Every month, we catch up with one of London’s brilliant startup founders.
We caught up with Aurore Hochard this week to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey and her startup Taskhub, the online marketplace for local services. We admire that she worked as a teacher in the US and the UK before deciding to change her career, even though she had no tech background!
Q: How did you come up with your idea?
A: I had the idea for Taskhub whilst studying Law at City University in 2011: a friend became a mum and wanted to spend more time with her baby by finding locals through a friendly and trustworthy online platform to take care of the small day to day tasks. I initially only wanted to help her find websites to outsource locally her chores and errands but could not find any so I decided to build such a website.
Taskhub is an online marketplace, connecting those in need of help to those who want to earn extra money and meet new people. Imagine a digital community notice board. With Taskhub my vision is to connect people locally through paid tasks and volunteer opportunities.
After being incubated at Wayra UK– an incubator – for 9 months, Taskhub was launched in March 2013. We received further investment from Telefonica and signed a partnership deal with O2.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges so far as an entrepreneur?
A: I had no tech background. When I came up with the idea of Taskhub, I could envision how this platform would/should look like but without any tech background, I did not have any idea of how much work and time it would take to build it up. I’ve built the right team of technologists who take care of the tech side of things extremely well. I have made some efforts to learn and understand how our system works but mostly I let the development team handle that whilst I use the skills I have to establish connections, partnerships and ensure adequate funding.
Although I came up with the idea of Taskhub, my partner Rahul Ahuja is the one who transformed my idea into a business idea. It’s not always easy to work with each other as we tend to think and talk about our business a lot. However, we have managed to create moments when we keep away from any business discussions and our iPhones (sometimes we still fail at this …)
According to the book Yes man (By Danny Wallace), saying Yes more can make life more interesting. When I was a teacher, it only seems normal to help students become better learners and say Yes to them. In the business world, I’ve learnt that people can sometimes ask for favours a lot, and forget to share back. So I’ve had to learn to say No more often.
Q: On the other hand, what have been your biggest accomplishments?
A: I have become very comfortable and good at networking. I was not born with the networking gene. Back in Law School, I applied at law firms and only started receiving work placements offers after I had connected with people in the legal industry at networking events. It was a bit scary to approach lawyers at first and then I started to enjoy it. This is when I realized the power of connections. This is a skill I’ve learnt at Law School, which has been extremely useful since working at Taskhub.
One of the goals I have with Taskhub is to help charities find volunteers locally (for free) through our website. I met actor Stephen Fry at a few occasions to discuss a few ideas and get his advice. He was very nice and even tweeted about Taskhub, which was an exciting moment for us. My tip to meet and connect with people, who are hard to reach is to offer them something before asking them anything. It works!
A couple questions I sometimes get asked: How did Taskhub get selected for acceleration by the tech incubator Wayra? How did we get investment from Telefonica? When Rahul and I went pitching at Wayra Week, we had never delivered a pitch before. A few people shared their tips on how to pitch, what to say and what not to say. We worked very hard but I think beyond having a good business idea, Rahul and I have always tried to be ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously. The learning curve is steep and we’re not shy of admitting that there’s still a lot for us to learn but we’ re also learning to celebrate successes.
Q: What are your thoughts on the future of women in technology?
A: Being a woman can sometimes present challenges in the tech industry, which is usually dominated by men. I tend to read about and meet a lot of powerful female tech entrepreneurs on a regular basis so I’m optimistic about the future. I believe men and women tend to have different approaches to the same business issues but that both approaches tend to work well in the right context.