TaskRabbit founder on the pressure entrepreneurs face to succeed

TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque Solivan is an investor in companies and people.

December 13, 2019, 11:09 AM

When Leah Busque Solivan ran out of dog food late one night, she never could have guessed it would lead to the creation of TaskRabbit, an online and mobile marketplace that matches freelance labor with local demand, allowing consumers to find immediate help with everyday tasks.

“When I realized I was out of dog food that night, I immediately thought there's got to be a way to use this iPhone to pinpoint someone at the grocery store and connect with them and have them grab dog food for me, I'm willing to pay them to do it,” Busque Solivan told ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis on an episode of “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis.” “And that was the moment where I realized I could get really passionate about this idea. I know that I can build it and it's something that I felt like could help people all over the world.”

From that night, Busque Solivan built a business that has since scaled to 44 cities and raised more than $50 million in venture capital funding. In 2016 Busque Solivan transitioned from CEO to executive chairwoman.

Busque Solivan’s hard work paid off as the company was acquired by IKEA in 2017. But her success didn’t come without physical and mental setbacks from the pressure Busque Solivan placed on herself.

“I think particularly, as a founder, trying to scale and run a startup, you're pushed to your limits, and investors - in my experience - added to that pressure,” Busque Solivan said. “I had some investors that were very supportive and were real partners in building the company, but honestly there were some I felt like were detrimental to the culture that I was building and the pressure that I was put under.”

As Busque Solivan struggled to please investors and keep her well-being intact, she developed stress-induced colitis and had to be hospitalized. While in the hospital, she said she remembers being on the phone with potential investors trying to raise the last $3 million needed to hit her $50 million goal.

“I remember being not fully admitted to the hospital yet in the emergency room, and my thought was, ‘my company is going to fail because my body's given out on me,’ and that's all I could think about at the time,” Busque Solivan recalled.

She went on, “I look back now with this 20/20 hindsight, and I realize how much pressure and how much stress I was under, and I realize that the buildup over the course of that eight years from investors, from employees, from all different sides, just really wore on my body.”

Busque Solivan now serves as a general partner for Fuel Capital, where she invests in early stage consumer software as a service (SAAS) and marketplace companies. She says investing in the person behind the business is just as important as the company.

“What I really counsel and advise my founders to do is to be very cognizant of themselves and their needs because if they are not taking care of themselves first, then it's not a sustainable way to operate a company, operate a business, operate your life, and really, it can be dangerous,” she said.

Hear more from Leah Busque Solivan on episode #142 of “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis.”