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Ikea has bought TaskRabbit

  • The contract labor marketplace company has raised about $50 million since it was founded nine years ago.
  • TaskRabbit will become an independent subsidiary within Ikea and CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot and its staff would remain.
  • The purchase of TaskRabbit was fueled by Ikea's need to further bolster its digital customer service capabilities to better compete with rivals likes Amazon.
Cyrus McCrimmon | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Swedish home goods giant Ikea has bought TaskRabbit. Sources previously told Recode the deal was imminent.

The price of the deal could not be determined, but the contract labor marketplace company has raised about $50 million since it was founded nine years ago. Sources added that TaskRabbit will become an independent subsidiary within Ikea and CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot and its staff would remain.

Sources also noted that Ikea would add capital to the company, although that amount could not be determined. TaskRabbit, which is now profitable, will also be able to strike other partnerships, such as one it already has with Amazon.

TaskRabbit is one of the best-known startups in the so-called "gig" economy that links freelance workers with jobs, from handymen to movers to assistants. It has about 60 employees, but scores of independent workers use its platform.

The purchase of TaskRabbit was fueled by Ikea's need to further bolster its digital customer service capabilities to better compete with rivals likes Amazon, which has stepped up its home goods and installation offerings. The purchase is Ikea's first step into the on-demand platform space.

TaskRabbit had already struck a pilot partnership with Ikea around furniture assembly in the United Kingdom and also had marketed its workers ability to put together Ikea items in the U.S. and elsewhere.

But a purchase of TaskRabbit will get Ikea even more deeply into the tech space, although it has not been without some tech innovation of late. The company — which has sales of more the $36 billion annually and 183,000 workers — recently announced an initiative to shift its 389 stores worldwide to electric car transportation and infrastructure.

And this week, it released a nifty augmented reality app for the Apple iPhone, called "Ikea Place." Using the phone's camera, a customer can scan a room and then place an Ikea furniture virtually to see how it looks. It has gotten positive reviews.

Previous acquisitions by IKEA have ranged in price from $20 to $90 million, according to PitchBook data.

The TaskRabbit acquisition, which was finally completed this week, comes six months after Brown-Philpot said that the company had been responding to sales interest from strategic buyers.

"It's opportunistic," said Brown-Philpot in an interview with Recode, but declined to provide more details about the process. Sources said over the last several months there was other buyer interest, including from Yelp, Google and IAC.

TaskRabbit used Bank of America Merrill Lynch as advisers, which came as the San Francisco-based company was in the process of raising another round of funding.

TaskRabbit's investors include venture firms like Shasta Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Founders Fund. Sources said the company did another small financing last year from an international investor.

That was all to continue its expansion of cities in the U.S. to 40 from its current 24 locations. In a Recode Decode podcast last September, Brown-Philpot said TaskRabbit was cash flow positive in its cities, and close to reaching profitability overall.

Brown-Philpot, a former Google exec and a board member at HP Inc., took over the top job at TaskRabbit from founder Leah Busque in mid-2016. Busque, as Recode reported earlier this week, has recently joined the seed-focused Fuel Capital as a venture partner. Busque founded TaskRabbit, originally called Run My Errand, in 2008.

For those who do not know the massive retailer — or have never spent hours assembling one of its Kallax shelves using those tiny little L-shaped hex tools — the IKEA Group is led by Jesper Brodin. The longtime company veteran had previously run its Swedish unit and replaced Peter Agnefjall, who led the company for only four years.

TaskRabbit and Ikea declined to comment.

By Kara Swisher and Theodore Schleifer, Recode.net.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.

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