ANGELES — People use Uber when they need help hailing
a ride or Tinder for help finding a date.
those companies need some assistance of their own, they
turn to TaskUs.
startup, based outside Los Angeles in Santa Monica,
provides call center operations for Internet companies
and has become one of the fastest-growing outsourcing
firms in the country. Unhappy about your latest Groupon
experience or harassed by someone you met on Whisper?
Chances are, you’ll be talking to a TaskUs employee in
the Philippines about your woes.
service is among the least flashy parts of running a
business, but one of the most important in ensuring
users are happy — particularly for young tech startups
still ironing out the kinks. As such, TaskUs has become
an integral, if behind-the-scenes, backbone of the
growing Internet ecosystem.
company is the brainchild of Bryce Maddock and Jaspar
Weir, two 29-year-olds who met when they were freshmen
at Santa Monica High School. The pair set out to open a
chain of frozen yogurt shops in Argentina — it failed
spectacularly — before founding TaskUs in 2008 while
they were still living with their parents.
first few years were slow, but now the company is having
a huge growth spurt. It’s on track to pull in $50
million in revenue, up from $15.7 million in 2014, and
it’s profitable. TaskUs recently opened its fifth call
center in the Philippines and has 4,000 employees in the
country, plus 30 people at its modest headquarters
tucked behind the Santa Monica Airport. In June it
received its first outside funding when Philippine
private equity firm Navegar invested $15 million.
success stems in large part from concentrating on a
thriving niche: Nearly all its clients are Internet
startups such as HotelTonight and Expensify, unlike
traditional outsourcing companies that serve
corporations such as big banks and telecommunications
providers. And in a nod to Silicon Valley, it has
modeled its business — from the kinds of employees it
hires to the internal culture it fosters — after its
tech clients, reshaping typically dull call centers into
cool places to work.
no company that has done what TaskUs has done, which is
to focus on a very high-growth segment," said
Javier Infante, managing partner at Navegar. "It’s
a very unique approach."
service outsourcing has become common in Silicon Valley
and tech communities in Los Angeles and New York. For
fledgling startups, many of which are losing money, the
cost savings are essential. Many prefer to use their
limited funds to build their core product instead of
worrying about hiring, training and paying employees to
year ago, dating app Tinder reached out to TaskUs when
it was experiencing rapid growth and a proportional
increase in customer service requests.
needed a company that was going to be able to help us
build our support as quickly as humanly possible,"
said Victor Colomes, director of community at Tinder.
"The TaskUs team impressed us the most."
its rising popularity in the tech world, outsourcing is
a rarely discussed trend. Companies want to give the
appearance that customer service operations reside
in-house; many of TaskUs’ biggest clients stipulate
that their relationship be kept secret.
also the prickly issue of outsourcing jobs to foreign
who is chief executive, won’t say how much TaskUs
employees in the Philippines are paid but concedes that
salaries are "a lot lower than what you make in the
not trying to hide the fact that people outsource
because they want to save money," he said.
Maddock acknowledged the stigma that surrounds
outsourcing, he noted the positive economic impact that
TaskUs has brought to the Philippines and criticized
"a very American-centric view of the world."
that, there’s an assumption that an American life is
more important than a Filipino life," said Maddock,
who spends a week each month in the Philippines to
oversee the company’s operations there. "I grew
up with a view of the world that just doesn’t agree
today boasts 80 clients, with 10 to more than 1,000
customer service reps assigned to each. Employees work
on only one account so they are highly familiar with a
company’s specific needs, answering concerns via
phone, email or online chat room.
after the startup market was more a matter of
circumstance than a stroke of genius for TaskUs. As
outsourcing newcomers, "the only people who would
take us seriously were startups," Maddock said.
only did it end up being a smart business move, it was a
good cultural fit. As entrepreneurs themselves, Maddock
and Weir personally understood the challenges that
startups faced. As millennials, they already used many
of the apps and websites that became TaskUs clients.
which prioritizes hiring accentless and Internet-savvy
young workers, is also bringing some Silicon Valley-esque
perks to its Philippines offices, albeit for a lot less
of its employees are salaried and get health insurance,
10 vacation and 10 sick days a year, and fully paid
school tuition for one child. Its newest call center
features a gym, cafeteria, video games, nap room and
movie theater; there are no cubicles. Karaoke and
bowling nights are common, and the top 2 percent of
performers every year receive a paid vacation to an
a differentiator for TaskUs," said Weir, the
company’s president. "Because we work with so
many San Francisco and Silicon Valley startups, we want
to re-create an environment that is just like their
has led to high levels of retention, a rarity in the
turnover-plagued outsourcing industry. TaskUs said it
held onto 86 percent of its Filipino employees last
year, and most of its new hires are employee referrals.
are encouraged to make TaskUs reps feel included. Many
companies fly their executives to TaskUs’ offices in
the Philippines to get to know the people interacting
with their users and to train them directly. After
hiring TaskUs this year, storytelling app Flipagram sent
company shirts and signage to its 10 TaskUs reps, who
used the swag to decorate their workspaces.
really an extension of our company, except the fact that
they’re managed by TaskUs," said Hogan Lee,
Flipagram’s director of project management.
began as a startup specializing in virtual personal
assistant tasks, such as building a PowerPoint deck or
designing Excel spreadsheets, for busy professionals.
But serving individuals quickly became unwieldy and
costly; it pivoted to outsourcing for businesses in
2010. The company today also provides other back-office
support such as photo retouching, data entry and content
moderation, though its customer service work accounts
for nearly three-quarters of its business.
its recent $15 million infusion, TaskUs plans to open
offices in other countries and has its sights set on El
Salvador, Nicaragua and Colombia to add Spanish-speaking
employees. It expects to triple its revenue and head
count by the end of 2016.
swelling in size, TaskUs wants to stick with startups.
we started, we would have worked for anyone,"
Maddock said. "Now, we’re not really interested
in selling out."