When I first heard about Exec, I ignorantly thought to myself, "Meh, this is is just a webapp where you get people to do stuff for you. What's so impressive about it? Why is it a YC-backed company?" From its heavily modified Twitter Bootstrap exterior (although they just went through a redesign and the site looks better now), it is easy to dismiss Exec as just another plain, innocuous CRUD web application that dispatches jobs to a person that does that job for you. Obviously, it turned out to be a lot more than just that.
Relocating from Pittsburgh to San Francisco was a huge chore. I packed a total of four boxes, one of them was pretty big and heavy, the rest were medium sized and light enough. I had them Fedexed to a friend's place (where I was crashing for the week until I found my apartment) and they arrived last Friday. I had also ordered a few more things from Amazon and had them shipped to the same address. As my friends were all at work and I could not drive on American roads, I had to figure out another solution. Exec popped into my mind partly because I was in San Francisco and the service was based on the West Coast, it did not serve Pittsburgh at all. It would be my first time using the service and I was excited to see how it worked. This account is purely from the consumer's point of view so I apologized for any discrepencies.
Exec seems to specialize in house cleaning (maybe that's the most requested job) but you can also book an errand or job. Booking a job was easy enough. You sign up for an account if you're a new user, confirm your registration online as well as through text on the phone (if you have an iPhone you can use the iPhone app), then you enter a description of your job and schedule it. Exec's hours are from 9am to 9pm and you can schedule jobs for later. Jobs are sent to an Exec half an hour before the scheduled time and you can edit the job description or time prior to that. This was a very convenient feature because I had scheduled my initial job to be at 6.30pm but I was still waiting for a package from Amazon to arrive. I was constantly editing the time until the package arrived at 6.40pm. In the end, the final scheduled time for my job was 7pm. I had also edited the job description a couple of times because I had moved my luggage to my new apartment via taxi earlier in the day so that I could receive a mattress which I had bought on Amazon. It was one big massive shipping operation on my end to get the right items to be delivered to the right locations at the right times. Thankfully, things worked out. The final job description was as follows:
I need help moving into my apartment tomorrow evening, 1st February 2013. I do not have a lot of things. 4 medium boxes and 3 smaller boxes. If we are using a sedan car it would probably take two trips from my friend's place where I am crashing at currently to my new apartment at X St. Shouldn't take more than a couple of hours. A small cart would help a ton, if you have one available that would be awesome!
By 7.02pm, an Exec, Andre W., accepted my job and I was notified via text as well as via the website that he would be in touch shortly. At 7.04pm, he informed me that he was on his way. During this waiting period, you are not billed. Billing only begins once the job has started. Exec provided a Google Map which showed the location of the Exec at that current point in time. Basically, I was able to see him leave home and pull up to my friend's apartment on Google Maps. I believe the GPS tracking system is in-built into the Exec phone app for the Execs.
Andre finally arrived at my friend's place at 7.26pm. He was big and strong, which was awesome because that always helps when moving big boxes. We started the job at 7.39pm which was really nice of him because during that 13 minutes period, we were basically moving boxes into his car. One would think billing would have started the moment he touched my boxes but he essentially started the job once all the boxes were in the car and we began driving over to my new place. During the drive to my new apartment, I saw that Andre was indeed using an Exec-specific phone app. He was using it to send me texts and begin as well as end jobs. He also had my information as well as the job description in there as well.
I also got to know Andre a little better during the drive and we also talked about Exec (and TaskRabbit). He is currently a student at San Francisco State University and has lived in San Francisco all his life. Andre said that this was the best part-time work he has ever done. He could choose his hours, the jobs he would run, and be well-paid at the same time. The rates for Exec were $25/hour. According to Andre, the company takes 10% of the final bill and the Exec would pocket the rest. There is also a 50¢/mile reimbursement and a 3% surcharge for additional expenses if driving is required. The minimum billable time for labor is 45 minutes which is reasonable. There is no need to tip the Exec as it has already been included in the price of the job. Overall, the rate for customers is pretty cheap and the Execs also earn a good salary. TaskRabbit, on the other hand, requires that the TaskRabbits bid for a job like an auction and the right price gets the job. For Exec, the Execs choose the job they want. The Execs also have a lounge area while they are on call so that they can hang out before getting dispatched for their jobs.
I live in the Tenderloin district, a sketchy neighborhood in San Francisco. Andre was telling about me some of the safer areas to walk to at night and the different types of people I could potentially meet there. Here's a humorous incident that happened during the move. We had reached my apartment block and moved one round of boxes. On the way down, Andre realized that he left his phone in the car, and he was not sure if he had locked the car. Indeed, the phone was in the car and the car was unlocked. Andre was legitimately frightened for a moment. I guess the Tenderloin's reputation is well-earned. We moved the remaining boxes without incident and concluded the job. It cost me a total of $18.75 for 28 minutes of labor cost and an additional $2.70 for the drive. In total, I paid $21.45 which was really cheap. At 8.07pm, I received a message from Andre saying that the job was finished. At 8.09pm, I received the receipt via email.
I was very pleased with how painless and frictionless this move was. The cost was also cheaper than renting a car to move boxes. The entire process was seamless with the help of smartphones and the website. It made me appreciate how much work went into developing the technology such that the customer is presented with a very smooth experience. All the complicated coordination was abstracted away from the customer and left to the Exec which, in itself, is just as seamless. It made me appreciate how much work and thought was put into making Exec a great experience for both the Exec as well as the customer. The technology allowed for smooth operations management as well as coordination as you can see from their live website and texting. It is definitely a strongly technology-centric product and worthy of being part of the YC club. It is not just about getting someone to do a task for you, it is definitely a lot deeper than that. Things like Exec and TaskRabbit are not just tools that help a consumer, but solves many problems in the community with this intersection of the service industry and technology. Needless to say, I gave Andre a 5-star rating (he already had an average rating of 5 stars which was definitely well-deserved) and very positive comments. I'm pretty sure I can request for him to help me with a future job since I have his number. Exec reminds me of bike messenger movie Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt where bike messengers are dispatched to perform deliveries. Who knows, we might have an Exec or TaskRabbit action film in the future?
Thanks to Jason Chen, Ming Han Teh and Kevin Bao for proofreading this blog post. Feel free to discuss this post on Hacker News, chat about this with me via email or Twitter.