenting on Exec’s launch at this time.

When hiring strangers to do your bidding, there are bound to be security concerns. Exec has that covered, Kan said, thanks to a threefold system that helps ensure jobs get done by responsible people in a timely manner. First, Kan said everyone who applies to be an exec has to go through an email interview, phone call, in-person interview and then finally a background check. And even once they’re accepted, there’s still a safety net in place, as execs are reviewed based on their performance via an in-app rating system; should someone slip too low, Kan says they’ll “remove [them] from the system to ensure quality.”

There are a few extra steps compared to what it takes to start accepting jobs on TaskRabbit, which is good for user piece of mind, but that could make it hard for Exec to scale. Kan is conscious of that, and that’s why his goal is to really “nail” the San Francisco market in terms of the quality of the experience before expanding to the rest of the Bay Area, and eventually beyond.

One final way Exec offers people using its service peace of mind is by providing a means for its customers to track execs in real-time while they’re on the job, allowing them to see exactly where the exec is headed while completing a task. That’s something car service Uber also provides that isn’t available with TaskRabbit or Zaarly, and it speaks to Exec’s desire to handle more urgent requests.

Kan wouldn’t reveal the exact revenue split between Exec and the actual execs doing the jobs because “it’s subject to change,” but he said those doing the work get the “vast majority” of it. For reference TaskRabbit takes 15 percent of the payment for each job completed, so it’s likely somewhere in the same ballpark.

When asked why so many appear to be getting into the business of providing on-demand crowdsourced services, including Cherry, Uber, TaskRabbit and Zaarly, Kan said that it likely has to do with “mobile taking off,” and there being “more supply in the labor force, with unemployment at 8.3 percent and underemployment at 17 percent.” Kan says one of Exec’s key goals is helping people who want to work find work. With a global economic outlook that’s not too bright, this could be just the beginning of explosive growth for errand outsourcing tools like Exec.

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